Since center fielder Dexter Fowler strained his shoulder on May 4, the St. Louis Cardinals have elected to keep him on the active roster.
The St. Louis Cardinals lost two outfielders on May 4 in their game against the Milwaukee Brewers: Stephen Piscotty and Dexter Fowler. Piscotty strained his hamstring running out a ground ball and landed on the disabled list the next day. Fowler strained his shoulder diving for a fly ball in the outfield, but the team has kept him active since then.
Fowler hasn’t started in any of the Cardinals’ four games since his injury. He is on the road trip with the team, and got a pinch-hit at-bat Sunday in extra innings against the Atlanta Braves. He hasn’t played at all in the field, however, which indicates that the concern with his shoulder is in his range of motion and ability to throw, not his ability to swing a bat.
Fowler told members of the media before Monday’s game against the Miami Marlins that he would be playing tomorrow (Tuesday) in the second game of the series. After the game, he changed his tune, saying it would be up to manager Mike Matheny.
In Fowler’s place at center field has been Tommy Pham for two games, who was called up after Piscotty went down, and Magnueris Sierra for two games, who was called up after reserve outfielder Jose Martinez went down in the Braves series.
Pham has started all four games since his promotion, and has performed well at the plate so far. He can play all three outfield positions, and was the starter in left field in the third game against the Braves and for the series opener against the Marlins.
Sierra is a gifted defender, and center field is where he can best display his ability. Pham figures to see regular time in the lineup and the field so long as Piscotty is out, but Sierra’s immediate role with the team will be determined by Fowler’s availability.
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If Fowler returns to the lineup in the series against the Marlins, that probably means Sierra goes to the bench. Center field is Fowler’s natural position. In fact, he’s appeared in a different spot in the outfield just once in his career; he played one game in right field as a rookie with the Colorado Rockies in 2008.
It’s likely the Cardinals return Sierra to the minor leagues once they activate Piscotty, anyways. But in the meantime, either Fowler or Sierra will man center field.
In the four days subsequent to his injury, Fowler hasn’t appeared in the field at all. With Major League Baseball’s new and shortened ten day disabled list, one wonders why the Cardinals didn’t just play it safe and deactivate him for the ten days?
Perhaps the team thought he’d be ready to go before then. But as it stands, the Cardinals have been playing essentially a man short since Fowler strained his shoulder. If Dexter is ready to go before Piscotty comes off the DL, Sierra will then be blocked for playing time.
In hindsight, playing it safe with Fowler and placing him on the 10-day DL would have been good for Fowler to fully recover, but also for Sierra to get regular time for a short stint before heading back to the minor leagues.