All the work Dylan Carlson has been doing in the batting cage to correct his swing may have revealed how a lingering injury first caused his swing to drift.
About a month ago, Carlson felt his left thumb pinch awkwardly during a swing, and he continued to play through what he described as “nagging” but not imposing soreness. Any movement that involved his thumb ached in some way, whether he was throwing a baseball or trying to maintain his top hand’s grip on a left-handed swing.
“That (was) causing some one-handed swings, some off balance, just some things that don’t make me feel like myself,” said Carlson, who felt the soreness intensify as he hit the batting cage for drills to swing out of his funk. “It’s something that has been lingering, so they felt like it could be causing me to compensate and do things that maybe I wouldn’t.”
A scan taken Wednesday morning of the hand revealed damage to the ligament nearest the flesh web that connects the thumb to the hand.
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Carlson was prescribed rest and placed on the 10-day injured list. He’ll get as much as a week without swinging a bat, and on Thursday morning, while wearing a soft brace on the left hand, he said he’ll receive treatment for inflammation.
At the time of the injury, a solid stretch of games had just put Carlson at leadoff hitter as the team’s everyday center fielder. In the weeks that followed, his production against right-handed pitching diminished, and he became a platoon player as Lars Nootbaar and rookie Brendan Donovan surged. With reduced starts, Carlson had increased drills in the batting cage as he and coaches tried to get his swing on track. He’s hit .207 with a .307 on-base percentage and more strikeouts (21) than hits (18) since July 31.
Part of the work Carlson did was to address his stance and the consistency of his base from swing to swing. He tried some changes, adjusted if they didn’t work and then tried some more. He felt at times like each day was a “restart” rather than building upon improvements. While getting in the repetitions to hone that swing or experiment with fixes, the thumb continued to hurt, the grip strength was challenged and that left-handed swing remained loose.
A diagnosis on the injury and a schedule for recovery has dovetailed now with a clear plan for what Carlson seeks to accomplish in the cage.
When cleared to get back in there.
“(We’re) moving forward instead of trying a bunch of different things,” Carlson said. “Feeling mentally in the space where you can feel confident going out there definitely makes a difference, definitely helps, no restrictions. Just looking forward to resting this and getting back out there with the guys as soon as possible.”
Matz set for Saturday, etc.
With the window open to join the team as a reliever later this month, lefty Steven Matz will make his second rehab appearance of September on Saturday at Class AA Springfield. The outing will build on his 30-pitch appearance this past week for the S-Cards and then set him and the Cardinals up for a decision.
The team wants to see how he recovers from a second shorter outing and then determine if he needs to appear on back-to-back days or twice in three days to be ready as a reliever.
Matz said an edge he brings to the role is his ability to swiftly warm up as a starter and that it will translate well to a new role and being ready with little notice out of the bullpen.
Tyler O’Neill was a late scratch from Thursday’s lineup after experiencing stiffness in his neck that limited his ability to turn his head. O’Neill received treatment at the ballpark, and manager Oliver Marmol did not expect the soreness to linger. The turnaround for a noon game meant removing him and giving rookie Ben DeLuzio a start in center. DeLuzio scored the winning run Wednesday and got his first big-league base hit in fourth inning Thursday.
Cardinals Clemente nominee: Goldschmidt
The Cardinals, whose players have won more Roberto Clemente Awards than any other franchise, nominated Paul Goldschmidt for one of highest honors Major League Baseball gives — one rooted in philanthropy off the field, performance on it and leadership regardless of location.
A month ago, Goldschmidt held a free baseball clinic for kids at Busch Stadium, and he hosted parents and coaches as well for the one-day event that focused on sports as an arena to develop life skills and discipline.
He has also participated in Adam Wainwright’s Big League Impact initiatives as well as hosting a gala to raise money for Water Mission, a not-for-profit Christian organization aimed to design and build safe water systems for people in need, due to location or natural disaster.
“It’s a great honor,” Goldschmidt said. “We don’t take this opportunity lightly. This platform we’ve been given — you can make a big difference with a little bit of time. There are not many jobs where just two seconds of your time can make somebody else’s day. I don’t forget being that kid watching my favorite big leaguers.”
This season, past winners of the Clemente award have been permitted to sport a 21 sticker on their caps, as Wainwright did Thursday. Cardinals who have won the honor are Wainwright (2020), Yadier Molina (2018), Carlos Beltran (2013), Albert Pujols (2008), Ozzie Smith (1995) and Lou Brock (1975).