Cards activate O'Neill, place Thomas on IL

August 31st, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals activated outfielder from the 10-day injured list and placed outfielder on the 10-day IL (retroactive to Wednesday) with a fractured right wrist on Friday afternoon.

The fracture means Thomas' season is likely over unless the Cardinals make a deep postseason run -- the cast he’s in now will be on for three weeks, and he will need around three additional weeks after the cast is taken off to continue his recovery.

After being hit by a pitch on the right arm Monday, Thomas was drilled on the right wrist by a pitch from the Brewers' Devin Williams in the top of the ninth inning on Tuesday, but he stayed in the game to run and took his position in left field in the bottom of the frame. CT scans in Milwaukee didn’t reveal a fracture, but scans taken in St. Louis on Thursday did reveal one.

“He survived the first hit by pitch and didn’t come out as clean on the second one,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “Never say never, but it’s not favorable.”

Thomas, 24, has a .316/.409/.684 batting line with four homers and 12 RBIs in 44 plate appearances this season. His absence does open the door for another outfielder to be called up when rosters expand Sunday, Shildt said. The Cardinals will expand their roster to 33 players, including and Jose Martinez -- who is rehabbing a right AC joint sprain. Who will join those two will be announced Saturday.

“It creates an opportunity for another outfielder,” Shildt said. “We try to figure out where is that sweet spot of guys who are actually going to get work, and guys who are going to be hanging around, who you don’t necessarily see a role for. Clearly, there are a lot of different things going into an expanded roster.”

O'Neill ended up missing nearly a month with a left wrist strain after going on the IL on Aug. 3. The 24-year-old posted a .279 average with five homers, 16 RBIs and a .750 OPS in 136 plate appearances prior to the injury.

After three rehab games with Triple-A Memphis, where O’Neill went 3-for-9 and had three walks, Shildt said he is “healthy and ready to go.”

Let’s play two ... back to back

With Friday’s game postponed until Sunday night, the Cardinals reconfigured their rotation for back-to-back split doubleheaders.

Friday’s original starter, , will start the first game on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. CT -- the makeup game from a rainout on June 5 at Busch Stadium -- with to start the second game at 6:15 p.m.

is scheduled to start the first game on Sunday. Ponce de Leon will be activated to start the second game.

After being optioned to Triple-A Memphis on July 31, Ponce de Leon put together a string of consistent starts for the Redbirds -- which is exactly what the Cardinals wanted to see. The right-hander had back-to-back outings in which he threw seven scoreless innings, striking out 11 and nine respectively. In five starts, Ponce de Leon had a 0.93 ERA. Every start was a buildup to Saturday, because the Cardinals had told Ponce de Leon when he was sent down that they were targeting him for one of the doubleheader starts.

“It’s the consistency we talk about, just being able to do it virtually every time out,” Shildt said. “Our hope for him is that he’ll be able to channel what that looks like and go throw strikes. He’s got two really quality pitches that definitely play at this level, with the fastball and the life he’s got on it, the spin rate. ... Then he’s got the plus spin on his breaking ball. In the zone, he can get out anybody.”

It wasn’t so much a fix for Ponce de Leon down in Memphis; rather, it was a find. Ponce de Leon found his fastball, his command and a rhythm in his windup and delivery that allowed him to have success.

“Not everything was traveling toward home plate, so I'm coming across, the ball is sideways and it's hard to command pitches like that when you're inconsistent towards home,” Ponce de Leon said. “Once I got that consistent delivery, and just direction toward the catcher, that's when everything started coming out of the same arm slot.”

Staying safe in Florida

Cardinals staff and players who work at the organization’s facility in Jupiter, Fla., were evacuated Friday in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian, which is expected to hit the east coast of Florida and increased to a Category 3 storm Friday afternoon.

Jupiter could take a direct hit from the hurricane, which is expected to make landfall early next week. Final preparations at the facility for the storm are expected to be completed by Saturday afternoon.