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Pitching moves; Oviedo makes debut in G2

@anne__rogers
August 20, 2020

For the fifth day in a row, the Cardinals made a move to infuse their pitching staff with as many fresh arms as possible, activating Austin Gomber from the injured list for Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Cubs. Gomber replaced starter Jack Flaherty in the second inning and

For the fifth day in a row, the Cardinals made a move to infuse their pitching staff with as many fresh arms as possible, activating Austin Gomber from the injured list for Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Cubs.

Gomber replaced starter Jack Flaherty in the second inning and escaped a bases-loaded jam with a strikeout, going on to toss 1 1/3 scoreless innings as part of a sparkling bullpen effort in St. Louis' 9-3 victory in the seven-inning game.

To make room for Gomber, the Cardinals optioned Ryan Meisinger, who pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his Cards debut on Tuesday night, back to the alternate training site in Springfield, Mo. Right-hander Jake Woodford is the 29th man for the doubleheader and was also available in relief.

The move to activate Gomber -- who was on the injured list only for contact-tracing purposes as the Cardinals returned to the field after a COVID-19 outbreak -- for Game 1 sets up another Major League debut for Game 2’s starter, manager Mike Shildt said Wednesday morning.

“I have a high expectation it’s Johan Oviedo,” Shildt revealed.

Following Game 1, the team did in fact announce Oviedo as the Game 2 starter, while Jesus Cruz was optioned to the alternate training site as the corresponding move.

A 6-foot-5 right-hander who impressed in both Spring Training and Summer Camp, Ovideo is the Cardinals’ No. 13 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. He is the eighth Cards pitcher to make his Major League debut on this five-day, eight-game road trip. Oviedo has been at the Cardinals’ alternate training site since the beginning the season and could give St. Louis the length it needs to finish this grueling stretch of the schedule.

“Oviedo is the most built-up guy we have in our organization,” Shildt said.

Oviedo went five innings, taking a no-decision in the Cards' 4-2 loss. He allowed two runs on two hits and two walks while striking out four -- and he survived a scare when he snared a blistering liner from Kyle Schwarber and was able to laugh it off.

Oviedo, 22, made 28 starts last year at two levels (Class A Advanced and Double-A), posting a 4.73 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 146 2/3 innings. He led all Cardinals farmhands in strikeouts and walks (76), highlighting the quality of his stuff and his struggles with harnessing his command.

The Cardinals were ecstatic to see that Oviedo added strength to his long, lean frame when he showed up at Spring Training in February, and it allowed him to gain consistency with his delivery, prompting the Cards to invite him to train at Busch Stadium for Summer Camp.

Yadi is 'ready to go'

After a group of players were cleared to return to workouts at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, Shildt indicated that one of them probably won’t take long to return to games.

That would be Yadier Molina, the Cardinals' veteran catcher who likely would have played almost every game this season if he wasn’t sidelined with a positive COVID-19 test when the team was in Milwaukee at the beginning of the month. Shortstop Paul DeJong is another in that group and might get live at-bats at the Springfield camp before returning.

“Yadi would like to play today,” Shildt said. “Yadi’s ready to go. So that’s probably going to happen sooner rather than later. Paulie’s getting his legs under him, getting everything settled. We’ll figure out Paulie in the next couple days, but I would expect Yadi to be sooner rather than later.”

The pitchers in that group are still ramping up, and a timeline for a return hasn’t yet been determined. Carlos Martínez will likely throw a side session Thursday at Busch Stadium, and Kodi Whitley has been playing catch.

Worth noting

• The Cardinals will fly home to St. Louis after Wednesday’s doubleheader, ending their literal road trip through Chicago after driving individual rental cars from St. Louis to Chicago on Friday.

“I think it was nice -- guys kind of got taken back in time," Shildt said. "It was a little different, unique experience at this level, but I think everybody will be happy to get back to normalcy. We’ll cling to any normalcy we can get.”

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.