As the St. Louis Cardinals prepare for a season in which their long-time rivals, the Chicago Cubs, are the odds-on-favorite to win this year’s World Series, injury complications have come as early as Spring Training. While catcher Yadier Molina is finally returning from injury, shortstop Jhonny Peralta suffered a thumb injury of his own.
On Wednesday, Yadier Molina returned to the field for the Cardinals for the first time since injuring his thumb against the Chicago Cubs on September 20 of last year. Trying to make a sweeping tag on Anthony Rizzo at the plate, Molina injured his thumb and wouldn’t return for the rest of the season. Two thumb surgeries in October, and then again in December, have kept the Cardinals’ first-string catcher on the bench for almost six months.
Guarding the plate against the Marlins, Molina was presented with a similar situation as Justin Bour tried to score off of a Cole Gillespie hit. Molina made the sweeping tag — as FOX Sports described it, “without hesitation” — and Molina appears to be on track.
Another injury the Cardinals are dealing with is that of starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta. On Saturday, Peralta tore his thumb ligament while trying to field a ground ball. As NBC’s St. Louis affiliate KSDK reported, things do not look good for Peralta. On Tuesday, Senior Vice President and General Manager John Mozeliak answered questions about Peralta’s injury.
“The medical team feels like right now the news is not going to be good. It looks like the UCL has been compromised. From where we stand, he’ll get one more opinion on it tomorrow hopefully and then from there, we’ll make a decision what that next step looks like.”
With Peralta likely out 2-3 months, the newest question for Cardinals fans is who will help fill that void until Jhonny returns in the Summer. As Ben Berkon of Forbes noted, there are several options St. Louis could consider trading for from outside the Cardinals’ organization. Berkon gave potential trade opportunities for a Jhonny Peralta replacement, including Jimmy Rollins (Chicago White Sox), Chris Owings (Arizona Diamondbacks) or Ruben Tejada (New York Mets).
However, the Cardinals may have found a Cinderalla-story replacement within their own farm system in Aledmys Diaz. As the Belleville News-Democrat reports, Diaz had struggled since signing with St. Louis two years ago. After a disappointing two years in the minors, the Cardinals hope that the four-year, $8 million contract will finally pay off. Diaz had an impressive four-hit game on Tuesday as the Cards beat the Minnesota Twins 5-3.
A good performance at one Grapefruit League game isn’t enough to earn a starting position for a dynasty like the St. Louis Cardinals, but manager Mike Matheny was impressed.
“To have a big day today when there’s obviously more attention on him at the position right now? That’s something. That’s an asterisk next to it to say it wasn’t just another spring training game. This was a day when he was put on the spot and watch how he responds. That’s better than just four-for-four and drive in some runs.”
Of course, Diaz will need to continue to impress — and there’s plenty of pre-season left for him to do so.
The next Cardinals exhibition in the Grapefruit League is set for Thursday at 1:00 p.m. EST. They will travel to Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, Florida to play the New York Mets. They defeated the Mets 9-4 on Monday. The game will go un-televised, although it can be streamed at MLB.TV and MLB.com.
The 2016 regular season begins for the St. Louis Cardinals on April 3 as they travel to Pittsburgh to play the Pirates in their opening series. After three games in Pennsylvania, they’ll travel to Atlanta to play the Braves for another three games. The first series to be hosted at Busch Stadium this year will be against the Milwaukee Brewers beginning on April 11.
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