The Cardinals announced this morning that right-hander Mike Leake has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 22, due to shingles. Lefty reliever Dean Kiekhefer has been called up from Triple-A Memphis to take his spot on the roster.
Leake has been dealing with shingles for the past week or so, and manager Mike Matheny said yesterday that the team was considering a possible DL stint (via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch). Top prospect Alex Reyes, who had been pitching out of the bullpen in his first taste of Major League action, started in Leake’s place on Saturday and could continue to get a look in that role with Leake now out until at least Sept. 6. By making the move to place Leake on the disabled list now, the Cardinals are able to add an extra arm to their bullpen now rather than waiting until rosters expand on Thursday.
Leake will join fellow righty Michael Wacha on the disabled list, meaning that the Cardinals will temporarily be reliant upon a pair of rookies — Reyes and right-hander Luke Weaver — in their rotation as they look to cling to a half-game lead over the Pirates in a competitive race for the second National League Wild Card spot. (The Marlins and Mets are each within 2.5 games of that Wild Card berth as well.) Leake had been doing some of his best work of the season prior to coming down with the virus, having rattled off three consecutive quality starts including a scoreless seven-inning gem on Aug. 21. It’s been an up and down season for the 28-year-old, who has totaled a 4.56 ERA with 6.4 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and a 54 percent ground-ball rate in 152 innings. Lackluster ERA notwithstanding, Leake’s strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates have all improved over the 2016 season, leading to considerably more favorable reviews from ERA estimators like FIP (3.88), xFIP (3.73) and SIERA (3.87). He’s in the first season of a five-year, $80MM contract signed with St. Louis this past offseason.