Goldy misses home opener as precaution

Fans, festivities return to Busch; Wong appears as visitor for first time

April 9th, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals made their long-awaited return to Busch Stadium in front of fans on Thursday, but the starting lineup was lacking , who was held out due to lower back tightness.

Goldschmidt’s back locked up on him Wednesday night, manager Mike Shildt said after the club's 3-1 home-opening win vs. Milwaukee, and treatment Thursday didn’t alleviate the issues to where Goldschmidt could take part in the game. He’s considered day to day.

Matt Carpenter got the start at first base in Goldschmidt’s place, batting second, for his third consecutive start and inaugural outing at first base this season. Carpenter went 0-for-2 with a strikeout before being taken out in a double-switch in the seventh.

“I know he was bothered by the fact that he wasn’t in there today,” Shildt said of Goldschmidt. "That hurt him, because he wants to play and wants to compete with these guys and wants to participate in Opening Day.”

Goldschmidt was introduced with the other Cardinals during pregame festivities, but he did not take part in the parade around the warning track.

For Goldschmidt, it temporarily derails a solid start to the season, as he has hit .308/.357/.385 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs through six games. He’s primarily hit second, ahead of new acquisition and close friend Nolan Arenado, who played the role of hero Thursday.

That spot in the order was given to Carpenter, who’s coming off of a Spring Training that featured just two hits; through Thursday, he's still searching for his first hit of the year. But there have been some positives, as he had as many walks as strikeouts (three apiece) before fanning in his first at-bat Thursday.

There have also been signs of hard contact, including a ball that traveled a Statcast-projected 401 feet with a 106.6 mph exit velocity in the sixth inning. It would have been a home run at 19 ballparks -- just not Busch Stadium. The Cardinals would love to get Carpenter going, though certainly not at the cost of losing Goldschmidt.

Home festivities return
There were plenty of moments of sunshine during an otherwise cloudy day in St. Louis. Five hundred and forty-four days elapsed before Cardinals fans got their unofficial holiday back. Clydesdales primed and prodded, the pregame ceremonies synonymous with Busch Stadium returned after being forced to take a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arenado was introduced as a Cardinal, receiving the ceremonial first pitch from Scott Rolen, thrown by the former Gold Glover from the batter’s eye into Arenado’s Platinum Glove at the center-field warning track. Club Hall of Famers like Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog, Ted Simmons and others made their first appearance at Busch Stadium in two years. Mike Shannon -- entering his 50th and final season in the KMOX radio booth -- was given a standing ovation from the 32-percent capacity crowd.

And for other Cardinals, like Dylan Carlson, it wasn’t their first time being introduced to Busch Stadium. But it was their first time doing so with St. Louisans in the seats.

“It’s definitely something I’ve thought about,” Carlson said Wednesday. “I’m excited to get in front of the city of St. Louis and play, see what it’s like to be playing at Busch Stadium in front of all the fans. And [the home opener] is a pretty special one, so really looking forward to it.”

Absent from Thursday’s ceremonies were two St. Louis icons, Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock, who passed away in 2020. Thursday was the first time that the Cardinals could mourn in unison with their fans, which they did with a ceremony and a moment of silence. Gibson is also being honored with a patch on the left arm of the team's jerseys this season.

Wong makes his return
Among the other returns Thursday was the quick one for Kolten Wong, who signed with the Brewers after his option was declined by St. Louis. The Cardinals’ former first-round Draft pick had nothing but fond memories of his time in St. Louis. At the same time, he’s being driven to prove his old organization wrong in having decided to cut ties.

That started with the first pitch from longtime teammate Adam Wainwright.

“Waino sent me a text and said, ‘Be looking for that first-pitch curveball,’” Wong joked.

Wong walked on four pitches in his first plate appearance as a visitor at Busch Stadium.

Worth noting
Kwang Hyun Kim (back tightness) has returned to the Cardinals and was part of pregame introductions, but president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Thursday that the lefty is likely facing one more tuneup sim game before being activated off of the injured list.