Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill has been on the 10-day injured list since May 5 with a lower back strain. He was slated to go on a minor league rehab stint today but the club announced yesterday he’d be held back because of continued soreness.
Manager Oli Marmol told reporters today that O’Neill will meet again with the club’s doctors to try to determine the source of the ongoing discomfort (relayed by John Denton of MLB.com). It’s not presently clear how much longer St. Louis will without its Opening Day center fielder. Prior to the injury, O’Neill had been off to a slow start offensively. He’s hitting .228/.283/.337 with only two home runs and a characteristically high 34.3% strikeout rate. The Cardinals also quickly pushed O’Neill back into his standard left field role after flirting with the idea of him manning center.
St. Louis is also without Dylan Carlson after he landed on the IL earlier in the week. The Cards brought up Oscar Mercado from Triple-A and they’ve begun getting Tommy Edman work in the outfield. The switch-hitter has started three straight games in right field after playing exclusively in the middle infield thus far. Edman, who left this evening’s game due to lower abdominal soreness (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), is off to a strong .274/.331/.467 start to the year.
Edman is a quality defender up the middle but his flexibility has allowed the Cards to get the hot-hitting Paul DeJong back into action. DeJong has been much maligned because of his offensive struggles between 2020-22, but he’s stormed out to a .290/.355/.594 slash with six homers in 20 games since being activated from the IL on April 23. That’s been enough for the former All-Star to force his way back into the lineup at shortstop.
The Cardinals also called up left-hander Matthew Liberatore for the first time this season yesterday. He tossed five scoreless innings in a win against Milwaukee, building off a strong first few weeks with Triple-A Memphis. The one-time top prospect had a 3.13 ERA with excellent strikeout (30.3%) and ground-ball (50%) rates over eight starts in the minors preceding his promotion. With St. Louis’ rotation turning in generally lackluster results, Liberatore looks like one of the organization’s most intriguing arms.
Marmol confirmed that Liberatore will get another start during next week’s road trip between Cincinnati and Cleveland (via Jeff Jones of the Belleville News Democrat). That came on the heels of president of baseball operations John Mozeliak suggesting earlier in the afternoon the Cards could use Liberatore out of the bullpen in the shorter term (via Brandon Kiley of 101 ESPN). The Cardinals won’t have an off day until May 31, marking a stretch of 19 consecutive game days. That figures to put a fair amount of stress on the pitching staff.
St. Louis has used a starting five of Jordan Montgomery, Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty and Steven Matz. None of that quintet has an ERA under 4.00, with Montgomery’s 4.21 mark the only figure that isn’t pushing or exceeding five earned runs per nine. Depth starter Jake Woodford, who’d gotten six starts while Wainwright was on the IL in April, had a 5.72 ERA before hitting the IL with shoulder inflammation two weeks ago.