The St. Louis Cardinals’ medical treatment room sees more guests than a Holiday Inn these days.
And that’s Holiday with one “L” because the Cards’ left fielder appears to be healthy, even though he is off to a slow start in 2012. But it seems like Matt Holliday is part of a small, exclusive club on this team: healthy Cardinals.
Friday’s game against the Pirates in Pittsburgh was just the latest spin of the Cards’ injury roulette wheel. Skip Schumaker—just a couple of pitches into his return to the Cardinals after an oblique injury cut short his Spring Training—bounced off the wall running down an Alex Presley shot that turned into an inside-the-park homer. Schumaker left the game, but more as a precautionary move by manager Mike Matheny than anything else. Still, it was the second time in as many games a Cardinal center fielder lost a battle with the outfield wall: Jon Jay came up with a sore shoulder when he went down chasing a Drew Stubbs home run on Thursday at Busch Stadium. But Jay also appears to have avoided serious injury and a trip to the disabled list, and Schumaker apparently just had the wind knocked out of him.
Also in Friday’s game, Daniel Descalso fouled a pitch off his face (!!!). He stayed in the game, however, and even hit a home run late in the contest. But that made it two scary moments too many for a Cards team already playing without several key players.
Allen Craig is still a ways away from rejoining the Cardinals, and no one has any clue at all when Chris Carpenter will pitch again this season. Adam Wainwright is not injured, but continues to struggle to regain form a little more than a year after Tommy John Surgery. Earlier this week, Lance Berkman aggravated the calf injury he’s been battling for a little while now; he was placed on the 15-day disabled list as Schumaker was activated Friday.
All this injury activity has led to roster shuffling that has probably been Matheny’s toughest managerial test to date. The best news of all may be that Jay and Schumaker are day-to-day, at least unofficially. The Cards’ depth would all but evaporate if they sustained too many more injuries.
But that depth is going to have to carry them for a while. Matt Carpenter has been one of the great stories of the young season for the Cardinals, and Shane Robinson has some good numbers off the bench as well. Unfortunately, the two guys with the least amount of flexibility—Rule 5 draftee Eric Komatsu and out-of-options Tyler Greene—are scuffling the most at the plate. Backup catcher Tony Cruz is off to a slow start as well, but his skill behind the plate gives him value that Komatsu and Greene cannot match. Regardless, as these guys get more playing time, they have to step up their game.
The Cardinals are only two-thirds of the way through the first month of the season, and already their starting lineups are starting to read like a Triple A roster. Fortunately, none of their division rivals are playing particularly well, so the Cards may be able to weather this storm. But they cannot afford to keep losing key pieces, or things in the NL Central could get real tight real quick.