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Cardinals notebook: Kim returns to rotation, dazzles with seven shutout innings

Cardinals notebook: Kim returns to rotation, dazzles with seven shutout innings

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Cards, Brewers split pair as both games go extra innings

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim throws during the first inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MILWAUKEE — The pain started around midnight and Kwang Hyun Kim’s first call was to his interpreter, Craig Choi, as a warning that if the discomfort persisted for another hour or two another call would be coming. Kim’s next move was to search the Internet for what could be causing the fierce abdominal pain that woke him in his Chicago hotel room less than two weeks ago.

“I was not in a good mood,” Kim said of what he found before being taken, with Choi, to the emergency room shortly before dawn. “After what the doctor said, that really turned my mood back. I was kind of relieved.”

Ten days later, he was able to start.

Kim returned to the Cardinals’ rotation Monday and pitched as exceptional as when he left it, holding Milwaukee scoreless for a career-high seven innings in the first game of a doubleheader. The Cardinals cracked in the eighth and lost 2-1.

His 0.33 ERA through his first five major-league starts is the second-lowest for a rookie in at least 100 years. He’s the first Cardinal to have four consecutive starts of five innings and zero earned runs allowed since Bob Gibson did it in the seminal pitching year of 1968.

Given the team’s threadbare bullpen, manager Mike Shildt said of Kim’s return that “the timing was not great when it happened; his timing for return is definitely appreciated.”

It was not, however, without risk.

Hospitalized for more than a day, Kim did not have the appendicitis that he was concerned about, but was diagnosed with a renal infarction, limiting blood flow to his kidney. The medication he was prescribed was described as a “very strong blood thinner,” and for the lefty to return to the field meant some adjustments. With doctor approval, Kim altered his regimen so that he would not take the medication leading into his start, but would immediately after. Still, he and the team was accepting a risk of any contact leading to issues.

“Obviously any time you take the field, you put yourself at risk,” said John Mozeliak, Cardinals president of baseball operations. “More to the point, he needs to avoid taking a ball (off of him). Just has to be something that our medical staff is well aware of. We certainly believe he understands the risk. He really wants to be out there, and in the end we respect that everybody also has to understand there is risk here.

“We’re trying to avoid any type of hard contact.”

Kim said he didn’t think of it as a risk.

He pointed to how he pitched as proof.

The lefty struck out six, held Milwaukee to three hits in seven innings, and extended his scoreless inning streak to 24 innings. He had 11 outs on his first 50 pitches, and he retired the side in order on eight pitches in the fifth to speed toward handling all seven innings of regulation in Game 1. Kim exploited his fastball and that allowed him to downshift, sometimes dramatically. He flipped one curve that caused shortstop Paul DeJong to steal a peek at the radar gun. Kim threw another at 67.4, and he dropped a changeup at 78 mph. His slider veered from 87.6 mph to 75.3 mph. Three of his strikeouts came on called third strikes.

The ailment that sent him to a hospital was not new for Kim, as he had a similar reduction of blood flow to a calf muscle, he said. He said he will have to continue to take medication, but it won’t limit his ability to pitch. When asked if the issue was at all related to a stroke he had almost a decade ago, and has returned from without limitations, Kim shook his head and it was the only answer he gave Monday in English.

“Don’t worry,” Kim said.

Player updates

Reliever John Gant (sore groin) was not available Monday as he received treatment for his injury. The Cardinals, who gave Gant several days off earlier this season because of a similar ailment, believe he can avoid the injured list and be available by Thursday, at the latest.

• Rookie Johan Oviedo’s test for COVID-19 from Sunday returned negative, and if he has a repeat negative from a test taken Monday the righthander will be set to start one of Wednesday’s doubleheader games. He was removed from the team and put through individual, highly controlled workouts after he had exposure last week to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

• Austin Dean (flexor strain) will remain in St. Louis for rehab and might have avoided the IL if the Cardinals weren’t already playing shorthanded with position players to supplement a thinned bullpen.

Camp to close

The Cardinals’ alternate site camp in Springfield, Mo., will cease operation this weekend, and the team is not sure when or where it will next hold workouts for its youngest, leading minor-league talents. The Springfield site, run by coach Jose Oquendo, has housed the organization’s mix of prospects, recent draft picks, and depth players — all gathered to work out there without a minor-league season. Leading prospects Nolan Gorman and lefties Zack Thompson and Matthew Liberatore have spent the past eight weeks there, as have the team’s most recently draft picks Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn.

The Cardinals will bring a selection of players — many of whom are already on the 40-man roster — to St. Louis for workouts next week at Busch Stadium. Teams are permitted to expand their taxi squads for the postseason, and the Cardinals will use staggered workouts at St. Louis to keep their extra players working out and doing baseball activities.

The Cardinals do not have a fall or winter instructional camp scheduled because of shifting pandemic policies, and do not expect to organize one until after Halloween.

Scout remembered

The great calling for Charles Peterson, his boss said Monday, was to seek out and sign players whose life he could change, as his in 1993 as the 22nd overall pick in the draft. After spending six seasons in the Pirates’ organization and a long career in independent ball, Peterson moved into coaching and scouting, and in 2012 Dan Kantrovitz hired him as an amateur scout to oversee a southern region for the Cardinals.

Peterson’s death Sunday, at 46, after several weeks of battling of COVID-19 shook an organization that has spent its season confronting the tireless virus. Mozeliak said the illness was “a difficult struggle” for Peterson.

The South Carolina native was the scout that signed Cardinals’ first-round pick Jordan Walker, and Mozeliak described Monday how he had memorable talks with Peterson about balancing “ambition with what you’re good at.”

“Being able to have a first-rounder meant a lot to him, almost a crowning achievement,” Mozeliak said. “He took a lot of pride in the players he recommended. Not all players you draft become big-leaguers, but maybe all players you draft become great citizens and do good things. That was something that Charles really wanted his fingerprints on.”

Extra bases

Outfielder Justin Williams is part of the taxi squad the Cardinals have brought to Milwaukee, and he’s the only member who has yet to appear in the majors this season. The other insurance players traveling with the team are infielder Max Schrock, catcher Andrew Knizner, and reliever Junior Fernandez.

• Tommy Edman entered Monday’s play without a strikeout in his previous 22 plate appearances. He struck out in his first two at-bats of Game 1.


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