By Rob Rains
The Cardinals are expected to bring 44 players into town next week to begin preparing for the delayed start to the 2020 season, but one of them will not be reliever John Brebbia.
John Mozeliak, the president of baseball operations, said during a zoom call with reporters on Wednesday that Brebbia underwent Tommy John surgery three weeks ago.
Brebbia had been experiencing discomfort in his right elbow when spring training was shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. He tried a PRP injection and rest, but when his elbow did not respond, the decision was made to proceed with the surgery. It was performed by Dr. George Paletta on June 1, which means Brebbia likely will be out until at least early next season.
“When he resumed his throwing program he still wasn’t feeling quite right and we did the MRI and that led to the surgery,” Mozeliak said.
For the players who are going to be in the training camp, Mozeliak said the Cardinals will begin COVID-19 testing for players who are already in town on Friday. There is a 48-hour waiting period following the test before a player will be cleared to join the team workouts.
For players arriving next week, they will be tested on July 1, so the first full-squad workout – which will be staggered throughout the day – will be on July 3 at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals are waiting to receive the 60-game schedule from MLB, which will begin on either July 23 or 24.
There is a Sunday deadline for all teams to submit a 60-player roster to the commissioner’s office, which will be their pool of players to draw from for this season. In addition to the 44 players coming to St. Louis, 16 will be headed to Springfield for another camp, likely beginning about July 14, to serve as the team’s taxi squad.
Players who are cut from the St. Louis camp will be assigned to that taxi squad and moved to Springfield. The Cardinals will be able to conduct transactions between that squad and the major-league team as they would with their minor league clubs during a normal season.
There will be a 30-man active roster for the first two weeks of the season, then it will drop to 28 players for the next two weeks before it is reduced to 26 players for the remainder of the season. There is no stipulation on how many of those players need to be pitchers, but Mozeliak said making sure they have enough pitching will be a prime consideration in setting the roster.
“The 30-man roster gives you a little more flexibility,” Mozeliak said. “I think the purpose of the 30-man roster is to give teams a little extra pitching protection … I feel like we have that depth.”
One of the questions that will have to be answered regarding the roster will be the status of rookie outfielder Dylan Carlson as it relates to service time. The 60-game season will constitute a full year when it comes to service time, so if the Cardinals want to retain an “extra” year of control over Carlson, he would have to miss the first few days of the season.
Exactly how many games he would have to miss for that to happen is a question that even Carlson’s agent has not been able to get answered.
“The important thing is when you are looking at the players we have to play, we want to find out what we have with Mr. (Tyler) O’Neill,” Mozeliak said. “We want to find out what we have in Lane Thomas. Those guys have to get a chance to play. Over 162, you can be a little more patient.
“Are you weighing winning with development or are you weighing development with winning? I think you could argue the Cardinals have done a pretty good job of both over the last few decades. The strategy from the winter was to see what we had.”
The 60-game season does change the level of patience the team can have with a player who gets off to a poor start, Mozeliak said, likening this season to “a sprint not a marathon.”
“For the most part I feel we should be ready for this,” he said. “Sixty games is like a part of time. When you peak is going to be critical. Getting out early is helpful. We have a vision of what we want to see as far as players getting opportunities. We still have to answer those. What we can learn from 2020 is going to be very important when you think about 2021 and 2022.”
Another unknown, of course, is the possible outbreak of coronavirus, Mozeliak said there is only so much the team can do to keep players safe, and much of whether or not that happens will be up to the player.
“When you think about how to internally manage this, it’s really going to come down to a lot of trust,” Mozeliak said. “You can control what you can control here (at the ballpark) but it’s when you leave outside the ballpark that you can’t control.
“For this to work you’re really going to have to limit your physical distancing and what you do outside the ballpark … When you go outside the bubble you create a little more risk.
“I think it’s going to come down to how serious the players take it when they are not here. If you find yourself at an outdoor event, remember you are not just putting yourself at risk you are putting your teammates at risk. That’s going to be what the big hurdle will be.
“I think we can control the environment here. Having access to the tests, pretty quick turnaround on answers, I think that part is manageable. What’s going to be tricky is what happens when we are outside of here … I’m not saying you can’t leave your room (on the road) but you have to leave your room smart.”
In other news, Mozeliak also announced that the Cardinals will continue to pay their minor-league players through the end of August, which would be the normal end to a minor-league season.
The Cardinals also announced on Wednesday that they have signed their pick in the second round of this year’s draft, two-way player Masyn Winn. The 18-year-old shortstop and righthanded pitcher received a reported $2.1 million signing bonus, more than $700,000 above the slot value for that pick, the 54th overall pick in the draft. The Cardinals had the extra money available by signing other draft picks to below-slot deals.
The team also is believed to have an agreement in place with their pick in the competitive balance round of the draft, the 63rd overall choice, high school righthander Tink Hence. His signing is expected to be announced on Thursday.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports