Carlson injury paves way for Scott to start in center on Opening Day

Cardinals' No. 3 prospect is slated to make his Major League debut at Dodger Stadium

March 27th, 2024

MESA, Ariz. -- While injuries to Tommy Edman, Lars Nootbaar and have repeatedly thrown the Cardinals’ best-laid outfield plans into flux and caused plenty of uncertainty, particularly in center field, manager Oliver Marmol spoke with conviction and no hesitation when discussing the club’s future at that position.

“[Victor Scott II] is the starting center fielder,” Marmol said on Tuesday morning after the team learned that Carlson will miss several weeks with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder. “If he’s here, he’s going to play. He’s here to play. I’m extremely excited to watch him.

“Two things come to mind with this kid: He’s confident in his abilities and he embraces competition. Secondly, he has a personality that even if he’s tested and faces adversity, he’s going to come out of it just fine. It’ll be fun to watch.”

Scott, who had been reassigned to Minor League camp on Saturday, was back in his native Georgia watching a movie with his girlfriend when he started getting alerts on his phone about Carlson’s injury. At 7 p.m. ET on Monday night, he learned would be headed to Arizona to join the Cardinals instead of Triple-A Memphis.

The 23-year-old Scott, who played at Single-A Peoria and Double-A Springfield last season, woke up at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday morning to catch a 6 a.m. flight from Atlanta to Phoenix. Upon arriving at Sloan Park, where the Cards ended the spring with a 7-2 win over the Cubs, Scott registered a hard-hit single. The rookie was informed by Marmol and bench coach Daniel Descalso prior to the game that his MLB debut would come at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.

“The emotions were pretty high, honestly, because it’s been a crazy couple of days,” Scott said candidly. “I was just trying to hone in on the moment. Ever since I was a little kid and three years old, I’ve dreamed of hearing those words: ‘You’re going to The Show.’

"To see it all come full circle and come to fruition, it was a tear-jerker, for sure.”

An MRI exam on Monday night revealed that Carlson -- the projected Opening Day starter in center field following a stellar Spring Training -- sustained damage to his left shoulder after a collision with right fielder Jordan Walker caused him to land hard on his left side on the warning track.

“It really sucks, the timing sucks and everything about it is awful, honestly,” said Carlson, who will do his rehabilitation work in St. Louis. “I put myself in a position to really feel good for the first time in a while, and this definitely hurts and stings.”

Added Scott, who will wear No. 11: “I actually told [Carlson] that I am praying for him because that’s a tough circumstance. I told him that I’m going to keep him in my prayers and to get well soon. But it’s an opportunity for me and I’m going to try and seize it.”

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said that Carlson would return to St. Louis -- instead of traveling to Los Angeles

Mozeliak said he viewed Carlson’s injury in the prism of one that won’t “be measured in months,” and he hopes the switch-hitting center fielder can be back in a few weeks.

While the Cardinals wait for the returns of Edman (right wrist surgery), Nootbaar (two rib fractures) and Carlson, they will attempt to make do in center field with Scott and defensive ace Michael Siani.

St. Louis is hopeful that Nootbaar could possibly rejoin the active roster as soon as the home opener against the Marlins on April 4. For now, Mozeliak said there is no need for the club to try to add a veteran presence in the outfield.

“I don’t think so because we know that we’re going to get Noot back shortly, at some point we’re going to get Tommy Edman back and with Dylan, I don’t think it’s going to be measured in months,” Mozeliak said.

“So, I just think going out and signing someone for the short term probably is just going to create a little confusion in the long run.”

Given a non-roster invite to Major League Spring Training, Scott showed how he went from the Cards’ No. 29 to No. 3 prospect in a year’s time in the MLB Pipeline rankings.

In 13 Grapefruit League games, Scott hit .316 with one triple, five walks and four stolen bases. Even more impressive was his defense where he robbed one hitter with a diving catch in shallow center and went above the wall to steal a home run from Nats shortstop CJ Abrams.

Now, Scott will soon be a big leaguer – a dream come true that he got to share with father, Victor, and mother, Mary, on Tuesday.

“I got to call my mom and dad. Those are the two most important people in my life and getting to tell them was unreal,” Scott said. “They are the most excited people for me. Just to hear them and know that all my support staff has been there for me since the start, it’s been great.”