- Over at Fangraphs, there are a couple pieces well worth a read for fans of the division. Jeff Sullivan examines the curious case of Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks, the flamethrowing reliever who has thus far registered very few strikeouts. It’s a well-balanced take on the youngster, who certainly has exhibited a fascinating skill but still will need to make improvements to become a dominant MLB reliever. Speaking of fastballs, Jay Jaffe looks at the arsenal of Cubs starter Yu Darvish and his reasonably promising return from the DL. It’s a complicated picture, but well worth a look for anyone looking to gauge where things are headed for the high-priced hurler.
The Cardinals had been waiting to decide — or, at least, to announce — how they’d use rehabbing righty Alex Reyes upon his return. But GM Mike Girsch said today that Reyes will join the team’s rotation when he’s ready, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on Twitter.
That decision, while hardly surprising, does set the stage for some further decisions. “We expect him to be in the rotation,” Girsch said of Reyes (as Mark Saxon of The Athletic tweets), “which leads to a whole bunch of other questions, which we have to answer in the next week to two.”
The current rotation mix features Miles Mikolas, Michael Wacha, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, and John Gant. It certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see Gant bumped to the bullpen or back to Triple-A. Beyond that, there are some tough decisions to be made. Weaver carries only a 4.37 ERA, but that’s still a solid output and he has arguably been a bit better than the results. Flaherty is the more recent addition to the MLB rotation, but he has been excellent through four starts (2.31 ERA with 10.4 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9).
Of course, Reyes isn’t the only pitcher making his way back to the majors. Girsch provided some other updates, as MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reports (links to Twitter). Carlos Martinez is only just beginning to throw, meaning he probably won’t be back until June — and likely not at the earlier portion of the month. Veteran Adam Wainwright, meanwhile, is still being looked over closely. Since he has already gone on the 60-day DL, he won’t be back for some time.
Several relievers are also among the moving parts. Lefty Tyler Lyons is expected to be back in short order, though righty Dominic Leone does not appear to be making much progress from the nerve issue that has kept him out. (There’s no update yet on Luke Gregerson, who only recently went on the DL with a shoulder issue.)
At the end of the day, a slight pitching pile-up is a good problem to have for the Cards, who are engaged in what looks likely to be a year-long battle in a tough NL Central. While there are other strong options, particularly once Martinez is back, the hard-throwing Reyes could be an ace in the hole. He certainly seems ready to pick up where he left off when he headed in for Tommy John surgery last spring. The 23-year-old, who posted a 1.57 ERA in his first 46 MLB innings, has allowed just six hits in 16 scoreless rehab outings thus far in 2018, while racking up 31 strikeouts against six walks in 16 innings.
- The Cardinals have taken advantage of minor league options and the 10-day DL with their pitching staff this year, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains. Specifically, the Cardinals have shuttled four pitchers with options – Mike Mayers, John Gant, John Brebbia and Jack Flaherty – between the majors and minors to quality results. The quartet has combined for a 3.28 ERA over 49 1/3 innings, and Mayers, Gant and Brebbia have formed “Voltron” in relief, Goold writes. Although the instability likely hasn’t been easy on those pitchers, both Mayers and Brebbia suggested to Goold that they understand the Cards’ plan. For his part, president John Mozeliak said that he’s not sure “if it’s going to become the new norm or not,” adding: ““It’s not intentional to do that. This is not us trying to manipulate any system. It’s just you look at the moves we have made and they’ve all been very logical. If you’re carrying 13 pitchers, it’s because you feel there’s some vulnerability there. I think a lot of this has been more circumstance. You play the hand your dealt.”
Greg Holland’s short tenure with the Cardinals took another disastrous turn Saturday when the once-dominant reliever got the loss against the Phillies, who scored twice on him in 2/3 of an inning. Holland, whom the Cards guaranteed $14MM after he went through spring training unemployed, has now pitched to a sky-high 7.30 ERA with astoundingly poor strikeout and walk rates (6.57 K/9, 10.22 BB/9) across 12 1/3 innings this season. Nevertheless, there’s no indication the the Cardinals will ask him to head to the minors to work through his issues, Joe Trezza of MLB.com tweets. Even if the Redbirds were interested in demoting Holland, they’d need the 32-year-old’s consent to do so. It doesn’t appear they’d receive it, though, as Holland “flatly denounced the idea” of going down, Trezza writes.
- In better news for the Cardinals, ace Carlos Martinez received “encouraging” results on the right shoulder MRI he underwent this week, according to president John Mozeliak (Twitter link via Rob Rains of STLSportsPage). Martinez is on track to begin a throwing program Monday and return to the Cards’ rotation within one or two weeks, Rains adds. The fireballer has been out since May 8, before which he notched a 1.62 ERA/3.38 FIP across 50 innings.
May 19th, 12:06pm: DeJong’s surgery was successful, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reports, though a timetable for his return has yet to be shared.
May 18th, 4:24pm: Unfortunately, it does not seem that DeJong has suffered a run-of-the-mill fracture. The injury is to his pinky, per MLB.com’s Joe Trezza (via Twitter). DeJong will undergo surgery this evening to insert a plate, per president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (on Twitter), with the expectations being that there’ll be a “significant” layoff.
3:05pm: The Cardinals have announced that shortstop Paul DeJong is heading to the 10-day DL after he was diagnosed with a fractured left hand suffered on a hit-by-pitch. Also headed to the DL is righty Matt Bowman, who’s dealing with blisters.
It’s not yet known whether DeJong is a candidate for surgery, let alone what kind of rehabilitation timeline will be required. But his absence will tell, even if it’s for a relatively short period of time.
The major difficulty for the Cardinals is that, while they feature quite a few infield options, none really profile as regular options at short. Greg Garcia has the most experience at the position in the majors; Jedd Gyorko has lined up at short, but not very often and not for some time. It seems Munoz might also be viewed as an option, as he has spent much of his minor-league career at shortstop.
Clearly, those players aren’t likely to account for the missing productivity of DeJong, who’s not only a quality fielder but carries a .260/.351/.473 slash through 171 plate appearances on the year. With much of the Cards offense still working to round into form, the loss of DeJong will leave the team without one of its best bats to this point of the season.
The Cardinals’ sudden decision to transfer Adam Wainwright to the 60-day disabled list today means the Cardinals will be without him for a notable portion of the summer, but the exact cause of his elbow pain remains unclear, as Joe Trezza of MLB.com writes. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak said that there’s “nothing that really stood out as a smoking gun” after the first wave of tests, which included an MRI and a bone scan, but he’ll undergo a further series of evaluations tomorrow. “We don’t know what that is right now, other than he has discomfort,” said Mozeliak. While the club obviously has no defined timetable for Wainwright’s return, Mozeliak spoke with some cautious optimism: “He knows he might be part of that second-half push. …. I would guess he’ll pitch again.”
2:28 pm: Veteran righty Adam Wainwright is moving to the 60-day DL to create roster space, the team announced.
1:55pm: The Cardinals have placed catcher Carson Kelly on the 10-day DL with a hamstring injury, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on Twitter. He’ll be replaced on the active roster by fellow backstop Steve Baron, which will mandate a still-undetermined 40-man roster move.
Kelly, 23, has long been seen as the heir apparent to Yadier Molina, who is himself on the shelf at the moment. But Kelly has struggled offensively in his limited MLB action over the past there years. This season, he has mustered only two singles in 19 plate appearances.
Francisco Pena has appeared in a dozen games, making him the most-used catcher other than Molina, who’s expected to be out until at least early June. In the meantime, Baron will help hold down the fort. The 27-year-old, a former first-round pick, has appeared briefly in the majors once before. He signed a minors deal with the Cards and was off to an ugly .153/.167/.186 slash in sixty plate appearances at Triple-A.
Meanwhile, starter Carlos Martinez — who has been on the shelf since May 10th — is headed for an MRI to further assess the injury, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. Martinez won’t return when he’s eligible to be activated, then, but we likely won’t learn more about his anticipated timeline until his imaging is read.
It’s not clear just how concerning the shoulder condition is. That broad description has resulted in brief DL stints or much more significant problems, so it’s hard to make much of it without more information. Notably, though, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza adds on Twitter that Gregerson has also dealt with some elbow soreness, adding to the universe of concerns.
The 34-year-old Gregerson has had some stumbles to start his tenure in St. Louis. Since returning from a hamstring injury, he has thrown only 8 1/3 innings in a dozen appearances, allowing eight earned runs on eight hits (two for home runs) and three walks. He has recorded a typically useful tally of eight strikeouts and 14 groundballs, however, and despite a bit of velocity loss is still maintaining a strong 16.7% swinging-strike rate.
All told, then, it still seems there’s reason for optimism regarding Gregerson’s ability to contribute this year — so long as he’s able to get back to full health. The Cards owe him $11MM over a two-year term, including a buyout on an option for 2020. While there’s still quite a lot of pitching talent at and near the MLB level for the St. Louis organization, the team is stretched a bit with Gregerson joining Martinez and Adam Wainwright on ice. Fortunately, high-octane youngster Alex Reyes is not only nearing a return from Tommy John surgery, but has opened eyes with his early rehab showing.
Here’s the latest out of St. Louis…
- Adam Wainwright’s return from the disabled list was a brief one, as the righty felt elbow pain while warming up during his start today and lasted just 2 1/3 innings (allowing two runs on three hits and six walks). Today’s outing was Wainwright’s first after missing over three weeks due to elbow inflammation, and he is likely headed back to the DL in the wake of this latest issue. He will miss at least his next start, and return to St. Louis for examination. “I need to pause and get it right. This team deserves more than that and the fans deserve more than that and the organization does, too. If I’m going to be a force down the stretch, I need to get healthy first,” Wainwright told MLB.com’s Jay Paris and other media. The veteran underwent arthroscopic surgery on that same right elbow last October after battling some elbow problems in 2017, and also missed all of the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery. With Carlos Martinez also on the DL, the Cards rotation is down to Miles Mikolas, Michael Wacha, and Luke Weaver, with Jack Flaherty tapped to start on Tuesday.
- Alex Reyes could also eventually factor into the St. Louis rotation plans, as the star prospect will pitch on Monday in what will be the second of four scheduled minor league rehab starts as he makes his return from Tommy John surgery. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak told Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the team won’t be moving to a six-man rotation once Reyes is ready, though it remains to be seen exactly how Reyes will be deployed. “Rather than lay it [the team’s plan] out there for public consumption, I would rather wait and do it based on where we are, where he is, and how to best optimize that,” Mozeliak said. As Frederickson notes, the Cards are trying to manage Reyes’ workload on several fronts — they want to ease him back into action, while also keeping him fresh to pitch in a postseason race (and into October) and on track to move into a starting role in 2019. Using him as a multi-inning reliever or piggybacking his outings with another starter would be complicated from an innings-management standpoint, and Mozeliak said that the team could even keep Reyes in the minors if that is what is best for him at this point in his development and recovery.
- Earlier this week, The Athletic’s Mark Saxon (subscription required) opined that Kolten Wong’s second base glove has become such a plus for the Cardinals that the team should consider giving him more regular playing time, even against left-handed pitching. Since Saxon’s piece was written, Wong has started each of the Cards’ last two games against southpaw opposing starters, with Jedd Gyorko playing third base and the struggling Matt Carpenter getting a three-game break. Wong has been one of baseball’s best defenders at any position this season, and his bat has started to show some signs of life after an ice-cold start to the season. With Jose Martinez more or less locked in as the starting first baseman at this point, it leaves the Cards juggling Wong, Gyorko, and Carpenter between second and third base, with backup infielder Greg Garcia also in need of some playing time.
- The Cardinals have activated left-handed reliever Brett Cecil from the disabled list and placed fellow southpaw Tyler Lyons on the DL with a mild back strain, per Joe Trezza of MLB.com. Cecil only made one appearance this year, on Opening Day (March 29), before landing on the shelf with shoulder soreness. Cecil, who’s in the second season of the four-year, $30.5MM deal he signed with the Cards in November 2016, logged a 3.88 ERA with 8.82 K/9 against 2.14 BB/9 across 67 1/3 innings in 2017. Lyons was also an effective piece of the Redbirds’ bullpen last year, though he began this season with an ugly ERA (6.17) in 11 2/3 frames prior to his DL placement.