Posted on September 18, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The St. Louis Cardinals are slowly but surely starting to get healthy after a season of fighting through injuries. Players like Aledmys Diaz, Michael Wacha, and Trevor Rosenthal have all come off the DL over the past week, giving St. Louis a physical and psychological lift as they attempt to secure one of the two wild card spots in the National League. Earlier in the week, there was also optimism that outfielder Matt Holliday may also be able to return from a broken thumb before the end of the regular season. But that hope has been dashed after Holliday suffered a setback on Saturday.
Holliday was scheduled to play a simulated game on Saturday, but that game was cancelled after his injured thumb swelled following batting practice on Friday. The setback leaves the Cardinals with uncertainty regarding whether Holliday’s thumb will heal in time for him to return this year, as there are just two weeks left in the regular season.
“We’ll just continue to get him out there and see how he adjusts,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said on Saturday. “But right now with that thumb swelling up, it doesn’t make it very much of an option to move onto live at this point. When you’re talking about having something surgically repaired, you never have an exact template of how that’s going to look bringing it all back together. I think it’s just going to be day to day.”
Holliday has not played since August 11, contributing 19 home runs and 20 doubles before suffering the injury. He underwent a procedure last month to have a screw inserted into his thumb to give him the best chance of returning before the end of the season. However, the Cardinals have no plans of putting Holliday back on the field until his thumb shows that he can hold up against high-level pitching.
“You see the velocity, and I’m sure the contact of hitting a 90 mph fastball will give me a better feel of what that will feel like if I do get jammed or if that’s going to be something that causes me soreness or swelling,” Holliday said Saturday. “I’d love to play, but I can’t do it by jeopardizing my finger or putting it in a bad situation. I have soreness. It’s clearly not 100 percent.”
The Cardinals have certainly missed the presence of Holliday in their lineup. Brandon Moss has become the team’s primary left fielder in Holliday’s absence, but is in the midst of a dreadful September, going 4 for 47 since the calendar flipped. Reserve outfielders Tommy Pham and Jeremy Hazelbaker haven’t been much better, giving St. Louis little production in left field. The struggles of those players have made the absence of Holliday all the more notable and his potential return all the more important for the team’s playoff hopes.
St. Louis enters Sunday’s series finale with the San Francisco Giants trailing both the Giants and the New York Mets by two games in the wild card race, putting the Cardinals on the outside looking in of the playoff picture. The Cardinals are as healthy as they’ve been since opening day, but they still miss Holliday, and his return could have provided a big lift for their postseason chances. After Saturday’s setback, it looks less and less likely that Holliday will return before the end of the season and have the opportunity to make an impact for the Cardinals late in the season.