Bader on return: 'Everything's a clean slate'

April 30th, 2021

For the first time this season, the Cardinals had their ideal starters in the outfield as made his season debut Friday against the Pirates.

The fifth-year center fielder missed the first month of the 2021 regular season after soreness in his right forearm flared up early in Spring Training, and he ultimately received a platelet-rich plasma injection to stimulate healing on March 24. Bader said the six weeks off did affect him mentally, but the break also helped him take a step back and reevaluate the way he had prepared in the past and how he can avoid another injury like this one.

“It was a lot of wear and tear on the affected area and just not doing the proper workouts, the proper buildup, the sequencing to just get your arm in shape and ready to go out there and compete without having to think about it,” Bader said Friday. “... I now have a routine that I've been doing for the past six weeks that has allowed me to put myself in a really good physical position to go out there and compete.”

In Bader’s absence, rookie outfielder Dylan Carlson manned the spot. But with Bader slotting back into his main position in center, Carlson will shift to right field. The duo, along with 2020 National League Gold Glove winner Tyler O’Neill in left, should give St. Louis arguably its best defensive alignment.

Inserting Bader back into the lineup will move Justin Williams and Austin Dean to the bench. Though Bader underwhelmed offensively through his first four big-league seasons, he made a name for himself in the field, so he will bring that defensive edge back to the Cardinals’ outfield.

“We're talking about an elite defensive player that clearly is going to help things look a little more consistent, and also be able to take even more things away, which is what we like to do on the defensive side of the ball,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “He's a really good defensive player, and we're glad to have him back on a lot of levels.”

Shildt said he was encouraged by the strides Bader made offensively in 2020, when he had career bests in on-base (.336) and slugging percentages (.443), even though Bader hasn’t yet had the chance to build on what he did last season. Bader, for his part, said he doesn’t feel any urgency to prove anything this season, but he hopes to use those offensive improvements to help his team move back atop the NL Central.

“As far as I'm concerned, I'm not looking back, man,” Bader said. “I'm really just focused on today. It's been a road to build up to now, and everything prior to this exact moment, and what's to come my first at-bat after being on the [IL] for however long, everything just goes out the window. Everything's a clean slate, everything's a new opportunity to just go out there and just help this team win. That's been my only focus.”

Good to note
• St. Louis released the rosters for its Minor League affiliates on Friday. The Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A), Springfield Cardinals (Double-A), Peoria Chiefs (High-A) and Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A) will begin their respective seasons on Tuesday.

Left-handed pitchers Zack Thompson and Matthew Liberatore -- the top pitching prospects in the organization -- are set to begin the season in Memphis, and third baseman Nolan Gorman and catcher Ivan Herrera will head to Springfield.

As for the Cardinals’ top 2020 Draft picks, first-round pick Jordan Walker will start the season with Palm Beach. Next to him will be Masyn Winn, the second-round pick who is a two-way player but will likely be a priority at shortstop.

• The Cardinals are hopeful pitcher Adam Wainwright can start Monday against the Mets. Wainwright was placed on the COVID-19 IL on Thursday after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. However, Shildt said Friday that Wainwright had received his vaccination and has tested negative since the exposure, giving St. Louis faith that he will miss no more than the weekend series.

• Daniel Ponce de Leon was placed on the 10-day IL on Friday (retroactive to Thursday) due to right shoulder inflammation. Jake Woodford was recalled from the alternate training site in his place.