Inbox: When can Cardinals expect Yadi back?

Beat reporter Joe Trezza answers questions from fans

May 28th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- If Memorial Day is one of the best days for baseball -- and it is -- then when better to answer your burning Cardinals questions?
"What's the latest on 's progress? When can we him back?"
-- Keith R, Jacksonville, Fla.

Molina (pelvic injury) is not traveling with the team, but he was in the clubhouse and dugout several times over the last homestand. He began basebal activities this week, including hitting and recieving drills. The next step will be to embark on a rehab assignment, which could begin in the coming days.
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Who is better to keep in the rotation when comes back and joins the fun? Who would be better out of the bullpen, or ?
-- Carl Hunnell, via Twitter

As I wrote over the weekend after Flaherty won again, this is the primary question surrounding the Cardinals at the moment. And they're not a team lacking for questions.
Before I speculate, a recap:
• With Martinez and Reyes healthy, the Cardinals will ostensibly have six starters (Martinez, , , Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and Reyes) for five spots.
• Club officials have repeatedly shot down the idea of a six-man rotation, concerned it would zap too many starts from its frontline arms.
• All six starters are pitching well.
The easiest solution -- and there aren't many easy ones -- is to do what the Cardinals are doing: waiting. Wait until Martinez returns. Wait to see how Reyes performs. Wait to see how Flaherty and Weaver are pitching when the decision nears. The answer may reveal itself in the starts to come.
If it doesn't, either Flaherty or Weaver (or Reyes) can be optioned to Triple-A Memphis or moved to the bullpen. Of the three, scouts say Weaver's stuff profiles worse in the late innings, given his lack of a swing-and-miss breaking pitch. Flaherty has that wipeout slider and the type of fluidity in his mechanics that could lead one to believe his velocity could rise in shorter stints. Then again, Weaver throws harder now.
Another option is a creative one that would require some serious schedule-juggling. The Cards could try to squeeze two starters into that final spot by rotating whomever they deem the fifth and sixth starters. Or they could leave the front of the rotation alone and cycle three starters through the final two spots, skipping one each turn through. A makeup doubleheader scheduled for late July at Wrigley Field ensures at least one week when the Cardinals will need six different starters.
All that said, this may end up being a problem for a day less imminent than we think. Martinez was expected to miss just one start, but now has missed three turns through the rotation and just this week began throwing again. Meanwhile, Martinez and the club have provided few details regarding his progress. The uncertainty surrounding Martinez's status is a major reason that club officials are keeping their rotation plans close to the vest.
Why isn't playing third base every day?
-- David Y., Eugene, Ore.

Perhaps more than any other position player on the Cardinals' roster, manager Mike Matheny is most cognizant of giving Gyorko rest, believing the infielder's production drops when he plays too many consecutive days. On one hand, it's hard to argue with Matheny's assessment: Gyorko is slashing .287/.370/.460 as one of baseball's best super subs. On another, Gyorko is performing so well, there's also an argument for playing him more.
Penciling him in every day at third assumes you're comfortable handing full-time shortstop duties to , and the Cardinals just aren't there yet. They'd prefer to sprinkle the reps around in the absence of , playing Gyorko, Munoz and there based on matchups and availability.
Making Gyorko the everyday third baseman also means pushing Matt Carpenter full-time to second and essentially giving up on as a consistent option. The Cardinals aren't there yet, either.
Speaking of Wong -- who I got a number of questions about -- he became a part-time player after a dreadful start and hasn't recovered, hitting .158 in May. But Matheny also will give Wong as much run as possible considering the offensive strides the young lefty hitter took last season and the elite up-the-middle defense he provides.
"Which prospect gets a chance first, Dakota Hudson or ?"
-- Ryan Hoyt, via Twitter

I'd say Gomber, given one undeniable fact about him: He's left-handed. The Cardinals could really use a dependable LOOGY (left-handed one-out guy) type in the middle innings, and though Gomber rose up the Minor League ranks as a starting pitcher, he could be that guy. Cards lefty 's platoon splits fluctuate from year to year. And was that kind of pitcher last year, but lefties are hitting .321 against him this season.
What makes Gomber different is his big, over-the-top curveball, the signature offering scouts consider his best pitch. Cardinals general manager Michael Girsch was in Memphis to watch Gomber throw this weekend, which could mean something or could mean nothing. Either way, Gomber already has made a brief trip to St. Louis this season, and Hudson profiles more of a frontline starter, the type of pitcher the Cardinals would prefer not to move to the bullpen, need notwithstanding.