photo: Miles Mikolas (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
The St. Louis Cardinals alternate site has been very busy, both with the aspiring major leaguers hoping to make a good impressing, as well as three key players who are progressing in their rehabs to return to St. Louis’ active roster.
They are starting outfielders Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader plus starting pitcher Miles Mikolas.
The alternate campers are usually working out during the days in nearby Sauget, IL, but when the Cardinals are on the road, as they are now, the alternate site group has periodic nights working out at Busch Stadium.
Prior to Monday’s game in Washington, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt shared via Zoom the current status of all three rehabbers.
Shildt noted the power-hitting left fielder had launched a home run the last few days in a simulated game at the alternate site. O’Neill is progressing in running to full speed as he comes back from a groin injury suffered on April 10.
The manager believes that barring a setback, O’Neill could be ready to be activated the first day eligible. However, that would fall on the final game of the current road trip, in Washington on Wednesday. Shildt instead prefers to give O’Neill the extra day off Thursday and have him ready to go on Friday to open the homestand at Busch Stadium.
Though no role has been clarified, given that no other outfielders have stepped up in his absence, I would expect O’Neill to return to his prior starting job in left field. After a strong spring, the right-handed hitter was off to a slow start in his first 28 regular season at-bats.
Barring other injuries, I expect outfielder Scott Hurst to be returned to the alternate site upon O’Neill’s projected Friday activation.
The centerfielder took live batting practice via coach-pitch on Monday. Prior to that, Bader had not been cleared to take swings in a game-like setting as he works his way back from a spring forearm strain that required a platelet-rich injection. He has been throwing at 120 feet and recently has been increasing his intensity. No target return date has been provided.
The right-handed pitcher coming back from a shoulder ailment threw a simulated live batting practice on Sunday, his first such action since February. Mikolas threw mostly fastballs but mixed in a few changeups.
In his next live BP, he will be allowed to start throwing his breaking balls. Questioned about drawing a parallel to where Mikolas would be in a normal spring training, Shildt estimated he would be in the rough area between the first and second live batting practice.
Mikolas continues to ramp up as a starting pitcher, the manager said, with simulated game action the next step beyond live batting practices.
My expectation is that when ready, Mikolas will bump John Gant back to the bullpen. Though fellow rotation member Carlos Martinez has been inconsistent, I still believe he has a leg up on Gant due to his more extensive track record.
To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.
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