Big Trouble

Add another body to the pile.

The St. Louis Cardinals placed lefty Jaime Garcia on the 15-day disabled list because of a shoulder strain. Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Garcia has tears in both his rotator cuff and labrum and is likely to be sidelined for at least two months. The Cards called up Joe Kelly from Triple-A Memphis to take Garcia’s turn in the rotation Sunday against the Cleveland Indians. Anything beyond that is probably semi-up in the air.

At this point, it seems like the only valid response to news like this is a shrug of the shoulders and an uninterested “What’s next?” The Cards are close to being able to field a complete disabled list team now. That this team is even one game over .500 is kind of remarkable.

Though that may not last once the Garcia injury truly hits this team. Sure it’s nice to see Kelly make his Major League debut or a guy like Brandon Dickson get a shot at a couple of turns in the rotation. But if they stumble or prove they are not ready for The Show, what happens then? Do the Cards keep bringing minor leaguers up until one sticks? Do they convert another reliever—maybe a guy like Mitchell Boggs—into a starter?

Right now, the Cardinals have three starters they can count on night in and night out: Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, and Lance Lynn. But even they are not in ideal situations. Wainwright is still regaining form after missing all of last year, Lohse is prone to streaks of inconsistency as the season wears on, and Lynn is in his first full season as a starter. Jake Westbrook takes the ball every fifth day, but that’s about it in terms of his steadiness. This rotation has no mortal-lock rock to lean on. And that is a scary thing to think about when the season is more than two months old and it’s likely to be at least two more months until guys like Garcia or Chris Carpenter are even sniffing reactivation.

Make no mistake about it—this team is in the midst of quite possibly its greatest test of the year. The only thing that could make it worse is if Rafael Furcal, Carlos Beltran, and Yadier Molina have arms and legs start falling off. Maybe Matt Holliday, David Freese, and Jason Motte could all come down with plague at the same time, too. Would that really surprise anyone?

Man…just listing out those names and thinking about the players the Cards already have on the DL…this team really had a chance to be special, if not dominant, from wire to wire.

I know, I know. In 2006, the Cards had a similar truckload of injuries and got healthy just in time for the playoffs. In 2011, they made up 10.5 games after August 25. Anything truly is possible, and in no way should this team be given up on so early in the season.
But 2012 has all the makings of a “what if” year so far. And those are painful to deal with. Think about it. What If Holliday caught that liner in Los Angeles in 2009? What If Carpenter hadn’t been injured in 2004? What If Vince Coleman got out of the way of the tarp in 1985? And What If the 2012 Cardinals only sustained half the injuries they have to date?

Maybe the better way to look at it is, What If the Cards can get this team whole again? One thing is for certain: if they can’t, they are in serious trouble.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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