The Cardinals have shut left-hander Wade LeBlanc down for the remainder of the season, manager Mike Shildt announced to reporters Thursday (Twitter link via Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat). He’s expected to undergo some type of procedure to address the elbow pain that has sidelined him, though Shildt was not able to provide specifics. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that LeBlanc is still exploring options. Shildt noted that LeBlanc, a pending free agent, is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
Originally signed back in June with the rotation in shambles, LeBlanc was viewed as little more than a flier on a veteran stopgap at the time. However, he emerged as much more than that, not only providing steady innings but giving the Cardinals his best work since the 2018 season.
LeBlanc, 37, appeared in a dozen games for St. Louis — four relief outings and eight starts — and put together 42 1/3 innings of 3.61 ERA ball. A middling 12.2 percent strikeout rate and 8.5 percent walk rate didn’t inspire much confidence in his ability to sustain that pace, but the innings he provided are in the books and came at a desperately needed time for the Cards.
Shaky strikeout-to-walk profile notwithstanding, LeBlanc’s solid showing in St. Louis ought to earn him another opportunity in 2022, even with some uncertainty regarding his health. An exact timeline on his recovery won’t be known until LeBlanc and the doctors he’s consulting pin down the extent of the procedure he’ll need, but if he’s expected to be ready come Spring Training, it’s easy to envision multiple clubs showing interest on a minor league pact. He’d be a fine depth option for the Cardinals in that regard, and he’s clearly already made a nice impression on the organization.
With LeBlanc out for the remainder of the season and Jack Flaherty again on the shelf with a shoulder strain, the Cardinals will continue relying on Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Jon Lester and J.A. Happ atop the rotation. Lefty Kwang Hyun Kim and right-handers Jake Woodford and Daniel Ponce de Leon are among the other options to start games down the stretch for a Cardinals club that is buried in the NL Central but sits just three and a half games back of the second Wild Card spot in the National League.