Cardinals' roster decimated by players on the injured list to begin the season

Five players will begin the season on the injured list for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Mar 4, 2024; West Palm Beach, Florida, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54)
Mar 4, 2024; West Palm Beach, Florida, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the St. Louis Cardinals brutal start to their 2024 campaign just officially got more difficult.

While we've known the club would likely be without multiple key pieces for at least the first few games of the season, they officially announced today that five players will begin the season on the injured list, which including outfielders Tommy Edman and Lars Nootbaar, starting pitchers Sonny Gray and Drew Rom, and new reliever Keynan Middleton.

There was hope that Gray and Nootbaar specifically could avoid injured list stints, instead working themselves back into game action toward the end of the opening series against the Los Angeles Dodgers or in San Diego against the Padres. Instead, they'll be without them and the other three pieces for the early stretch of the season.

Gray and Nootbaar should be good to return after their 15-day and 10-day stints, respectively, but the same may not be able to be said about Edman, Middleton, and Rom. Rom's injury is a newer one and we'll have to wait to hear back about how long he will be out for, but Edman's wrist has continued to have setbacks, and I'd imagine he's out until at least the month of May. Middleton was expected to miss at least the first few weeks of the season, so it's unclear if he'll be able to return after his 15-days are up.

The good news is that since most of these guys are not expected to be out long-term, it won't be long before they rejoin the club and are contributing on a consistent basis. It's just unfortunate that four of the five players were expected to be key contributors this year, so each of their absences hurts the club a lot.

The Cardinals cannot start the 2024 campaign like they did in 2023. That doesn't mean they can't afford to stumble off the gate, but last year they not only stumbled, but they continued to roll and fell right off a cliff before May even began. It wasn't that they just had a losing record, they had one of the worst records in all of baseball. The Cardinals cannot get off to a start like that if they want to be contenders in 2024.

For now, the offense will be expected to pick up the slack left mostly by the absence of Nootbaar, and the rotation will have to weather the storm of not having Gray, who will likely be replaced by Zack Thompson. Although the bullpen would benefit from having Middleton in the mix, the club did a nice job of rebuilding that group this offseason, so I do not have concerns about him missing time.