Oviedo's outing undone by three pitches

May 6th, 2021

It was a night of three pitches for Johan Oviedo.

The first went wild, and the second two went out of the yard. Each bit him as the Cardinals were forced to split Wednesday’s twin bill with the Mets thanks to a 7-2 nightcap loss at Busch Stadium following the wacky Game 1 win. The loss ended the Cards’ six-game winning streak.

For Oviedo, it was the first major blip on his 2021 season, after throwing 4 2/3 shutout frames his first go-around and then striking out seven across five innings in his first start on April 28. The Cardinals’ No. 9 prospect was called up when Jordan Hicks went on the shelf on Tuesday, though rain forced him to sit tight for a day until Wednesday night.

All told, it was a night that Oviedo could have been in line to avoid. Allowing back-to-back hits to lead off the second, he induced shallow enough fly balls to hold the runners on second and third. In line for an escape act, he uncorked a wild pitch to Tomás Nido, allowing Dominic Smith to score, and then hung a slider down the middle to Nido before a changeup left way too high to Jonathan Villar gave him a fourth earned run on a solo blast. 

Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ offense was stunted yet again by Jordan Yamamoto, the former Marlin who entered the day with zero earned runs across 14 career innings against St. Louis.

Oviedo, for his part, said that the wild pitch set him back. Fearing he'd spike another one, he said he may have honed in too much on the slider to Nido, and instead of burying it like he can, he let it catch too much of the plate.

“I was just thinking to not throw another one like it,” Oviedo said. “It was more about trust.”

“Generally speaking, in that situation, you got to get past that next pitch,” said manager Mike Shildt. “You got to get back to that pitch and focus.”

The Cardinals think highly of Oviedo. It’s why they tapped him to be their sixth starter when they expanded their rotation at the end of April, and it’s why a night like Wednesday will be less of a demerit in his chances to stay in the Majors -- especially with starters like Miles Mikolas still working back -- but more of an experience on the go.

“It’s the big leagues,” Oviedo said. “If you make a mistake, those things are going to make you pay. So that's why we're working, that’s why we’re trying to learn.” 

Speaking of Mikolas

As the Cardinals lost their nightcap, Mikolas pitched in his first rehab game as he tries to work his way back from right shoulder soreness that sidelined him for much of Spring Training. Mikolas needed 57 pitches (39 strikes) to get through 2 1/3 innings, getting tagged for a homer on the sixth pitch of the game, but retiring four of the next six batters he faced.

Mikolas sat around 93 mph on the radar gun in a 4-0 loss for Triple-A Memphis against a Durham lineup that featured baseball’s top prospect in Wander Franco and other highly-regarded Rays youngsters. Of his three punchouts, one came on just three pitches to fellow rehabbing big leaguer Ji-Man Choi, who whiffed through a changeup.

“One of the main points is not to overdo it too quickly,” Mikolas, in Memphis, told reporters on Zoom. “And I think today was a great step in the right direction.”

Mikolas said he’s currently on a regular starter’s path, in line to build up to six innings (90 pitches) by a May 16 start in Nashville, which he’s eyeing as the last on his docket before a potential activation to the big league squad. Next time out, specifically, he’s hoping to throw 70 pitches in four to five innings.

Whenever Mikolas does appear for the Cards, it will be his first Major League outing since October 2019. He received surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his right forearm last July before a shoulder flare-up in Spring Training.

“Just making sure I stay my delivery and location is more important than the speed of the ball most of the time,” Mikolas said, regarding trying not to overextend himself. “Just staying in mechanics and not trying to overdo things.”

What’s more, Memphis began to unveil some of its rotation for the rest of the weekend on Wednesday, including pegging Matthew Liberatore (the club’s No. 1 prospect) for his organizational debut on Thursday, with No. 4 prospect Zack Thompson just behind him on Friday.