When the play happened in the 8th inning last night, not many people in the ballpark even realized Paul DeJong had been hit by the pitch. The St. Louis Cardinals third baseman didn’t even flinch as the ball deflected away an apparent foul off his bat.
Replay showed that DeJong had been hit by the pitch and he took first base, business as usual and finished the game. Before departing the clubhouse, he shared that he would be fine.
A couple of hours later, the x-rays had a different outlook.
“Last night, we suspected, he did receive an x-ray and it was clear that he broke his fifth metacarpal,” shared John Mozeliak. “Tonight at 5, he’ll have surgery. It will likely be plated and probably take it week by week but obviously, he’s going to miss some time. We’ll just see how the next couple weeks play out and determine really the length at that point.”
The lone Cardinals player to appear in every one of the 41 games this season, DeJong is tied for the team lead with 8 home runs and is tops with 71 total bases.
“Huge disappointment,” said Mozeliak. “Young man was having a very good year for us, making a lot of those positive adjustments at the plate and from a defensive standpoint was really holding up his own. Unfortunately, the kind of season we’re having, we’re definitely dealing with these speed bumps as the come. The morale and how we have to approach it is just that ‘next man up’ and see where that takes us. But clearly, disappointing news.”
There are five metacarpal bones in the human hand, located between the fingers and the wrist.
“You’re seeing kind of the makeup of Paul DeJong,” complimented Mike Matheny. “We know he’s special by how he’s gone about his business, but things like that just tell. He wanted to be part of the game, felt he was going to do something big. He knew it was sore, it felt weak. But I think he was probably more surprised than anybody else, but we were all very surprised.”
“Not only did he stay in, but he took another at bat and actually made contact,” marveled Mozeliak. “Based on his reaction, I didn’t even think was hurt. Let alone didn’t know he was hit until I saw the replay. Tough kid, obviously. Pain tolerance is not normal, unfortunately, that doesn’t change the outcome though.”
With DeJong out of action, Yairo Munoz has been recalled from Memphis to provide some middle infield depth.
“Greg Garcia can play there as well, but I think it’s going to be based on match-ups,” said Mozeliak. “But when you’re looking at sort of the short term solution, I think it’s going to be Munoz.”
A former shortstop, Jedd Gyorko gets the first nod.
“I don’t know if there’s a rotation,” said Matheny. “Jedd’s in there today, he’s ready to go. As we watch how he’s swinging the bat and wanting to get Kolten and Carp both more engaged, Jedd’s gonna get an opportunity to play the position. We also know about Munoz, we got him here for a reason, so he’ll get his chance. We look at our offense right now and how Jedd is a big part of that. Gotta try and keep them all engaged.”
In 2010, while playing at West Virginia, Gyorko won the Brooks Wallace Award as the nation’s top shortstop. He later converted to second base while with San Diego, but has played 55 games at the position.
“I want to put Jedd out there and give him a chance,” said Matheny. “Watched him move really good at third base, he’s been at shortstop–and he’s probably been 30lbs heavier at shortstop, too. So let’s see what he’s got…I think Jedd deserves a good look there and we’ll adjust as we need to.”
Already attached to trade rumors involving Manny Machado, Mozeliak shared that he wasn’t going to look long term at filling the position until DeJong’s surgery was complete and more feedback could be provided.
“My understanding is if this was just sort of a break that you would have, it would be probably 8-12 weeks,” he said. “My understanding is if you have surgery, get it plated, it can really speed that up. What that looks like, I think really depends on how it goes today.”
Internally, if the trio of Garcia, Gyorko, and Munoz don’t provide the right answer Mozeliak said the Cardinals could look at Wilfredo Tovar.
Signed as a free agent in November of 2016, Tovar hit .253 and played in 111 games at Memphis last season. He has experience at shortstop, third base, and second base.
“I think the difference between Tovar and Munoz really is just the ability for maybe an offensive upside and given our offensive struggles at this point, we’re just trying to get another bat into the lineup,” said Mozeliak.
photo credit: Charles LeClaire, Jake Roth, Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports