Slowly and steadily, the St. Louis Cardinals are returning to health.
Rookie outfielder Randal Grichuk was activated from the disabled list Sunday. Grichuk, who has been sidelined for 18 games by a strained right elbow, is expected to only be able to pinch-run this week. He will begin taking batting practice Tuesday, which could make him available to pinch-hit during the four-game series in Cincinnati that begins Thursday.
“It feels fine,” Grichuk said of the elbow. “I haven’t felt pain in a while.”
Grichuk, who passed all conditioning drills Saturday, is batting .284 with 21 doubles, seven home runs, 15 home runs and 44 RBIs in 85 games. His slugging percentage is .561.
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Grichuk will be able to hit before he can play in the field. He will begin light tossing Monday, slowing rebuilding the strength in his arm.
“He’s certainly on the right track,” Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said. “But not being able to throw over the last few weeks, you have to be a little careful on how much you ramp that up. So he has to enter a throwing program just like anybody that’s dealing with an arm injury. I don’t think there’s any risk of injury through hitting.”
Mozeliak said the team will have a better idea of when Grichuk can begin playing in the field again by early next week.
Grichuk is glad to be back on the active list, even if only on a limited basis.
“Luckily, it’s September and rosters are expanded,” Grichuk said. “I’m able to come back to help the team, even if it is pinch-running for now and pinch-hitting later, and whatever it may be.
“You’re back, but you’re (only) kind of back. But being able to help the team a little bit is better than nothing.”
Left fielder Matt Holliday (right quad strain), first baseman Matt Adams (right quad strain) and reliever Matt Belisle (elbow inflammation) are getting closer to returning, too. Outfuielder Jon Jay was activated Friday.
“I’m still thinking, on the max, (it will be) mid-September,” Mozeliak said of the returns of Holliday, Adams and Belisle. “I do think Holliday’s going to be sooner than Adams. As far as Belisle goes ... I know he’s feeling better. One bad thing is we’ve sort of run out of places to rehab.”
Belisle said he felt great Sunday after throwing 27 pitches in a two-inning simulated game.
“We treated it just like a real game,” Belisle said. “That was far and away the best yet. It was a blast and I felt good. The other encouraging thing is both Holliday and Adams looked really, really strong, too. It was a good day.”
Belisle has been pushing for an accelerated workout pace for quite some time.
“I’ve been chomping at the bit and they’ve been reining back a little bit just to make sure that when they get me back, it’s me and not anything else,” Belisle said. “I feel confident about where I am today. It’s about (how) it responds. Mentally, I’m making myself ready every day. I’ve done that since the first time off the mound so I’ll be ready when they give me the call.”
WALDEN LIKELY FINISHED
Mozeliak said another reliever, Jordan Walden, is not expected back this season. Walden has been disabled since April 30 with rotator cuff damage.
“If his decision is to not have surgery,” Mozeliak said, “then he’s going to have to have a very rigorous offeseason with therapy. It’s going to be a tough go. If he succeeds with that, then next year he has a possibility. Right now, it’s not looking great.”
Mozeliak said Walden’s injury is similar to what derailed the career of former Cardinals left-hander Mark Mulder.
MATHENY ATTENDS FUNERAL
Manager Mike Matheny was expected to arrive at Busch Stadium in time for the first pitch Sunday after attending the funeral of his grandfather in West Virginia.
“They were close,” Mozeliak said. “I think it was a surprise.”