St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals’ minor-league pitcher still in hospital after being struck in head

St. Louis Cardinals minor-league pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon remained in intensive care Friday in Des Moines, Iowa.

Poncedeleon on Tuesday was stuck by a line drive in Class AAA Memphis’ game against Iowa, the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate. Poncedeleon underwent surgery to relieve pressure on the brain.

Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said the team is upbeat about Poncedeleon’s progress since surgery.

“We are very encouraged on how things are progressing,” Mozeliak said. “Certainly we are very hopeful, and I think we should have a really good idea of what the outlook should look like probably the early part of next week. He’s been able to eat on his own and is showing more energy.

“Just overall, I think the doctors are really pleased with where he’s at.”

Poncedeleon was a ninth-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2014 draft. He was 9-8 with a 3.52 ERA in 27 starts last season at Class AA Springfield. This year, he is 2-0 with a 2.17 ERA in six starts.

Mozeliak said Poncedeleon is alert and able to speak and answer questions. But the Cardinals are stopping short of proclaiming Poncedeleon out of danger.

“It’s obviously a fragile state,” Mozeliak said. “But that’s improving. Right now, everything is going in a very positive direction. You don’t want to speak in absolutes. You don’t want to draw conclusions. But we’re very encouraged with where he’s at.”

Alex Torres, formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres, in 2014 was the first major-league pitcher to wear headgear during a game. Other pitchers did not follow suit.

Could the injury to Poncedeleon prompt Major League Baseball to take a deeper look into protective gear for pitchers?

“You always hate to have a tragedy sort of point you to a decision to do something you normally wouldn’t want to or are comfortable with doing,” Mozeliak said. “This is certainly going to bring light to that.

“These types of injuries are very scary. Are they preventable? There is technology being put out there that probably could help with this. But I, again, don’t know if specifically it was where the hat would have been or slightly below.

“But still, protective headwear is something that may be part of our future.”

Fowler returns

Center fielder Dexter Fowler on Friday made his first start since May 4 against Milwaukee, when he suffered a strained right shoulder diving for a ball in left-center.

Fowler had been limited to pinch-hitting duties and was effective with two hits in three at-bats, including a triple, and three RBIs.

“It feels awesome to be back,” Fowler said. “It’s good that I didn’t have to go on the DL (disabled list). They worked with me, and we were winning games. Hopefully, we can keep that trend going.”

Fowler’s absence hardly hurt the Cardinals. They were 6-0 on the road trip to Atlanta and Miami and the play of replacements Tommy Pham (.417, three home runs, six RBIs) and Magneuris Sierra (.353) provided a huge jolt.

The Cardinals will keep a close eye on Sierra. If they can use him enough to merit him remaining in the big leagues, it’s worth their while.

“He’s a versatile player, clearly,” Mozeliak said. “A late-inning defensive replacement is always attractive. Obviously, you wouldn’t want that over the course of a month. But for a week to 10 days, I think that’s perfectly acceptable.”

Peralta, Piscotty to rehab

Third baseman Jhonny Peralta (upper respiratory infection) has been rehabilitating at high-Class A Palm Beach, collecting two hits in eight at-bats in three games.

Peralta will begin another rehab stint at Class AAA Memphis this weekend.

“For me, I’d like to see a little bit more robust rehab assignment, so we will likely send him out to Memphis in the next day or two and get him some time down there — have him play a position, have him take at-bats — and then we’ll have a better sense of where he is,” Mozeliak said.

Right fielder Stephen Piscotty (strained right hamstring), who also was injured May 4, will begin a rehab assignment at Class AA Springfield on Monday.

“From there, we’ll just see how he responds and will make a decision at some point next week,” Mozeliak said.

Piscotty said he feels much better with a week of rest, although he has been at Busch Stadium three hours every day for treatment and exercise.

“I’ve been able to lift and do a lot of baseball stuff,” Piscotty said. “I feel the spot a little bit, but it’s so much better than it was.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm