The Cardinals are off to a solid start to the year, though the NL Central is shaping up to be quite the battleground in 2018. Maintaining health throughout the season could end up being a major factor in deciding the division race. The long view is what motivated Cards righty Adam Wainwright to go on the DL at this point, as MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reports. His elbow has flared up a bit, though the 36-year-old suggested he’s confident that he’ll be able to return in relatively short order. The hope is that some rest and minor mechanical tweaks will allow Wainwright to take most of his scheduled starts in the final season of his contract. Of course, even if the veteran hurler is down longer than expected, the team has plenty of options, as Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explores.
Here’s more from St. Louis:
- Another key hurler for the Cardinals, recent signee Miles Mikolas, has thrown well upon his return to the majors. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch documents some of the ways in which Mikolas has thrived. In particular, he has been one of the most efficient starters in all of baseball, due in no small part to the fact that he has issued just a pair of walks in 26 innings. Goold traces this element of Mikolas’s game back to his successful stint in Japan, during which he gained mental and physical control of his pitching. It’s early, to be sure, but the two-year, $15.5MM pact Mikolas signed over the winter has looked like a bargain.
- Cardinals fans will also want to check out two other recent pieces from the Post-Dispatch on the team’s pitching staff. Jose de Jesus Ortiz offers a look at staff ace Carlos Martinez, who says he believes he is pitching better than ever. That the 26-year-old has found another gear is certainly a scary thought for the rest of the league. And Goold examines the intriguing case of Bud Norris, who is now closing out games and sporting a career-high 15.3% swinging-strike rate. It’s a worthwhile read that goes well beyond the field of play.
- On the position-player side, the Cards appear to have unearthed another hidden gem in first baseman Jose Martinez. The late-blooming 29-year-old has done nothing but hit in the majors and is off to a .329/.409/.526 start to the current campaign. Trezza penned an interesting look at Martinez’s unlikely path to the majors. The St. Louis scouting department and front office aptly identified and targeted the burly slugger, eventually snagging him from the cross-state rival Royals. Of course, the results have outstripped even the most optimistic expectations. “We were confident he could be a good right-handed hitter off the bench,” says Cardinals GM Mike Girsch. “That’s what we thought we were getting. Since then, he’s been raking.” While he’s currently performing like a mid-prime star, Martinez won’t even reach arbitration eligibility until 2020.