Why the St. Louis Cardinals need depth

The St. Louis Cardinals' opening day disabled list has averaged three players in recent seasons. Will 2014 be any different?

With a strong major league roster and one of the better minor league systems in the game preparing major league-ready players, the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals will report to spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida this week with few obvious holes.

With minimal concerns about the roster, some have taken to worrying about the club having too much depth, instead. Specific concerns have been expressed about such subjects as playing time for Oscar Taveras, the timing of when pitchers like Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez will get a rotation shot and if Joe Kelly will again be bumped from the starting five.

Personally, I have seen enough injuries over time to keep me from being concerned about the Cardinals (or any other club, for that matter) having too much depth.

To try to help put the matter into context, I looked at the last seven springs – since the 2006 World Championship. I identified the players that opened each regular season on the Cardinals disabled list, whether 15- or 60-day.

Some, though not all, of these injuries actually occurred during spring camp. In other cases, they were known coming into the year. Of course, these lists were expanded substantially as in-season injuries occurred.

St. Louis Cardinals, disabled list, season-opening, 2007-13

2013 (4) 2012 (3) 2011 (2) 2010 (0) 2009 (2) 2008 (7) 2007 (3)
C Carpenter C Carpenter Wainwright none J Garcia Carpenter Mulder
Motte Schumaker Punto   Glaus Mulder Kinney 
Furcal Craig       Clement Encarn.
Freese         Pineiro  
          T Johnson  
          Kinney   
          Encarnacion  
          Ryan  

Let's look at each season individually.

2013 Injury Timing Duration
C Carpenter Nerve Pre-camp Season
Motte Elbow Spring Season
Furcal Elbow Pre-camp Season
Freese Back Spring April 8

Last spring, the team came into camp with uncertainties about Rafael Furcal, Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter.

Starting shortstop Furcal could not throw, and left for season-ending surgery. Garcia pitched well and made it nine starts into the regular season before going under the knife. Carpenter tried valiantly, but finally had to give in to the affects of his thoracic outlet syndrome.

David Freese opened the season on the disabled list due to a back injury. While the starting third baseman returned a week into the season, he struggled for the first two months at the plate and seemed sluggish at times defensively as well.

Of course, Jason Motte's spring elbow injury was an unexpected blow to the club.

2012 Injury Timing Duration
C Carpenter Back Spring Sept 21
Schumaker Oblique Spring April 20
Craig Knee Pre-camp May 1

Carpenter suffered what was originally diagnosed as a bulging cervical disk after having experienced weakness in his neck, shoulder and upper arm. After mid-summer surgery, he eventually made his season debut in late-September, but was not himself.

Starting second baseman Skip Schumaker opened the season on the disabled list due to an oblique injury incurred during camp. Starting first baseman Allen Craig suffered a spring setback in his recovery from off-season knee surgery and also could not answer the opening bell.

2011 Injury Timing Duration
Wainwright Elbow Spring Season
Punto Hernia Spring April 19

Early in 2011 camp, the right elbow of Adam Wainwright gave out, leading to him missing the entire season. Infielder Nick Punto required spring surgery for a sports hernia.

2010

The club had no major injuries before or during spring training camp.

2009 Injury Timing Duration
J Garcia Elbow Pre-camp Season
Glaus Shoulder Pre-camp Sept 1

Jaime Garcia sat out the entire 2009 season from major league action after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2008.

Third baseman Troy Glaus underwent surgery on his right shoulder in January and was originally expected back in June or July. He also dealt with lower back soreness and a twisted ankle during two different rehab stints and did not join St. Louis until rosters expanded in September.

2008 Injury Timing Duration  
Carpenter Elbow Pre-camp July 30  
Mulder Shoulder Pre-camp May 7  
Clement Shoulder Pre-camp July 8 (Memphis)
Pineiro Shoulder Spring April 13  
T Johnson Shoulder Spring Season  
Kinney  Elbow Spring Sept 2  
Encarnacion Eye Pre-camp Season  
Ryan Oblique Spring April 23  

Four members of the projected 2008 rotation began the season on the DL. Joel Pineiro was back quickly, but Matt Clement never made a regular-season appearance with St. Louis. Carpenter and Mark Mulder pitched a total of 17 innings that season.

Key bullpen members Tyler Johnson and Josh Kinney suffered spring injuries that ruined their year. For Kinney, it was two in a row. Starting shortstop Brendan Ryan missed three weeks to open the season. Outfielder Juan Encarnacion was unable to come back from an eye injury suffered late in the 2007 campaign.

2007 Injury Timing Duration
Mulder Shoulder Pre-camp Sept 5
Kinney  Elbow Spring Season
Encarnacion Wrist Spring May 13

Recently re-signed Mulder hoped to be ready by mid-summer, but only returned for the final month. Kinney blew out his elbow in camp and missed the entire season. Encarnacion opened the year on the DL with a wrist injury suffered during camp.

Summary

On the average, the Cardinals opened each season with three players on the disabled list. That number holds true even if the best and worst years are thrown out.

During five of the most recent seven spring training camps, including the last three consecutive, a Cardinal suffered what effectively became a season-ending injury. In one other year, a pre-existing condition was exposed as being season-ending during camp.

That leaves 2010 alone as the only spring unmarred by serious injury in the last seven. In an oddity, the history books remind us that the 2010 club became the last Cardinals club to miss the post-season.

Though on paper the 2014 club will report to camp with all players ready to go, reality says there will be bumps and bruises along the way, perhaps some of the very serious type. Garcia and Motte are among those trying to return from 2013 surgeries.

Having ready reserves to step in when the inevitable injuries occur could become the difference between the 2014 Cardinals making and missing their objectives.



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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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