St. Louis Cardinals: Jaime Garcia's Setback May Critically Harm Pitching Rotation

By Steve Ungrey
Jaime Garcia stands on mound
Jeff Curry — USA TODAY Sports

Fans of the St. Louis Cardinals got some bad news on Sunday when Jaime Garcia was injured during a rehab stint against the double-A Tulsa Drillers. What this does to the Cardinals moving forward remains to be seen, but what is already known is Garcia’s latest setback may delay his return to the mound.

Garcia took to the hill for Springfield, the Cardinals’ double-A affiliate, and he made it through the first inning without injury. In the second inning, however, Garcia was hit in his left elbow by Tulsa pitcher Tyler Anderson. It may be another setback for Garcia, who had Tommy John surgery in 2008 and came back two years later.

A promising start to his career came with 13-win seasons in 2010 and 2011, but shoulder issues have bogged Garcia down over the past two seasons. The team has gotten along without Garcia, but his successful return could have bolstered a pitching staff in need of help.

The top three of the Cardinal rotation, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn, have combined for an 11-6 record in their starts. Shelby Miller, the No. 4 pitcher in St. Louis, is 3-2 with a 3.15 ERA. However, No. 5 pitcher Tyler Lyons is 0-2 with a 4.20 ERA, and he is likely headed back to triple-A or to the bullpen before too long.

Two pitchers that could help St. Louis bolster its rotation include Garcia and Joe Kelly, who was 1-1 with a 0.59 ERA before a hamstring injury sidelined him. If Garcia and Kelly both got healthy at the same time, the St. Louis rotation could be one of the deadliest ones in the big leagues. A healthy rotation could help overcome some of the hitting issues St. Louis has faced as of late.

Fans could argue St. Louis has gotten along fine without Garcia the last two seasons, but that is not the point. Any pitcher with 26 wins in a two-year stretch should be one who the Cardinals welcome back with open arms. It is also worth a mention that if any of the big pitchers went into a prolonged slump, having the back end of the rotation firing on all cylinders to pick up the slack would be a big help.

Many coaches in the St. Louis organization wonder how long this latest setback will keep Garcia sidelined. Will it be for a few days? What if it is for a few weeks? No one wants to think about the worst-case scenario. What if this injury forces Garcia to have elbow surgery once again?

If that is the case, one of the most promising young arms in the organization may be sidelined for quite a while, and that is a shame.

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