After 'cautious' pause, Bader likely back soon

March 7th, 2021

Cardinals center fielder , out of Grapefruit League action since March 2, has been dealing with a “barking” right forearm, manager Mike Shildt said before Sunday’s 8-5 win over the Astros. The club has circled Tuesday as his hopeful return date.

Shildt said the Cards are using “extreme precaution” for Bader, and that he could likely play with the ailment if it were the regular season. Still, it has briefly paused Bader’s ramp-up through the first half of camp, as he has been shut down from throwing and hitting for a few days to allow the soreness to subside.

“I wouldn’t even call it a setback, other than that it’s something that’s been addressed with Harrison and the medical staff, and everything they're pushing forward from with Harrison was that it was going to be fine, and we’re moving forward,” Shildt said. “But we’re going to give him a little extra time, just to be cautious.”

Bader has been prioritizing baserunning and lower-body workouts in the interim, trying to stay in baseball shape as he has his sights set on securing his first Gold Glove this season. Just 26 years old, he is set to be the oldest starting outfielder for the Cardinals in 2021 -- and he's now in a bigger spotlight after the trade of Dexter Fowler. Facing little doubt about his glove, Bader has focused on his bat this spring -- especially on trying to improve upon his skewed splits that see him lag against righties.

Bader has a walk and an RBI double through two Grapefruit League games, and he’s made noise during live batting-practice sessions, including homers off Kwang Hyun Kim and Ryan Helsley. Now, though, he’s had to put a pause on his early good impressions.

“Nothing of any consequence, nothing on the imaging shows any concern whatsoever,” Shildt said. “… We've been super cautious with him and allowed other guys to get an opportunity to compete.”

One of those guys is Lane Thomas. The 25-year-old is off to a blazing start at camp, hitting 5-for-10 with a double and three RBIs through four starts entering Sunday. He’s provided coverage in center, but his path to a starting spot will likely come battling with Tyler O’Neill in left field, as the latter smacked a three-run homer against the Astros.

Thomas hit ninth and started in center on Sunday, flashing the leather on multiple occasions while drawing a walk.

Mikolas’ timeline changes again
, originally scheduled to throw his bullpen session on Sunday, has been pushed back to Wednesday, Shildt said after the win over the Astros. The right-hander and training staff met and decided to err on the side of an “aggressive” bullpen session on Wednesday as opposed to something more touch-and-feel on Sunday.

Mikolas -- who’s nursing a “creaky” right shoulder coming off surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his right forearm -- has not faced live hitters since Feb. 25.

“We just made what I think is an adult decision,” Shildt said. “We don’t need to push to be pushing, we don’t need to throw a bullpen [session] just to check it off.”

How Mikolas responds will be telling for his readiness for the start of the regular season. Regardless, by the time he pitches in a game setting next week (if all goes according to the plan), it’ll likely come with other Cardinals starters already having made three turns in the rotation.

“There has to be a sense of urgency if we expect him to be active by the time his turn in the rotation comes,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told KMOX’s Tom Ackerman on Sunday morning. “ … I think if all goes well [in his bullpen session], there’s a chance he could break with the club when we head north. But the clock is ticking, and we’re definitely keeping an eye on that as something we have to watch. Hopefully, by the time I’m talking to you next week, we’ll have a pretty good idea if that’s realistic or not.”

Waino in midseason form?
entered Sunday as the only Cardinals starter to make it out of the first inning this spring. He can now make that claim twice.

The right-hander was dynamite yet again, this time striking out five Astros in three frames. Through five Grapefruit League innings, Wainwright has allowed just one baserunner while punching out six.

“They were throwing their big dogs out there today, and that’s a good test of where your stuff is really at,” Wainwright said. “You know right away whether your stuff needs to improve or not. I definitely think my ball had more life on it today.”

Worth noting
• Jordan Hicks has continued to progress well in his ramp-up, having not pitched in an official game since June 2019 due to Tommy John surgery and an opt-out of the ’20 season. The right-hander has faced live hitters twice, and the plan is for him to take part in a “B” game on Wednesday before a probable Grapefruit League debut.

“The good news is, Jordan is in a really good place, on track for the season,” Shildt said. “But we're just taking it rightfully slow and building up the intensity to what that looks like for competition.”