I was concerned that the St. Louis Cardinals' starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, who has had trouble performing over the past couple of seasons like the ace he used to be because of age and an accumulation of injuries, would have trouble making it through the 2018 season unscathed.
But I didn't imagine that he wouldn't make it to the starting line without breaking down. Unfortunately, that's what happened.
The Cardinals veteran hurler has been placed on the disabled list to start the upcoming season with a hamstring injury. I hope it's just a minor, temporary thing. But, at this stage of his career, I guess you never can tell until we see the way it plays out on the field.
Wainwright will join reliever Luke Gregerson on the shelf. Gregerson, who signed over seemingly more appealing and established options to be the St. Louis closer, also pulled a hamstring and is out for opening day.
While fans who want to see the Redbirds try to win now have reason to be concerned — if not disappointed — by the news, the silver lining of this dark cloud is that the injury to Wainwright gives St. Louis an opportunity to bring hot prospect Jack Flaherty north as camp breaks. And the loss of Gregerson helped the team avoid a tough decision about whether to send John Brebbia, Mike Mayers or Matt Bowman to Class AAA Memphis at the start of the season. It also gave fireballing youngster Jordan Hicks a chance to hurl in the last Grapefruit League game of the season, impressing with four innings on one-hit shutout ball.
The future may be now, ready or not.
Hicks was sure a lot of fun to watch in an exhibition game Sunday. He, Flaherty and Alex Reyes are the St. Louis young prospects I am most excited about. I just hate to see all the pressure of winning now placed squarely on their shoulders. It would be nice to have a veteran hurler at the top of the rotation to serve as their leader and role model.
While it's nice that the Birds have some depth to absorb these two injuries, it's disturbing to see the team have to dip into its reserves so quickly. Let's remember that Wainwright isn't the only fragile member of the St. Louis rotation. Michael Wacha's chronic shoulder problems will likely be a concern for the rest of his career, and Miles Mikolas hasn't got much of a major league track record to go on. He could be the find of the season, or he could be a total bust. We just don't know what we're going to get from him at this point. Then there is top prospect Reyes, who missed all of last year with elbow ligament transplant surgery, and it is unknown when or how well he'll be able to pitch.
Oh, and let's not forget that Carlos Martinez has struggled and there are rumors that he's having arm troubles.
Amid all of this, rumors surfaced again over the weekend that the Cardinals have been talking to former Colorado Rockies closer Greg Holland about a job.
The talk is that Holland is still too expensive for St. Louis' taste. But, even if he was cheap and agreeable to a one-year contract, how would the Cardinals accommodate him on the roster?
Gregerson and Bud Norris have already been inked to deals to man the back end of the bullpen, and the Birds have a mix of several established and up-and-coming hurlers lined up for rolls in the relief corps.
The bottom line: Here we are at the tail end of spring training, and the Cardinals are still trying to figure out how to sort out their roster.