The Cardinals announced they’ve placed outfielder Dylan Carlson on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to May 22, due to a left hamstring strain. Starter Steven Matz is headed to the 15-day IL (the minimum length for pitchers) because of a shoulder impingement. St. Louis also optioned righty Angel Rondón to Triple-A Memphis. In corresponding moves, pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore, reliever Junior Fernández and outfielder Lars Nootbaar have been recalled from Memphis.
Carlson exited Saturday’s game against the Pirates early after experiencing some hamstring tightness. He remained on the active roster but didn’t play the following day, and the team has now determined he’ll need at least another week before he’s ready to return to action. St. Louis hasn’t provided a timetable on the return for Carlson, who has served as the club’s primary right fielder during his sophomore season.
The switch-hitting outfielder is off to a slow start, hitting .247/.291/.363 with a pair of home runs through 158 plate appearances. Carlson, a former top prospect, hit a solid .266/.343/.437 last season. He’s gotten more aggressive this year, swinging quite a bit more at pitches both inside and outside the strike zone. That’s allowed Carlson to cut into his strikeouts by putting the ball in play earlier in counts, but he’s also seen a dramatic dip in his walk rate. Paired with a surprisingly low 20.8% hard contact rate and 84.2 MPH average exit velocity, Carlson hasn’t made much of an impact from either an on-base or slugging perspective.
At just 23 years old, Carlson’s certainly capable of righting the ship and building off last year’s promising showing. He’ll first need some time to recover from the weekend injury, leaving manager Oliver Marmol with a handful of options to mix and match in the corners. Veteran Corey Dickerson is on hand, while a younger group of Nootbaar, Juan Yepez and hot-hitting rookie utilityman Brendan Donovan will also see some action. St. Louis placed starting left fielder Tyler O’Neill on the IL last week, so Marmol will have to piece things together for the time being.
Matz left yesterday’s start after just four pitches because of shoulder discomfort. That led to an impromptu extended relief outing for Rondón, who threw 86 pitches over five scoreless innings to get the win. That obviously takes him out of commission for a few days, and the Cards will replace him with Fernández, who hasn’t pitched for Memphis since Friday. The hard-throwing Fernández posted a 5.66 ERA over 20 2/3 MLB frames last season and is up for the first time this year.
The injury that necessitated Rondón’s lengthy outing will cost Matz at least two weeks. The southpaw signed a surprising four-year deal over the winter, and the early results have been mixed. Matz’s 6.03 ERA through 37 1/3 innings is obviously undesirable, but he’s punched out 26.8% of opposing hitters against a minuscule 4.9% walk rate. He’s been tagged for eight home runs and opponents are hitting .350 on balls in play against him, however, contributing to the disappointing results.
With Matz out of action for at least a few starts, Liberatore looks poised to step into the rotation. The top prospect was called up to make his MLB debut on Saturday. He allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Bucs and was quickly optioned out, but the Cardinals could recall him immediately to replace the IL-bound Matz. The 22-year-old has a 3.83 ERA with a 28.4% strikeout rate over seven starts with Memphis this season. He’s likely to join Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson and Jordan Hicks while Matz and Jack Flaherty recover from injury.