The Cardinals announced Monday that they’ve placed right-handed reliever Ryan Helsley on the 15-day injured list due a strained right forearm. Right-hander Jake Woodford has been recalled from Triple-A Memphis in his place. Helsley’s placement on the injured list is retroactive to June 10.
Helsley hasn’t pitched in a game since the middle of last week, despite the Cardinals playing in a pair of close games since then. Giovanny Gallegos received the team’s most recent save opportunity, last Friday, when the bullpen was at full strength following an off-day. Helsley’s dayslong absence from game activity now makes a bit more sense. He’ll be sidelined through at least the 25th of the month, though the team has yet to provide any real detail regarding his prognosis or potential recovery window.
Losing Helsley is a blow to an already reeling Cardinals club. While he hasn’t been quite as dominant as he was in 2022, the 28-year-old righty currently boasts a 3.24 ERA, 32% strikeout rate, 10.7% walk rate, a 43.1% grounder rate and seven saved in 25 innings out of the ’pen. Since the calendar flipped to May, Helsley was carrying a 2.40 ERA and a 20-to-6 K/BB ratio in 15 frames.
With Helsley sidelined for at least the foreseeable future, save opportunities will likely fall to the aforementioned Gallegos. The pair had been tied in saves prior to Gallegos notching his eighth of the season Friday when Helsley was unavailable. With Gallegos likely assuming full-time closing duties, setup work will fall to a combination of Andre Pallante, Jordan Hicks, Drew VerHagen and Genesis Cabrera. VerHagen’s seven holds currently lead the Cardinals, though he’s surrendered runs in three of his past four outings.
Woodford, 26, has pitched primarily out of the rotation for the Cards in 2023 but struggled to a 5.40 ERA in 30 innings. The right-hander’s 13% strikeout rate is among the lowest in MLB, but he has a strong 8% walk rate and 53.8% ground-ball rate as well. He’ll likely give the Cardinals some bullpen depth for the time being, as the rotation is still five-deep even after moving veteran Steven Matz to the bullpen. Adam Wainwright, Jordan Montgomery, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty and Matthew Liberatore figure to continue starting for St. Louis as the 27-39 Cardinals try to claw out of the NL Central cellar.