St. Louis Cardinals: Harrison Bader slowly working his way back
The St. Louis Cardinals have been without Harrison Bader for more of this season than either party wants. Where is he on his road back from injury?
The St. Louis Cardinals made it no secret that the 2021 season would be the most important of Harrison Bader’s career with the franchise and could go a long way toward determining his long-term outlook with the team.
So there has been understandable disappointment that Bader has spent most of the season on the injured list, this time with a non-displaced right rib fracture after landing on a baseball when he made a dive attempt against the Chicago White Sox. But Bader has resumed light baseball activity early this week, Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat reports, though he still is not close to returning to game action.
Bader, 27, was fielding ground balls with assistant coach Willie McGee and a team trainer. He still needs more time to recover before beginning a minor-league rehab assignment. But Bader eventually returning would upgrade the outfield defense and be a boost across the board, perhaps allowing the Cardinals to option the struggling Lane Thomas to the minors, as he’s slashing a mediocre .109/.268/.130 in 46 at-bats.
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While Bader has obviously been a more productive offensive player than Thomas, he still needs to prove he can be a lot better than what he has shown throughout his five-year career. He’s slashing .219/.301/.411 this season, though he has already hit four home runs in only 73 at-bats. But the Cardinals will need him to get on base more frequently, perhaps via walks or working counts more atop the lineup.
Even if Bader bounces back, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cardinals target outfield depth at the trade deadline. Their depth has been tested to start the season and injuries have been a problem throughout the league, though it’s unlikely the team would target anything more than a No. 4 outfielder.
But getting Bader back is the first order of business. And while he may not be close to returning, he’s at least showing some signs of progress.