Is Sonny Gray Ready? Middleton's Setback & Center Field Conundrum: Cardinals Updates!

Latest developments shake up Cardinals' roster plans

by Nouman Rasool
Is Sonny Gray Ready? Middleton's Setback & Center Field Conundrum: Cardinals Updates!
© Stephen Maturen

St. Louis Cardinals fans are poised with bated breath for any updates relating to their new ace, Sonny Gray, as he has been on the road to recovery with an injured hamstring of late. According to a report by John Denton of MLB, Gray did some pre-game work in a simulated environment with some hitters.

If Monday goes well for Gray, he could well be an option to start the first series at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers from March 28-31. But manager Oliver Marmol was not prepared to rule the race for an Opening Day starter to the bitter end without further evaluation, and by Tuesday, Gray's status remained uncertain.

Gray was the American League Cy Young runner-up this past season and landed with the Cardinals this winter on a three-year, $75 million contract, a record for the franchise that sets him as the ace of the staff. He is an unquestionable talent, though there's a bothersome elbow to raise questions about the readiness of the Opening Day roster.

The Cardinals would rather have Gray be healthy in general but not necessarily available for Opening Day.

Bullpen Woes Persist

But that was tempered by bad news: the Cardinals learned right-hander Keynan Middleton, a significant offseason addition to the bullpen, had been shut down with a forearm strain.

Before the two sides can say, it meant he, too, will probably have to start the year on the injured list and allowed that possibly. That's what has become a headache, as the Cardinals now have to go out in search of bullpen insurance to supplement the innings Middleton isn't expected to provide.

With disappointment over the deal for Middleton out of the way, the Cardinals are pressing forward. "We're here to put together the best team we can for next year," Marmol said. "I've got a lot on my plate. Notably, with Tommy Edman hurt and nursing a sore wrist, reminder, not taking into account the lefty bat, and the job at center field would seem to be wide open.

While Dylan Carlson did look like a demonstrative favorite out of the gate, manager Oliver Marmol has specifically said he can't "win" the starting job yet, leaving prospects Victor Victor Mesa and Alec Burleson something yet to do.

Scott, a top-100 talent by both Baseball America and FanGraphs, is an elite talent on the basepaths and projects to be a plus defender. The same is true of Siani, who checks in with both a near-identical collection of skills and the benefit of being on the 40-man roster next winter.

While Carlson does carry a bit more offensive capability than the duo, his recent struggles at the plate have and could continue to, in some sense, push the Cardinals toward fielding proficiency. As Opening Day nears, some interesting roster decisions are coming down the pipeline that should have an impact on the club's level of competition this coming season.

Now, with the season in its early minutes, the return to form of Gray and several adjustments in the bullpen may well bode positively for the ambitions of this side come 2024.