Cardinals Once Again Hit by Spring Pitching Injury

photo: Carlos Martinez and assistant trainer Chris Conroy (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt announced to the media on Tuesday morning that 2018 Opening Day starter Carlos Martinez will not throw for two weeks due to shoulder weakness.

Martinez also spoke about his situation.

I do not want to react too strongly until we see Martinez’ ability to bounce back, with his next evaluation reportedly scheduled for March 5. However, early season rotation injuries seem to occur often for this Cardinals team.

At least it was better news than in 2017, when top prospect Alex Reyes told the team of his elbow pain on February 10, before camp had even officially begun. His injury led to Tommy John surgery, the first of two consecutive season-ending disabled list trips for the talented right-hander. Because of his lengthy DL stays, Reyes already has accrued two years, 55 days of major league service time and will become eligible for arbitration this fall despite having thrown just 50 innings in the bigs to date.

Reyes was hardly alone. Over the prior three years, the Cardinals have opened the regular season with an average of just under four pitchers on the disabled list. Some were short-term injuries and others like Reyes.

2018 (3) – Reyes, Adam Wainwright, Luke Gregerson
2017 (5) – Reyes, Trevor Rosenthal, John Gant, Tyler Lyons, Zach Duke
2016 (3) – Lance Lynn, Jordan Walden, Mitch Harris

In fact, the last time the Cardinals did have at least one starter on the DL on Opening Day was way back in 2010. (This painful history reminder includes Wainwright twice, Chris Carpenter twice and Jaime Garcia twice.)

As a result of Tuesday’s news, a regular participant at The Cardinal Nation’s open forum wondered aloud about the effectiveness of the team’s strength and conditioning program.

Later in the day, Cardinals President of Baseball John Mozeliak expressed his concern about Martinez’ off-season approach.

That led me to look into Cardinals injury detail.

According to data compiled by RosterResource.com, the Cardinals had the second-most disabled list stints in all of Major League Baseball last season. St. Louis’ total of 36 fell just two short of the leaders, the Los Angeles Dodgers, a club accused by some of abusing the 10-day disabled list to stream pitchers who may not have been injured. The MLB team average in 2018 was 23.3 DL moves.

Further, two-thirds, or 24 of the 36 Cardinals DL stints were by pitchers.

Roster Resource’s calculation of the effect to each team of their collective DL trips placed the Cardinals fifth in MLB in aggregate injury impact. This is based on a formula that takes into account the players’ projected value and the length of time they were out. The specifics of the formula are not shared.

Unfortunately, while the Disabled List Tracker is very precise, the reasons for the various DL moves are not noted. As a result, further breakdown of the types of injuries is not readily available, precluding further analysis at this time.

Even so, it seems from the Martinez news that the 2019 Cardinals hurlers are once again not getting off to a good start in the injury department. While the team has considerable pitching depth, the quality of Martinez’ innings when at his best would not be easy to replace.


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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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