The Cardinals were hoping, with two off-days in the coming week, that Kwang Hyun Kim would be able to avoid his second stint on the injured list this season with the same ailment that delayed his regular-season debut.
Such hopes were dashed before Saturday afternoon’s tilt with the Reds at Busch Stadium, as Kim was placed on the 10-day IL with right back tightness after being removed in Friday’s loss.
Here’s the kicker: Not only does Kim’s injury make it so three members of the Cardinals’ intended Opening Day rotation are out of service, but outfielder Justin Williams also landed on the IL on Saturday morning with neck tightness, raising St. Louis’ total number of players on the Major League IL to 10.
And that doesn’t include three players on the 40-man roster who are also on the seven-day IL in the Minors.
“We don’t think it will be hopefully too much greater than the 10 days,” manager Mike Shildt said of Kim. “But [the stint] is required, and it creates some opportunities for our roster.”
Such opportunities consisted of first baseman/outfielder John Nogowski being recalled from Triple-A Memphis -- his fourth stint in the Majors this season -- as well as right-hander Angel Rondón -- his first big league callup.
Rondón, St. Louis’ No. 10 prospect per MLB Pipeline and the club's 2019 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, will look to inject some youth into a taxed and ailing bullpen. The righty profiles for a long-relief option, Shildt said, and will be looking to build upon his past few outings with Memphis. Rondón got tagged 11 runs in his first two starts but has allowed three in as many starts since.
But at the cost of opportunities is the health of two other Cards. For Kim, who exited his start on Friday after throwing a warmup pitch in the fourth inning, it’s a similar injury that derailed him for two weeks in Spring Training. The club is hopeful that it was able to catch this ailment ahead of the last.
Kim, who hurt himself when trying to leg out a groundout in the third inning, is the second Cards starter this week who has been injured due to an at-bat, after Jack Flaherty strained his oblique taking a swing off Trevor Bauer on Monday. And with Miles Mikolas exiting his start against the Cubs on June 22 with forearm tightness, it marks the third starter to go down in less than two weeks.
St. Louis has acknowledged the need to look outside the organization to add to its pitching depth. For now, it’s simply trying to decide who takes over Kim’s spot in the rotation. Right-hander Jake Woodford is a prime option, after relieving Kim in emergency capacity on Friday.
And for Williams, his injury comes after feeling discomfort following the flight back from Los Angeles -- something “that's not been something we've been able to medically get past,” Shildt said. Williams was unavailable the past two games.
Williams had a mammoth home run off Bauer on Monday, but it was one of only two extra-base hits since the start of May. Tommy Edman, José Rondón and even possibly Nogowski will likely see the bulk of right-field duties until Harrison Bader (rib fracture) returns.