Edman (wrist) ruled out for Opening Day

March 14th, 2024

JUPITER, Fla. -- Still bothered by painful inflammation in a right wrist that needed surgery five months ago, Cardinals center fielder was ruled out for Opening Day and will instead soon head to the 10-day injured list, manager Oliver Marmol confirmed on Thursday.

Edman, a former Gold Glove second baseman, was projected to be St. Louis’ starting center fielder after playing 42 error-free games there late in the 2023 season. He had surgery on his right wrist in early October when the season ended, but he has yet to make much significant progress because of lingering inflammation and swelling. Edman, who recently got second and third opinions on the soundness of the wrist structurally, has yet to hit live pitching, and batting from the right side causes the most pain in his wrist.

Marmol said Edman would abstain from all hitting drills for the next week -- the third time during Spring Training the 28-year-old has been shut down because of wrist pain. After the surgery, the Cardinals thought Edman might be slowed some in Spring Training, but they were confident he would be ready for Opening Day. Those hopes were shown when they signed him to a two-year, $16 million contract extension in January. However, Edman's return will not come during the Cardinals’ four-game opening series in Los Angeles against Shohei Ohtani and the Dodgers.

“He’s extremely frustrated,” Marmol said of the 2021 Gold Glove second baseman and the utility Gold Glove finalist each of the past two seasons. “There was a question whether he would be able to play the first game of spring, but he definitely wanted to participate in the games here before Opening Day. But that’s not going to be possible.”

Edman’s absence should clear the way for Dylan Carlson to stake his claim as St. Louis’ Opening Day starter in center field. Carlson, who homered in the Cards’ 1-1 tie against the Twins on Wednesday, manned the center field position well throughout the latter stages of the 2022 season, but he lost that job when his hitting lagged that season and in ‘23.

Edman’s injury also could open an avenue for rookie speedster Victor Scott II, who has gone from the No. 29 prospect in the Cardinals’ system to No. 4, per MLB Pipeline. Scott won a Gold Glove and stole 94 bases in the Minor Leagues in 2023. This spring, he has been one of St. Louis’ most productive players at the plate while also stealing four bases in five attempts.

“Victor has had a really good camp,” Marmol said. “He’s shown well on the field, and he’s put together some really good at-bats. Obviously, he’s exciting on the bases, and he’s played really good defense. He’s asking the right questions. He’s handled himself well off the field as far as the clubhouse and being engaging. It’s been exciting to watch him, and we’re going to continue to watch him.”

Edman’s injury comes at a time when the Cardinals are already without Lars Nootbaar, the projected starting left fielder. Nootbaar recently fractured two ribs on his left side while trying to make a twisting, turning catch in left field. Nootbaar, who has been standing in on pitcher bullpen sessions in an attempt to keep his timing at the plate, will see a specialist on Saturday to judge his progress, Marmol said. He also has been using a bone growth stimulator device nightly while away from the ballpark. Nootbar's status for Opening Day remains up in the air.

“He feels better every day, but he does still feel [the ribs] a little bit,” Marmol said. “He was able to do some rotational stuff [on Wednesday], and we’ll see what the next four to five days look like.”

Alec Burleson, who has had a team-best 12 hits in his first 12 games of Grapefruit League action, could be the favorite to start in left field if Nootbaar is unable to play when the Cards open against the Dodgers on March 28. Burleson, who worked during the offseason to drop weight and improve defensively, was hitting .400 with a home run, two doubles and five RBIs before Thursday’s game against the Mets.

Sonny Gray, who was projected to be the team’s Opening Day starter after signing a three-year, $75 million contract in November, is slated to throw a “full side” on Thursday afternoon, and that could go a long way in determining his potential to be ready for the start of the regular season. Gray suffered what the team called a “mild” strain of his right hamstring during the second inning of his start against the Nationals on March 4. He threw a limited 20-pitch side session on Monday and felt no restrictions or lingering pain with the hamstring.