The Cardinals’ long nightmare is essentially over.
It has been 10 days since St. Louis rebooted its season after an extended hiatus due to COVID-19 protocols. The rotation, which began its third turn since the restart with Adam Wainwright’s outing against the Royals on Tuesday night, is stretched back out in terms of pitch count. And outfielders Austin Dean and Lane Thomas -- the last two of 10 total players placed on the COVID-19 injured list to be cleared to resume workouts -- are both headed to St. Louis' alternate training site in Springfield, Mo.
“We’re back,” manager Mike Shildt declared before Tuesday’s game. “We’ve got all 10 payers back, by the grace of God. It seems we’re on the other side of this.”
Shildt added that the Cards are “pretty much” at full staff after seven members of the staff tested positive.
Wainwright already went seven innings and 97 pitches against the Reds on Thursday, and Daniel Ponce de Leon reached 93 pitches against the Reds on Sunday. Jack Flaherty (64 pitches last start) Dakota Hudson (74) and Kwang Hyun Kim (83) will all be ready for what can be described as a more “normal” workload in this turn.
The Cards will need their rotation and roster to be at something resembling full strength for what’s ahead. While the return schedule has already been onerous, Shildt and pitching coach Mike Maddux have begun talks about how to handle an even more daunting doubleheader dilemma that will see St. Louis play five twin bills in an 11-day span from Sept. 8-18.
That’s one reason why Carlos Martínez, who has begun throwing bullpen sessions, is expected to return to the club as a starter, not a reliever, when he’s officially reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list.
“We’re going to need six starters there for a while,” Shildt said. “The recipe of going with a bullpen game is a challenge for everybody. Having Carlos in the rotation gets us more to a six-man rotation, somewhat loosely. Having that flexibility to have him in there among some other moving parts [is important].”
But Shildt shed a little more light on what makes Goldschmidt such a respected member of this Cardinals club.
“He’s just a very giving person who cares,” Shildt said. “He’s got a tremendous heart for people. He’s got this wonderful ability to see the big picture. He’s a guy that cares about people, about the group, about the team. He wants people to have success, and he wants us to have success.”
Climbing the charts
With Tuesday’s outing, Wainwright tied Bill Doak for the fourth-most starts for the Cardinals in the franchise’s long and rich history.
The full list ...
Bob Gibson: 251-174, 2.91 ERA 528 games, 482 starts, 3,117 innings
Bob Forsch: 163-127, 3.67 ERA, 455 games, 401 starts, 1,079 innings
Jesse Haines: 210-158, 3.64 ERA, 554 games, 387 starts, 979 innings
Bill Doak: 144-136, 2.93 ERA, 376 games, 320 starts, 938 innings
Wainwright (as of first pitch Tuesday): 164-95, 3.38 ERA, 386 games, 320 starts, 1,788 innings
• Right-handed reliever Kodi Whitley, who was one of the 10 players who tested positive for COVID-19, was cleared to resume baseball activities last week but is on a slower program and was in St. Louis on Tuesday while “working through some things,” in Shildt’s words. “He’s playing catch and seeing how it feels,” Shildt said. “We’re evaluating that as we go.”
• Shildt said he likes the balance of putting a left-handed hitter between Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong in the lineup, as he did Tuesday with Miller. “Especially with the three-batter minimum,” Shildt said. “There’s no absolutely one-batter matchups.”
• Shildt admitted facing Royals manager Mike Matheny during the exhibition season was strange, but he’s over it now. “You just normalize things in our sport and in our society,” he said. “It was a little more unusual the first time. Now it’s more just, ‘Play baseball.’”