Two significant contributors to the Cardinals' recent wave of success have been sidelined with injuries.
Outfielder Allen Craig, batting .313 with a clutch three-run homer that led the Birds to victory Saturday and seven total RBI, pulled a groin while running the bases, according to the Cardinals. Second baseman Skip Schumaker, who is hitting only .241 but has a homer and eight RBI to his credit from his new spot down in the batting order, has a hyper-extended elbow.
No word from the club how long the pair might be out of action.
Rookie infielder Daniel Descalso played second base in Schumaker's absence Sunday and did a great job defensively. The Cardinals also have Tyler Greene on the bench to help fill in until Skippy comes back.
I'm more worried about the loss of Craig.
So far this season the team has been able to use veteran outfielder Lance Berkman perfectly. He starts about four of five games -- but when the Cardinals have a lead or it's otherwise appropriate to double switch late in games, they get Berkman off the field for the last couple of innings to save his legs.
Without Craig's bat to replace him in the middle of the lineup, will the Redbirds be able to replace Berkman when he needs a rest? Jon Jay has earned a lot of the late inning defensive replacement duty. But he's not the same sort of power threat that Berkman and Craig are...
While the front office has expressed some optimism that one or both of the players will be back soon enough to avoid a disabled list trip, the club is going to have a tough time playing two men short on the bench.
As of last week, it seemed that Cardinals infielder Nick Punto is still a way away from returning to the big league club. Recovering from a sports hernia, mlb.com reported last week that Punto has not yet been cleared to run at full speed. He's working out with minor leaguers at extended spring training. The club reported at the time that Punto will need a few minor league rehab games to tune up before he's ready to be activated. So it looks like he's still at least a week or two away.