(Photo credit: Jeff Roberson/AP)
The Cardinals suffered yet another injury setback on Monday when shortstop Jhonny Peralta, whom the Cardinals not too long ago signed to a four-year, $53 million deal, suffered a thumb injury in a spring training game against the New York Mets. It was later revealed that Peralta, 33, will be out for at least 2-3 months due to the injury, which has been diagnosed as a torn ligament in the left thumb. This is the second major thumb injury the Cardinals have had to deal with: last season, catcher Yadier Molina suffered a thumb injury against the Chicago Cubs, and is still recovering from it, although he is closer to returning.
Now, the question is: who will step up?
“Next man up” is a philosophy that the Cardinals have used a lot over the past year, and now it has come up again. So, who is the next man up?
It could very well be Jedd Gyorko.
Acquired this past offseason from the San Diego Padres, the 27-year old shortstop brings a lot of experience to the position. Gyorko made his debut for the Padres in 2013, playing in 125 games, and had a strong rookie campaign. He hit 23 home runs, 63 RBI’s, and 121 total hits for a rookie batting average of .249. As for in the field, he played in 117 games in 2013, only committing four errors.
It is very likely that he will see an extended amount of time not only in the field, but at the plate in place of Peralta, who was one of the most consistent hitters in the lineup over the past few seasons for the Cardinals. And while Peralta is not out for the remainder of the season (he will at most, be only out until the All-Star break), it is an injury that can really affect the flow of the offense.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said on Monday, in regards of what to do with Peralta out: “In terms of what we look like, there are always opportunities to get better. Right now we just have to take this information, absorb it, and that will determine what our next steps are over the next week or two.” Last season, Gyorko was one of three main shortstops in what was an absolute mess of an infield for the Padres, who finished 74-88 on the year. In 28 starts over 220 innings, Gyorko only committed one error. However, his fielding skills have flaws (just like any player would). His arm strength lacks great range, so deep infield throws will be less likely. Perhaps the biggest strength is his footwork, being able to react quickly to the location of the ball.
There are two other infielders that could see time at shortstop for the Cardinals, and they are backup second baseman Greg Garcia, and Aledmys Diaz, both of whom have played well thus far in spring training. So, much like in San Diego, Gyorko is in the middle of a big shortstop battle. And in the heated National League Central, the Cardinals need to decide who will handle the load until their star shortstop returns.