The Cardinals continue to take their nicks and bruises, with Harrison Bader the latest entry into the list of ailing outfielders.
The center fielder was placed on the 10-day injured list on Tuesday with a right rib hairline fracture after he left Monday’s 5-1 series-opening loss against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field in the bottom of the third inning. Manager Mike Shildt said on Monday that initial imaging came back with good news, however Bader underwent a CT scan on Tuesday that showed the fracture and resulted in the club placing him on the shelf.
“Really just depends on how much the soreness gets out of there, and the discomfort,” Shildt said prior to Tuesday’s game. “Once that happens, things can probably ramp up pretty quickly.”
The Cardinals are wary of rib injuries in recent weeks. Paul DeJong was hit in the left side by a pitch on May 11 and made a start the next day, but he proceeded to be placed on the injured list with a nondisplaced rib fracture.
That Bader’s injury is also a non-displaced fracture is encouraging, Shildt said, but the manager acknowledged that the longer the pain lingers, the harder it is for each player to ramp back up. DeJong has only recently started taking light ground balls, despite the club hoping it’d be a minimum 10-day stay on the IL for him, as well.
Bader’s departure proved to be just one tally in an overall inauspicious day, as St. Louis was no-hit by former Cardinal Lance Lynn for 5 1/3 innings, saw starter Kwang Hyun Kim deal before being chased by a two-run homer in the sixth and fell while facing manager Tony La Russa for the first time, dropping its sixth contest in its last nine games.
"I'm not going to lie to you: That was probably the most satisfying win I've ever had in my career, not counting the playoffs,” Lynn said.
For Bader, the night went awry when he dove after a sinking liner in shallow right-center off the bat of Chicago second baseman Nick Madrigal, after which the ball bounced off the heel of his glove and caromed under his ribcage, which, along with his right arm, broke his fall.
It was the circumstance of landing on the ball in an awkward manner that nicked Bader in a more serious manner than simply coming up from a tough dive -- which he’s done many times in his high-flying career.
Bader was paid a quick visit from Shildt and head trainer Adam Olsen and was removed from the game, walking off the field without any aid.
Dylan Carlson -- who missed the last two games with a stiff back -- shifted from right field to center, making a superb, winding catch on the first ball hit his way, while Justin Williams took over in right. Left fielder Tyler O’Neill is already on the 10-day injured list with a fractured left middle finger, though he’s expected to be activated on the current road trip. Carlson is likely to take the bulk of center-field duties in Bader's absence.
John Nogowski was called up in Bader’s place. He’s an option to play the outfield, as the Cardinals have only three healthy outfielders listed on their 40-man roster, with Scott Hurst and Austin Dean on the Minor League injured list.
Tommy Edman could get more reps in the outfield -- as he did on Tuesday -- with Matt Carpenter getting more starts at second, though he slotted in at first Monday as Paul Goldschmidt took DH duties. Carpenter then took over the DH role on Tuesday. Williams and Lane Thomas have shown bursts of talent in their careers, but both are having a rough go of it this season, with neither hitting above .170 on the year. Each went 0-for-3 on Monday.
This is Bader's second time on the shelf this season, as he missed almost the entirety of April with a right forearm strain. He had been an equalizing force for the outfield since his return on April 30, providing Gold Glove-caliber defense and posting solid offensive numbers before a 1-for-19 mini-skid entering Monday’s action.
Most encouraging for Bader has been his rejuvenated ability to hit breaking balls. He has already equaled his home run total from 50 games last year, needing just 15 games to do so in 2021. Of his four homers, three have come against a breaking pitch.