ST. LOUIS -- Few, if any, Cardinals would have been more unlikely to miss the home opener than Paul Goldschmidt. Since his first full season in 2012, Goldschmidt has played in fewer than 140 games just once and appeared in every game of the club’s pandemic-shortened ’20 season.
That tells you how nagging the back tightness must have been to keep him out of the hallmark victory on Thursday. Goldschmidt said that he “probably would have been detrimental” to the club had he played in the condition he was in.
However, Goldschmidt, in his true form, will end his absence at just one contest, as he was slotted back in the lineup for Saturday’s second game of the three-game series against the Brewers at Busch Stadium, batting second and playing first base.
The Cardinals announced Goldschmidt’s absence from the Thursday lineup as precautionary. The first baseman said he could have played if he really pushed it, but ahead of the long season, they erred on the side of the long-term vision.
“Obviously, you want to play, you know how important Opening Day is, but you got to have a long-term view as well,” Goldschmidt said. “I'd like to play as much as possible, but you can't change it if something's hurt and injured, and you're going to definitely affect your play.”
Goldschmidt isn’t sure what exactly ailed him, thinking it might have been as simple as an awkward step he took when he got home from the opening road trip. He went to bed sore and woke up hoping to feel better on Thursday. When that wasn’t the case, he was not in the lineup, which allowed Matt Carpenter to get his third consecutive start.
Carpenter was not in the starting lineup on Saturday.
Instead, Goldschmidt played the role of a fan on Thursday. He was introduced as part of the Clydesdales-filled festivities and got to see his new teammate and longtime friend Nolan Arenado send Busch Stadium into a tizzy with his game-winning blast in the eighth inning.
Without worrying about playing defense the next half-inning, the ever-stoic Goldschmidt may have let a few more emotions show in the dugout.
“Man, honestly, for me, it's a little different when you're in the game,” Goldschmidt said. “You’re in there competing, and the emotions are good, but you’re always wanting to control them. When you're a little bit more just watching the game, you aren't as locked in on your performance. ... When you're in there competing, you have a job to do [and] even after that, you have to go back out on defense or whatever it might be. So maybe that's where that came from.”
One return done, one other near
The immediate future for Kwang Hyun Kim is becoming clearer each day. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said the left-hander will throw a simulated game at the alternate training site in Sauget, Ill., on Sunday to build up to 85-90 pitches.
After that, the next step for Kim would be a return to the rotation -- assuming all goes well -- and that will likely come in the road trip to Philadelphia and D.C. starting on Friday.
“If he checks a box on that one, there’s a good chance that he’ll get back into our situation here,” Shildt said.
The Cardinals have felt no need to rush Kim back, and they hope Sunday is his last time not facing a different jersey for the remainder of the year. How his return impacts the rotation spots for Daniel Ponce de Leon and John Gant are to be determined -- and the team is staying open to a six-man rotation -- though Kim’s sim game is coinciding with Ponce de Leon’s scheduled start on Sunday.