The Cardinals are on the verge of reinstating Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas after both pitchers spent extended time on the injured list. Just as those two rejoin the rotation, St. Louis could be dealing with another loss on the starting staff. Veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc left this afternoon’s start against the Pirates in the third inning after experiencing elbow pain. He’s now slated to undergo further testing to determine the issue’s severity, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
LeBlanc wasn’t the only Cardinals player to make an early exit from today’s contest. Rookie outfielder Dylan Carlson was removed with soreness in his right wrist. The 22-year-old has been playing through some pain in the area for a few days, according to Brenden Schaeffer of KMOV. He’s now slated to undergo an MRI.
The switch-hitting Carlson has been a bright spot in what’s overall been a bit of a disappointing season in St. Louis. A longtime top prospect, he struggled in his first crack at the majors last year but has somewhat quietly had a nice 2021 campaign. Carlson is hitting .261/.341/.419 over 478 plate appearances, logging a decent amount of action at all three outfield spots. Defensive metrics suggest he’s a better fit in the corner outfield than center — a sentiment public prospect evaluators have long shared — but he’s shown quite a bit of promise offensively.
Carlson’s approach at the plate has been particularly impressive for a player so young. He’s already one of the game’s more patient hitters, chasing just 25.8% of pitches outside the strike zone (league average is 31.1%). Yet he’s still been aggressive enough on offerings in the zone to do some damage, hitting twelve homers and showing the ability to hit to all fields. Carlson hasn’t necessarily produced at an eye-popping level, but he already looks like an above-average hitter and has certainly done enough to guarantee himself a regular role on the club for 2022 and beyond.
In better health news for the Cards, injured right-hander Dakota Hudson continues to progress in his rehab from last year’s Tommy John surgery. Goold writes that St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak was impressed with Hudson’s form after watching the 26-year-old throw this week. Goold reiterates that Hudson and the team remain optimistic about his chances to pitch in the big leagues this season.
Presumably, that’d come in short relief stints given his lack of time to build arm strength during a lengthy minor league rehab assignment, but any contribution from Hudson in 2021 would be a welcome development. Tommy John surgeries often require a recovery period of fourteen months or more. Hudson, who underwent the procedure at the end of last September, would be back in almost exactly one calendar year were to make it onto a big league mound. At 58-56, the Cardinals look unlikely to be serious factors in the postseason race. Nevertheless, getting Hudson back (if possible) could allow him to log a few innings and have a more or less regular offseason in preparation for a return to the rotation in 2022.