Contreras' season ends due to left wrist tendinitis

Cardinals catcher headed to 10-day IL after battling multiple injuries during 2023 campaign

September 21st, 2023

ST. LOUIS --  made a brief stop in the Cardinals’ clubhouse on Thursday morning before dutifully heading off to the trainers’ room to undergo imaging on his ailing left wrist.

Asked if he was OK, Conteras half-grimaced and replied, “We’ll see.”

The Cardinals’ 6-0 loss to the Brewers at Busch Stadium was not the biggest letdown of the day for a club that dropped three of the four games in the series.

St. Louis will place Contreras, who was last offseason’s prime free-agent acquisition, on the 10-day injured list with left wrist tendinitis, manager Oliver Marmol said postgame. A corresponding roster move will be announced before Friday’s series opener against the Padres at Petco Park.

“He finished very strong, and I’m proud of him,” Marmol said. “This is a guy that cares. I love him.”

Contreras’ first season in St. Louis ends prematurely, but on a performance uptick after a choppy start. He finishes the year with 20 home runs -- the fifth time he’s reached that plateau -- and his .825 OPS marks his best season in that category since 2019.

Contreras also was able to battle through a variety of ailments, including a right hand contusion and soreness in his right hip, to help guide Adam Wainwright to his historic 200th career win on Monday night.

“It was a really strange season,” Contreras said. “Kind of disappointed that we had a losing season, and I ended up going to [the] IL, something that I hated, for sure.

“At the same time, I’m really glad that I was able to stay healthy throughout the season, finding ways to keep myself healthy. Really glad and proud that I got to catch win No. 200 for Waino, and that’s something that’s really special.

“Not just for me, but for the Cardinals’ organization, and his career, and the city of St. Louis.”

The tendinitis first crept in for Contreras during the team’s trip to Atlanta at the beginning of September. Most days, the soreness was manageable, but Contreras described difficulty swinging a bat heading into Wednesday night’s game.

A particularly uncomfortable swing during his third plate appearance in the sixth inning against the Brewers made it clear that he’d reached his stopping point.

After Alec Burleson fractured his left thumb on a headfirst slide into third base on Tuesday, Iván Herrera was recalled from Triple-A Memphis to take Burleson’s spot on the roster. Even with Herrera’s experience and limited options on the 40-man roster, it seemed notable at the time that he was called up over outfield options like Moisés Gómez and Michael Siani.

“That [soreness] was part of the third catcher move,” Marmol said following Wednesday’s game, in which Herrera took over behind the plate in the seventh once Contreras was no longer able to go.

The Cardinals are still evaluating whether Contreras’ rehab will allow him to remain with the team for the remainder of the season or if he’ll relocate to their spring facility -- and closer to his home -- in Jupiter, Fla.

Andrew Knizner, the team’s primary backup catcher, caught Miles Mikolas on Thursday. Mikolas again struggled, allowing six runs (five earned) on nine hits, including two home runs, and one walk in five-plus innings.

Mikolas is 1-8 in his past nine decisions, dating back to July 22.

“It’s definitely a year to go back and look and see what I did good, and hold on to that, and change what I did bad,” Mikolas said.

“Nobody wants [results] more than Miles, and that’s why you let him work through it,” Marmol added. “He’s working through some things, and you have to give him every opportunity to do that, especially in these games.”

Despite having been temporarily removed from catching duty early in the season, the Cardinals rallied around Contreras behind the plate, and he finished the season having exceeded 2022’s total in games started and innings caught behind the plate despite his injuries.

“Willson has been great,” Mikolas said. “The guy’s a bulldog. When he’s healthy, he’s incredible. Even when he’s banged up, he’s out there giving his best.”

Added Contreras: “It’s a learning season for me, with the whole staff, from top to bottom. I’m glad that it happened this year. We’ll learn from this year not to carry some things to 2024, and hopefully 2024 is way better than 2023.”