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Helsley will assume some of Hicks' role with righthander sidelined at least a month

Helsley will assume some of Hicks' role with righthander sidelined at least a month

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Washington Nationals vs St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Ryan Helsley pitches in the eighth inning during a game between the Washington Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Monday, April 12, 2021. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

Jordan Hicks had hoped to be in the competition to be the Cardinals’ closer by now after missing some 22 months following Tommy John elbow surgery in June 2019. Instead, he is back on the injured list, on which he probably will reside for the next month or more.

As expected, the Cardinals announced Tuesday they had placed the righthander, who was the closer when he was hurt, on the 10-day IL with right elbow inflammation, retroactive to Sunday. Ryan Helsley, who got the final out of the seventh inning Monday in a 6-5 win over New York, has impressed manager Mike Shildt with his four-pitch assortment and will shoulder some of the late-inning load that Hicks was carrying, mostly in the sixth or seventh, although Shlldt said that Helsley and Hicks often had been interchangeable in that role.

Shildt said there “wasn’t any question” that he even would close with Helsley if Alex Reyes and Giovanny Gallegos both were unavailable. That job belongs now to Reyes, who has eight saves in eight tries, plus one victory, and is unscored on in 14 1/3 innings over 14 games.

Helsley has been scored once in his previous 10 outings after giving up five runs in his first three games. “Helsley has been really good pretty much all year,” said Shildt. “A couple of blips the first couple of times out.”

President of baseball operations John Mozeliak said that “in terms of Helsey getting more high-leverage situations, I can imagine that will happen and, certainly, with what we’ve seen of (Kodi) Whitley, as well. I still feel like we have depth in our bullpen. Obviously, when you lose a key member, though, it can add stress to that group. The good news is that right now, our starting pitching is going deeper into games, so we’ve been able to mitigate that (stress) to some level.

“Certainly this isn’t great news to us today, but it’s something that happens during a season,” said Mozeliak.

Hicks, who came out of a game on Saturday night in Pittsburgh with right arm tightness, had worked 10 innings in 10 games, striking out 10 and walking 10.

“There’s going to be a pause in the action for Jordan,” said Shildt. “That’s not uncommon for these things to happen with Tommy John (surgery). It wasn’t anything that we were hoping for and it definitely wasn’t anything from a usage perspective.”

No new surgical procedures have been planned for Hicks, but Mozeliak surmised that Hicks could be out a minimum of four weeks. The next step in the process, Mozeliak said, is to secure a second medical opinion and, after that, options might be stem cell injection, a platelet-rich plasma injection or just rest.

"We'll let the other doctors weigh in and then, ultimately, we'll have an idea what this will look like in terms of timing and what will need to be done in the training room,” Mozeliak said.

"Hopefully, it's something that can be managed and, fingers crossed, he can join our team at some point this summer."

Mozeliak added that he didn't think "surgery is on the table at all. We haven't got a second opinion yet and things could change, but I doubt it.

"But with any of those procedures I just mentioned, it would probably require a minimum of four weeks, so that would take us into the summer season. Any time a player has to be placed on the IL, there’s a level of concern in terms of what it means to someone that hasn’t pitched in really two years. It’s something that’s very unfortunate and I feel for Jordan.

“With the mental stress of these types of things, you just want to … get back on the mound. Unfortunately, that’s not his path right now." 

Mozeliak said he hadn’t heard it was any particular pitch that afflicted Hicks but more an aggregate of pitches. “He went into this hoping it would be only a couple of days and (he would be) back out there,” Mozeliak said. “But, for precautionary reasons, we have to take this slow. Right now, patience is required.

“But it’s easy for me to say that. I certainly understand that from a player’s perspective, that sometimes can be difficult to hear.”

The injury appears to be a new one, Mozeliak said, rather than a carryover from the summer surgery of 2019. “My understanding is that the graft from the original surgery is intact and looks strong,” said Mozeliak.

Waino in limbo

Righthander Adam Wainwright, who, other than starting here Monday night, has been tending to his family for the past week after his wife and children came down with the coronavirus, doesn’t necessarily have to be at the park when he’s not pitching, Shildt said.

“He’s got a big family and he wants to take care of them and we support him in that,” said Shildt.

The night before, after Wainwright had overcome a ragged start to score his first win of the season despite basically being at home since the past Tuesday, Shildt had said, “I’ve got a lot of respect for that guy.

“He was clear. There wasn’t any second-guessing about it. He said, ‘I’ve got to go home and be a good dad and a good husband and be strong for my family.’’’

Extra bases

The Mets scratched ace Jacob deGrom, two-time Cy Young Award winner, from Tuesday’s scheduled start. deGrom has an 0.51 earned average and 59 strikeouts in 35 innings but only a 2-2 record. Righthander Miguel Castro, who hasn't started in the majors since 2018 with Baltimore, was named to replace him. … Cardinals cleanup man Nolan Arenado, who had started all 29 games so far, was out of the lineup. He is only two for 20 against deGrom but Shildt has been trying to rest all his regulars during this stretch of 17 games in 17 days. Tommy Edman was the only other player besides Arenado to start every game. 

Rick Hummel

@cmshhummel on Twitter

rhummel@post-dispatch.com

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