An ongoing stomach ailment and the medication prescribed to treat it has prompted the Cardinals to place veteran outfielder Dexter Fowler on the injured list Wednesday, the team announced as part of a series of roster moves.
The medication that Fowler has been prescribed may compromise his immune system, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak explained. Because of concerns of COVID-19, the team and Fowler decided it’s best for him to return to St. Louis. Mozeliak said he expects Fowler to miss a couple of weeks.
“Given that we are in the COVID environment, we thought it would make sense to give him some time away,” Mozeliak said. “We still expect him to play this year -- or we hope he will -- but we’re just going to have to see how he feels in a week or so. His health is what our biggest concern is.”
The Cardinals activated infielder Rangel Ravelo (COVID-19) from the injured list and lefty Rob Kaminsky from the alternate training site, and they optioned right-hander Ryan Meisinger. Because Fowler’s illness is related to his immune system, he was placed on the undated injured list, and the Cards can replace him on the 40-man roster without a corresponding move. Ravelo took that spot on the roster, and when Fowler returns, a subsequent transaction will take place. Fowler can stay on the injured list indefinitely or return sooner than the 10-day mandate.
The stomach illness is something Fowler has taken medication for in the past, but not in his three seasons with the Cardinals. Mozeliak declined to specify the illness but did say that Fowler has been dealing with side effects for several weeks. It was part of the reason he was taken out of Monday's game in the sixth inning.
Wednesday was the first day Fowler began the medication that he’s taken in the past with positive results. This season and in the past few weeks, he’s tried other medication but to no avail. Manager Mike Shildt described the new treatment as “stronger,” but said it puts Fowler more at risk.
“In the conversations he’s had in the last couple of weeks, has been able to do this longer than I thought he might be able to,” Shildt said. “He exhausted everything he could possibly do to allow himself to stay. It just got to a certain point where he couldn’t really have a lot of energy or function based on his diet and what was going on. Medically, they ran the gamut of a lot of different things and got to the place where they needed to be a little more aggressive with some of the treatment.”
Fowler has been the Cardinals’ most productive outfielder this season, with a .832 OPS, four home runs and 14 RBIs.
“As he and I were speaking this morning, he’s having a really good year,” Mozeliak said. “It’s unfortunate. But we both agreed his health was more important than just talking about production.”
For that production, the team will look to its young outfielders: Tyler O'Neill, Lane Thomas, Harrison Bader and Dylan Carlson, along with utility man Tommy Edman, who started in the outfield the past three nights and played right field on Wednesday. Shildt said Edman shouldn’t be classified exclusively as an outfielder now, but his ability to play there gets him in the lineup with Matt Carpenter and Brad Miller, who rotate between third base and designated hitter.
For the other outfielders, production could determine playing time. O’Neill (.174), Bader (.196) and Carlson (.176) were hitting under .200 entering Wednesday. Thomas returned to the roster two days ago after a positive COVID-19 test and was 1-for-5 with a walk on Tuesday.
“I don’t need them to feel like they need to go out and just absolutely kill it every single night to get another chance,” Shildt said, “But the fact of the matter is, if we see good at-bats and we see productive at-bats and we see good play in other areas that helps us win baseball games, they’ll get more opportunities.”
• Carlos Martínez (COVID-19 injured list) is set to pitch four innings Wednesday at the alternate training site in Springfield, Mo. It appears more likely that the right-hander will start in St. Louis, not at Wrigley Field this weekend as the team previously advertised. Pitching assignments are fluid, and Shildt said he will likely announce the upcoming rotation on Thursday’s off-day. Jack Flaherty is in line to pitch Friday, and Adam Wainwright for one game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
• Reliever Kodi Whitley (COVID-19 injured list) has started playing catch in Springfield. The rookie’s return was slowed by right elbow soreness, but “everything checked out positive structurally, and he’s back to feeling unrestricted,” Shildt said. There’s no timeline for Whitley’s return, and he’ll likely take it slow from here.