By Harry Stephenson
(The Cardinal Nation Show) -- In the sixth inning of last night's game against the Atlanta Braves, Skip Schumaker, who began the season on the disabled list with an oblique strain, suffered a hamstring injury when he lunged to catch Jack Wilson's hit into right field.
Schumaker, who believes his injury is a pull rather than a minor strain, could be the sixth player to join the DL. The previous five players, four of which were among the eight season-opening starters, have all joined the DL in the 20 days since the Red Birds' last off-day.
The DL is currently eleven players deep, and includes such essential team members as Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Lance Berkman, and Chris Carpenter (with Craig, Jay, and Berkman comprising the top three hitters on the team).
Jon Jay, who was averaging .343, was the first of these players to go, having strained his right shoulder after colliding into the center-field wall on April 19th while making a catch that caused him to miss six games, returning to the field only to be placed on the DL shortly thereafter. He is scheduled to get a second medical opinion today in Florida, the results of which will determine his fate this season; although, he plans on doing extended spring training or playing in Minor League rehab games until his hitting and fielding abilities are no longer impeded. The Cards have gone 6-9 since Jay's removal from the lineup, causing them to drop from their first place NL ranking for the first time this season.
Allen Craig (averaging .373) and Lance Berkman (averaging .333, yet limited to only 42 at-bats this season) are the two other key hitters on the DL-Berkman having just undergone surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee, and Craig having strained his hamstring after making a full recovery from surgery that had placed him back on the field just a month ago. Craig, however, is expected to come out of the DL for the June 1st start of a four game series against the New York Mets. Craig's return to the lineup as a middle-of-the-order batter for his first game since May 17th could be timed well if Schumaker replaces him on the DL.
Further, starting pitcher Jaime Garcia (who last underwent surgery in 2008 for an elbow ligament-replacement) just received MRI results that showed up clear, although he will not make his expected start against the Mets tomorrow, leaving Wainwright to open the series instead.
The Cardinals may have lost their 1st place ranking, but they still remain powerful, boasting 2nd place status in runs, batting averages, base percentage, and slugging percentage for the MLB-what it comes down to is whether or not they can continue to shuffle lineups and challenge their depth to weather the injury-laden season.
Fortunately, this plan has held up so far, as four players were moved from the AAA roster to the Majors, and they show much promise for the future. Matt Adams, who was quick to prove his worth with a first at-bat single against the Dodgers, is the fourth AAA player to move up during the last 20 games. 23-year-old Adams, who was the Cards' Minor League Player of the Year-with 32 HRs and 101 RBIs-is setting a high bar for both the rookies and veterans of the team, averaging .317, and having already hit his first Major League homerun. Shane Robinson, another promising player who was called up from the AAA roster this season, has started 12 games this season.
So long as remaining starters, such as Molina, Holliday, and Furcal, can maintain some stability, and the recent AAA call-ups continue to impress, the Cardinals future may not be as problematic as the recent stint of injuries could suggest.