This St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training has been relatively quiet and drama free. By all accounts the veterans appear to be more relaxed and jovial. While there have been a couple of minor scares for the most part the Cardinals appear to be making their way through Spring Training unscathed. This is of course with the injury to Chris Carpenter withstanding. I am going to move past him as a serious injury for the time being as he appears to be on the mend after throwing sessions the last couple of days. Now there is Skip Schumaker’s recent injury that threatens to hang a shadow over this preseason.
The latest issue and after the Carpenter scare, and the most serious is the recurrence of an oblique injury to Skip Schumaker. The first real look at what should be the Cardinals “regular” lineup and a victory over the Miami Marlins on March 16th was marred by the injury to Skip. While most of us are unsure of exactly where Schumaker will play most frequently he is an integral part of the Cardinal’s plans for the 2012 campaign. Schumaker is extremely versatile. His ability to play the outfield and middle infield helps the cause in many ways.
What is perhaps the most worrisome part of this injury is the fact that it is the exact same issue that hindered Skip in the postseason last year. Even worse Schumaker voiced that it was worse now than it was last year. This could severely change Manager Mike Matheny’s plans for the team in the short term. Fortunately this will give the club a good look at the youngsters they have been taking an extended look at this spring. This will all but assure that Tyler Greene will sew up the second base slot, but may be forced into emergency action in the outfield as that is where Schumaker figures to spend most of his playing time.
This injury coupled with the healing of Allen Craig may pave the way for the speedy Adron Chambers to make multiple starts in a platoon role in the outfield, as I doubt that Schumaker will be ready for Opening Day at this point. It could also open the door for infielder Matt Carpenter to earn some time in the outfield as well. The average healing time for an injury of this sort is 3-4 weeks. The worst part is that there is no good way to rest these muscles completely because they are vital to every movement the human body makes. The only cure is rest and lots of it. That creates the additional problem of atrophy and additional time to return to the line up once he is healed. The worst part is that the professional athlete is typically extremely competitive and eager to return. If Schumaker does not take the necessary time and precautions he may be dealing with this off and on all season. Hopefully the Cardinals excellent medical staff will keep a close eye on this and force him to rest properly to get him back by the end of April or so.
While there was a lot of discussion within Cardinal Nation when the Cardinals re-signed Schumaker about where he fits, it has become apparent that he has a defined role or multiple roles with this team. The main reason for the head scratching at that time was the fear that the organization was viewing him as the every day second baseman. Now that job appears to belong to Greene, Schumaker has a defined role as a platoon outfielder to spot start for Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday. Schumaker has also proven himself to be a viable option as a pinch hitter. These abilities in a veteran utility player are extremely desirable and if he can’t come back soon, he will be missed.
In the grand scheme of things this is not anywhere near the devastation Redbird Nation faced last year with the loss of Adam Wainwright or the shockwaves the injury to Carpenter sent out last week. This is a potentially problematic issue for the Birds. I think that they will be able to cover this much easier than the loss of Carpenter especially. While there will be a marked lack of a veteran presence in that role there is enough young talent that if Beltran and Holliday stay healthy the Cards will be able to make it through until either Craig, Schumaker or both are able to return to the lineup. Just as with Skip’s injuries only time will tell what kind of lasting impact it may have.