Pham slowly recovering from groin tightness

Cardinals face bullpen decisions; Cecil out indefinitely

April 21st, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- The tightness in his right groin not dissipated, Tommy Pham didn't play in Saturday's 4-3 win over the Reds. It was the second time in three days Pham was held out of the lineup due to the injury, which could keep him sidelined until next week.

The Cardinals plan to remain cautious with the outfielder, though Pham and the club both maintain he could play if necessary.

"Whenever there is a little bit of hesitancy, we have to be careful," manager Mike Matheny said. "If there is any kind of concern at all, we'll err on the side of caution."

Pham first felt tightness in his groin during the ninth inning of Tuesday's 5-3 win over the Cubs, after which Matheny and Pham agreed to be cautious with the injury. Pham passed a series of performance tests Wednesday then rested Thursday, before returning to the lineup for Friday's 4-2 win against the Reds. Pham scored twice and reached base three times in that contest.

Matheny said Pham did not aggravate the groin injury during Friday's game.

"It's still from the other day," Matheny said. "We were hoping it would progress better, but it didn't."

Pham was not available for comment, but characterized the injury earlier this week as something that shouldn't keep him out of the lineup for long.

With cold weather lingering in the forecast and the tendency for these types of minor injuries to linger, the Cardinals added an extra bench player on Thursday in No. 4 prospect . A slugger who can play all four outfield positions, O'Neill provides the Cards flexibility in the event Pham needs to miss more time, but not enough to warrant a stint on the disabled list.

Decisions looming

A rare shift in roster philosophy has the Cardinals preparing for a decision in regard to their bullpen, which at the moment is unusually small, albeit by choice.

In promoting slugging outfield prospect Tyler O'Neill this week, the club opted for an extra bench player over an eight-man 'pen, sacrificing the luxury of an additional reliever Matheny has often enjoyed. All of which complicates the pending return of two relievers from the disabled list.

Right-hander (left knee) and lefty (fractured big toe) could both be ready to return srtly after embarking on rehab assignments next week at Triple-A Memphis. Sherriff has remaining Minor League options, meaning the club can assign him to Memphis without issue. The tougher decision will come with Tuivailala, who is out of options and would need to pass through waivers before being sent down.

With veterans Greg Holland and Luke Gregerson in the fold, rookie pitching extremely well, and that extra spot being filled by a position player, the club's number of optionable relievers is limited. The most likely candidate appears to be , one of the club's most called-upon arms over the last three seasons.

Right-hander also has an option remaining. The club could also regulate back to a four-man bench, or try to squeeze Tuivailala through waivers, leaving him exposed.

"I'm going to try to worry about pitching," said Tuivailala, who was optioned back and forth from Memphis often last season. "That's the only thing I can control right now. I'm used to blocking all that other stuff out."

Update on Cecil

Sidelined since the season's opening series with a strain in his throwing shoulder, left-hander remains out indefinitely. The club plans to send him in the near future to its spring complex in Jupiter, Fla., where Cecil will remain "for some time," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said.

The left-hander started slow after reporting to camp late due to a family issue, and reported pain in his left shoulder after recording one out in his season debut.

"Obviously he didn't have a normal spring," Mozeliak said. "We'll try to bring him back to a pace that benefits him."