Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks and oft-injured prospect Alex Reyes are both undergoing tests today to determine the severity of a pair of potential injuries, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Hicks is having an MRI after being slowed by triceps tightness in recent days and could potentially land on the injured list. Reyes, meanwhile, exited yesterday’s Triple-A outing due to right pectoral discomfort and is being reevaluated today.
Were Hicks to require a stint on the injured list, the Cardinals could turn to either Andrew Miller or John Gant for ninth-inning work in his absence. Miller struggled terribly through his first 13 games this year but has rebounded with a 2.70 ERA and, more importantly, a 25-to-4 K/BB ratio over his past 16 2/3 innings. That sterling ratio comes after the lefty issued eight walks and hit three batters in his first 9 1/3 innings of action as a Cardinal. Gant, meanwhile, boasts a 2.40 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.65 HR/9 and a 47.1 percent grounder rate in 41 1/3 innings of relief.
That’s not to say that the loss of Hicks wouldn’t sting, of course. The 22-year-old has improved in every meaningful category in 2019. At present, he has a 3.14 ERA with 9.7 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a superlative 67.2 percent ground-ball rate. He’s upped his swinging-strike rate and opponents’ chase rates from 9.4 percent and 26.1 percent to 11.9 percent and 29.5 percent, respectively. Even Hicks’ otherworldly heater has taken a step forward in 2019; after averaging a blazing 100.5 mph on the pitch in 2018, he’s upped his average fastball velocity to 101.2 mph this year.
The news on Reyes, 24, is more concerning not necessarily because of the specific nature of his injury but because the vaunted right-hander has an already lengthy injury history that has led to concerns about his ability to remain on the field. Reyes has thrown just 64 1/3 innings from 2017-19 combined and has never reached 120 innings in a single season. He’s previously undergone Tommy John surgery as well as surgery to repair a tendon in his lat muscle last season.
The Cardinals’ pitching staff has received a boost in recent weeks. Carlos Martinez returned to bolster the bullpen and has turned in 15 innings of 3.00 ERA ball. Michael Wacha tossed two quality starts (albeit against one clunker) upon rejoining the rotation following a bullpen sojourn. Miller’s resurgence, too, has been a vital development. The club looks better equipped to handle absences for Hicks and/or Reyes with that trio looking mostly sharp, but a significant absence for either pitcher could of course impact the manner in which the Cards operate in the weeks leading up to next month’s trade deadline.
St. Louis currently looks like a buyer, as the Cards are in a tie for an NL Wild Card spot and just two games behind the division-leading Cubs. That stance isn’t likely to change, but their area of focus and level of urgency to make a deal will undoubtedly be impacted by health throughout the roster.