Posted on August 29, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Injuries have been impossible for the St. Louis Cardinals to escape all season, and even if it’s not an injury, there’s always something to keep a Cardinals player off the field. In the case of starting pitcher Mike Leake, it’s the disease shingles. The Cardinals placed Leake on the DL Monday because the righty has shingles, a type of skin rash caused by the same virus as chickenpox. The move is retroactive to August 22. Left-handed reliever Dean Kiekhefer has been called up to take Leake’s spot on the roster.
Leake was scheduled to pitch this past Saturday, but the Cardinals were force to skip his turn in the rotation due to the skin condition, inserting rookie Alex Reyes in his spot. On Saturday, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Leake was not progressing in his recovery from the disease. “Obviously there is pain involved. Just trying to give him in the best possible opportunity to get better. It has been pretty slow in the healing process,” Matheny said.
Leake last pitched on August 21, tossing seven shutout innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was arguably his best start of the season, as Leake has provided consistency at the backend of the St. Louis rotation all year. Saturday’s start was the first one he’s missed all season. At that point, the Cardinals had not discussed putting him on the DL. However, they have now chosen to use Leake’s roster spot to add another arm to the bullpen rather than waiting for rosters to expand on Thursday.
With Leake joining Michael Wacha on the DL, the Cardinals will have to stick with Reyes and fellow rookie Luke Weaver in the backend of their rotation for the time being. Of course, both youngsters have pitched well thus far. Weaver has posted a 3.60 ERA in his first three big league starts. Meanwhile, Reyes has allowed just one run on seven hits over his first 14 innings in the majors, pitching exclusively out of the bullpen until taking over Leake’s spot on Saturday.
Wacha hopes to begin a throwing program soon and is optimistic that he will return to the Cardinals before the end of the season. However, his season is very much in doubt due to a shoulder injury. The Cardinals are also unsure about the prognosis on Leake. Shingles typically affects people over the age of 60, so the fact that he has it in the first place is a bit unusual. The virus causes a rash and blisters, which with Leake are reportedly quite painful. The duration of the virus can be hard to predict, although two to four weeks is generally a fair timeline.
St. Louis is obviously hoping for Leake to return as soon as possible, but right now it appears impossible to predict when he’ll be able to pitch. All reports indicate the condition is painful and Leake has been slow to recover. In the meantime, Reyes and Weaver will have to continue to pitch in the rotation, as the Cardinals chase a wild card spot. St. Louis currently holds the National League’s second wild card spot, but the Pirates, Marlins, and Mets are all within 2.5 games. This should put the Cardinals in a tight race for the remainder of the season, and with all their injuries, they may need all hands on deck to secure a spot in the postseason.