St. Louis Cardinals: Marco Gonzales Begins The Road To Recovery

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Mar 29, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Marco Gonzales (56) sits in the dugout during a game against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Marco Gonzales (56) sits in the dugout during a game against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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On Friday, February 10th Marco Gonzales, St. Louis Cardinals’ LHP, threw off a mound for the first time since having Tommy John surgery in April.

After his St. Louis Cardinals bullpen session, Marco Gonzales said he felt fatigued, but that is what nearly a year off of throwing will do to an arm.

The good news is that his arm was feeling good. Especially coming off of a surgery like Tommy John, the feel of the arm is extremely important.  Even though the surgery has become somewhat routine for physician, a freshly repaired UCL is not guaranteed to hold up.

Gonzales was drafted out of Gonzaga by the Cardinals as the 19th overall pick in the 2013 draft.  Due to injuries, he has only recorded 37.1 innings in a major league uniform.  While multiple injuries at his age aren’t a good sign, his return to health will be helpful.  Not because he is a lockdown reliever.  His value comes from giving Mike Matheny options.

As far as the concerns of his health go, they will never fully disappear.  But they should decline as he gets set to return.  Gonzales started six of the eleven major league games in which he appeared.  When he returns, he will more than likely (and should) be used exclusively as a reliever.  That will lessen his pitch load and reduce the stress on his arm.  In turn, that will potentially lower the injury risk.

His timetable for returning to action will be completely up to Gonzales and how he feels.  In general, Tommy John surgery will cost a pitcher an entire year.  For some, the recovery won’t last the full year, and for some it will last longer.  In this case, Gonzales hopes to be pitching in a game again in May, thirteen months after going under the knife.

The pitching staff in St. Louis has a lot of different pieces that make a return to the majors for Gonzales questionable.  He definitely will not be a starter.  The whole staff is set except for the question of who will be the fifth starter, Alex Reyes or Michael Wacha.

[Editor update] This complication might have become much less clear as of the released news today. See our other pieces about the Reyes news for more information.

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Gonzales may fit in the reliever conversation; with Zack Duke gone for the season, there might be an open spot.  Tyler Lyons will be coming back around the same time, which will spark some competition.  His health does open up many options for Matheny to use to handle the bullpen.  There are a lot of moving parts, lefty and righty, with varying velocities to consider while going through the season.

This leaves Gonzales unsure of what he is coming back to.  By the looks of things he is coming back to a spot in the minors.  He will no doubt start there in May while he does a rehab assignment.  But the with the way the bullpen looks, it will be extremely difficult to break back into St. Louis.  More than likely he will wind up a September call up at best.

Next: Players Likely Traded

The hope is that Gonzales can remain healthy for the full year. If he can, he could be a full-time reliever in the majors in 2018.  With an injury-plagued career, starting is not a smart option anymore.  It will be worth following how Gonzales fights his way back into the plans for the St. Louis Cardinals.

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