Posted on July 2, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
For the second time in less than a week, the St. Louis Cardinals have lost an everyday player to the 10-day Injured List. Over the weekend, it was Marcell Ozuna, the team’s best hitter this season, being sidelined by a broken finger. On Tuesday, it was veteran infielder Matt Carpenter going to the IL because of a lower back strain. The move ensures that Carpenter will be out until after the all-star break, if not longer.
Almost nothing has gone right for Carpenter this season. He’s currently hitting .216 with an OPS of .706, by far the worst numbers of his career. Carpenter has also had just two at-bats over the past week. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt initially said Carpenter was fine and only getting a “break.” However, the skipper admitted on Sunday that Carpenter was battling a virus but expected back by Tuesday. Somehow, that virus has turned into back trouble for the 33-year-old Carpenter, forcing him to the IL.
On the one hand, going on the IL right before the all-star break could be a blessing for Carpenter. Clearly, this season hasn’t unfolded the way he would like. He could surely use the extra rest and hit the reset button when the second half of the season begins next week.
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However, it’s not a good sign that both an illness and a back issue are keeping him out of action. He’s been a critical part of the team’s success in past years. Particularly with Ozuna out for the foreseeable future, the Cardinals need players like Carpenter to step up right now if they’re going to stay in the playoff picture. That could indicate Carpenter’s back issue is potentially serious; otherwise, he would be in the lineup between now and the all-star break.
“Matt Carpenter is a player we need to perform for us, and he will perform for us,” Shildt said last week when Carpenter was absent due to a stomach virus. “He needs to be in our lineup to get the opportunity to perform.”
While Carpenter is out, Yairo Munoz and Tommy Edman will be his primary replacements at third base. Munoz has played all over the diamond defensively this season and hit .319 in limited at-bats. Edman, meanwhile, has gone 9 for 33 (.273) with four extra-base hits in limited action since being called up for his big league debut last month. Of course, whether those two can be productive with more consistent playing time remains to be seen.
Ultimately, if Carpenter can come back healthy after the break and have a strong second half, this trip to the IL will end up being a blessing. But despite his struggles this season, he’s not someone the Cardinals want to lose right now. St. Louis is currently at .500, 3.5 games back in the NL Central and two games out of a Wild Card spot. Carpenter is someone who should be leading the charge while the Cards try to finish the first half strong, especially as the team’s primary leadoff hitter. Instead, he’s landed on the IL and St. Louis can only hope he can return quickly become a catalyst for them the second half of the season.