The Cardinals announced that outfielder Lars Nootbaar has been placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to May 30, with a lower back contusion. His roster spot will go to fellow outfielder Jordan Walker, whose recall was reported yesterday.
Nootbaar, 25, goes to the IL for the second time this season. He landed on the shelf in early April due to a left thumb contusion. He returned in the middle of April but has sat out the past few days with back spasms, which allowed the club to backdate today’s IL stint. That means he could potentially return in a week but it will leave the club noticeably short-handed in center field in the meantime.
The Cards traded away Harrison Bader last year, seemingly confident in finding an internal replacement in center field from either Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson or Nootbaar. All three of them had previous experience at the position and have been given some more time there this year, but now all three of them are on the injured list at the same time. O’Neill has been out close to a month due to a lower back strain and doesn’t seem to have made much progress in getting healthy again. Carlson has been out of action about two weeks due to an ankle injury and has yet to begin a rehab assignment.
The club is coming off unusual back-to-back off-days, meaning their most recent contest was on Tuesday. In that game, Tommy Edman went out to play center field and could perhaps continue in that role for the next week. After Tuesday’s game, he’s now up to 13 major league innings at the position. He was the club’s shortstop earlier in the year but Paul DeJong has since taken over while bouncing back from a few miserable seasons at the plate. Óscar Mercado is another option for center field work and is hitting .333/.357/.444 this year. But that’s in a small sample of 28 plate appearances and his career batting line is a far more modest .238/.291/.389.
Hopefully, the week off is enough for Nootbaar to return to action as he’s a strong all-around contributor. In 208 career games, he’s hit 23 home runs and walked in 14.2% of his plate appearances. His .241/.347/.427 batting line amounts to a wRC+ of 118. He’s also stolen 11 bases and has strong grades for his outfield defense.