Holland strong in return from DL; role in 'pen TBD

Bowman placed on disabled list with blisters in corresponding move

June 19th, 2018

PHILADELPHIA -- His role undefined and the club's concerns over his performance not completely quelled, Greg Holland returned to the Cardinals' bullpen on Tuesday -- and he looked like the pitcher St. Louis signed to anchor that unit, if just for a night.

On the heels of a terrible April and five largely ineffective rehab appearances, Holland pitched a clean seventh inning in St. Louis' 7-6 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

After originally warming up with the Cardinals down two, Holland instead entered with his team ahead by the same margin. Holland then breezed through a 1-2-3 inning, striking out a pair and throwing 11 of his 13 pitches for strikes.

A 1-2 slider induced a weak grounder from , then Holland used two more to strike out and swinging.

"It wasn't by design; I think we'd rather have thrown him in a different spot, but we got him ready to go," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

The question now: Where does Holland fit into the Cards' bullpen picture going forward?

Matheny has made it clear it won't be the eighth or ninth, where and , respectively, have excelled. The club has spent weeks auditioning others to handle the seventh, most recently , and . But the seventh appears to be the Cardinals' target for Holland, of whom Matheny said "it would be great to have as part of that conversation."

The former All-Star pitched to a 9.45 ERA over his first 18 appearances. He had surrendered multiple runs in four straight outings before landing on the disabled list on May 26 with a right hip impingement.

Holland's struggles are only part of a late-inning alignment completely incongruous with how club officials envisioned this offseason. The ineffectiveness or unavailability of Holland, and Luke Gregerson has forced Matheny to continuously repave his path to the ninth.

The trio entered Tuesday with an 8.02 ERA over 33 2/3 innings, and they are owed $26,750,000 collectively this season.

"I want Greg to thrive on any opportunity we get him," Matheny said, "and continue to prove to himself, more so than anybody else, that the stuff is right."

Bowman back to DL

To make room for Holland on the roster, the Cardinals placed righty on the 10-day disabled list, where he spent the better part of the last month. Bowman is dealing with a reoccurrence of blisters on his middle finger, and he has been diagnosed with Raynaud's syndrome, a disease that restricts circulation to the extremities. Bowman is scheduled to receive an injection to counteract the malady, which also results in tingling and numbness in the fingers.

"He has the feeling of frostbite when it's not cold," Cardinals general manager Michael Girsch said.

Matheny confirmed what Bowman admitted to his manager -- that the righty wasn't entirely forthcoming about his condition. Initially diagnosed during his time on the DL, Bowman made three rehab appearances and three more in the Majors after taking medication the club hoped would alleviate the problem. But he walked into Matheny's office late after Monday's loss with white fingers -- a signal of compromised blood flow -- and admitted he'd try to pitch despite being not fully healed.

"He needed to pitch to determine whether or not his fingers could handle it, whether he had the feeling he needs," Girsch said. "It was going well. That's why we started him on rehab. But the more he pitched, it started to revert back."

In not disclosing his true status, Bowman became the latest example of a pitcher to withhold health-related information from Matheny in recent weeks. That list now includes Bowman, and .

"One, I think it's part of who [Bowman] is. Two, his path getting here wasn't the easiest. That just scars guys," Matheny said. "They think if they've been injured, they'll figure it out anyhow. They'll take the ball for you whenever you want. You respect it, but you also know how detrimental it can be for us to not have all the information."

Ozuna explains

Matheny defended 's defensive aggressiveness again on Tuesday, a day after the left fielder took a questionable chance on what turned into a game-deciding double.

Ozuna explained some of the calculus involved in his decision -- whether to leave his feet or play the ball on a bounce -- and admitted some bad experience with similar plays factored in. Ozuna broke his wrist sliding to catch a comparable sinking liner eight years ago, as a teenager with Class A Greensboro. The memory of that injury causes him to get caught "in between," he said.

"I am not scared to dive," Ozuna said. "But sometimes I hesitate and wait too long to decide."