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Cardinals push back Mikolas' first spring appearance, saying 'for now, it's caution'

Cardinals push back Mikolas' first spring appearance, saying 'for now, it's caution'

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Cardinals intrasquad games continue

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas (39) chats with teammates after finishing an inning of an intrasquad game at Busch Stadium on Friday, July 17, 2020. Cardinals "red" team won 2-1. Photo by Chris Kohley, ckohley@post-dispatch.com

JUPITER, Fla. — The Cardinals starter working his way back from an injury that abruptly ended his 2020 season before it began will have his planned spring debut delayed.

Miles Mikolas had been announced as the Cardinals' featured pitcher for a simulated game Monday on the back fields of Roger Dean Stadium.

On Sunday evening, manager Mike Shildt confirmed that Mikolas would not be appearing in the game as advertised and that the start and innings would be turned over to some of the younger pitchers in camp.

"Miles will be pushed back just a little bit," Shildt said. "We'll go with other guys."

Asked if the new schedule was done for caution, or a complication, the manager said: "For now it's caution."

Mikolas, 32, threw a round of live batting practice to teammates earlier in the week, and he had success, especially getting a few of the veteran players to dive after his changeup. He did not appear limited in his throws. How he recovered from that outing was going to dictate whether he would advance to a simulated game.

It's possible he'll have another round of live BP before a game assignment.

An official with the team said the concern at the moment is "very low."

On the eve of what would have been his first regular-season start of 2020, Mikolas instead went on the injured list with a persisting forearm issue. The righthander had received an injection of platelet-rich plasma during spring training, and he and the Cardinals felt the added rest during the quarantine and delay to the season allowed him to heal. The hope was that he could address the injury with non-surgical treatment.

The Cardinals have 23 exhibition games remaining and four weeks, allowing for some time, especially if Mikolas opens the regular season as the Cardinals' fifth starter.

As summer camp ended, Mikolas went for another round of tests when discomfort and weakness continued, and an MRI scan showed that the damage had not healed.

He had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in August.

The concern for him and the team had been that the issues would be traced back to his right elbow and damage within it that would require a procedure.

Mikolas spent most of November rehabbing in St. Louis under the watch of Cardinals' medical officials, and he was able to slingshot from there into a winter program that provided he and the team encouragement. He threw a bullpen session during the early days of spring training that was not at full speed, and he explained days later that it was a "touch and feel" outing.

"Felt good," Mikolas said of the bullpen session. "It was a slight touch and feel, rhythm and tempo. I'm bouncing back well."

Mikolas said the throwing program for him already included two back field appearances before he vaulted into a Grapefruit League game. The Cardinals have used sim games and B-games for pitchers who want to work in controlled settings where innings can end when they want, baserunners can start the inning on any base if they want to throw from the stretch, and game play can be manipulated for the benefit of the pitcher.

The Cardinals have Daniel Ponce de Leon and John Gant positioned to compete for a spot in the rotation with Carlos Martinez. On Sunday, Gant pitched two scoreless innings in the Cardinals' 4-4 tie with Washington. The righthander struck out three and walked two. Gant, one of the Cardinals most versatile relievers, has lobbied for the chance to return to the rotation.

Alex Reyes had an impressive inning against the Nationals as well, and Shildt said his next game appearance could be extended to two innings as the Cardinals deliberate inch up his workload this spring.

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