Cardinals' final rotation spot is jeopardized again with an injury setback

If the Cardinals were counting on Steven Matz to fill the final rotation spot, that's no longer a guarantee.
St. Louis Cardinals v Detroit Tigers - Game Two
St. Louis Cardinals v Detroit Tigers - Game Two / Duane Burleson/GettyImages

The fifth and final spot in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation has been in flux ever since Steven Matz was placed on the injured list with a lower back strain in mid-May. Zack Thompson, Matthew Liberatore, and Andre Pallante all auditioned for the role, but the Cardinals still haven't patched the hole yet. John Mozeliak made it clear at a bloggers and podcasters event that the Cardinals would actively look for a fifth starter at the trade deadline, but the imminent return of Steven Matz could fix the problem temporarily. Unfortunately, that is far from guaranteed now.

After his latest rehab start, Matz experienced more back soreness and is preparing to travel to Los Angeles to seek a second opinion on his injury. It appears that Matz's injury was either more severe than initially thought or that he had re-injured his back during his rehab outing. Either way, the tone surrounding Steven Matz's condition does not make it seem like he'll be returning to a Major League mound anytime soon. If his IL stint lasts longer than anticipated, it'll be yet another disappointment in the injury-riddled story of Steven Matz's tenure in St. Louis. He just can't stay on the field.

Even if Matz were to return on schedule, the Cardinals would still need a fifth starter at the deadline given his history of ineffectiveness and lack of availability. However, this may force the Cardinals to target two starters at the trade deadline as an insurance plan. With the rise in pitching injuries, the Cardinals only having five reliable rotation options is extremely risky for a second-half playoff push.

With little trust in the depth options at Triple-A and a clear issue with Andre Pallante facing right-handed hitters, the Cardinals may need to act sooner rather than later to fill the final rotation spot. With more clarity on Matz's injury hopefully coming soon, it may prompt John Mozeliak and the Cardinals organization to pull the trigger on an early trade or sign a veteran depth option to fill the spot.