By Rob Rains
The Cardinals were hopeful that the long delay to the start of this season because of the coronavirus pandemic would perhaps allow Miles Mikolas to recover from arm issues he was having in the spring.
They found out Tuesday that will not be the case.
One day before he was scheduled to start against the Twins in the Cardinals’ fifth game, the team announced that Mikolas will instead be heading for surgery that will sideline him for the season.
John Mozeliak, the president of baseball operations, made the announcement in a zoom call with the media following the results of an MRI on Monday on Mikolas’s right forearm flexor, the same injury he was dealing with in March in Florida.
The timetable for Mikolas’s recovery from surgery is predicted to be about four months, so he should be ready for spring training next season, Mozeliak said. The surgery will be a tendon repair.
“We thought he was on a really good path but his last couple of times on the mound (in summer camp) it just didn’t feel quite right,” Mozeliak said. “It’s not great news but it could have been worse. I know Miles is disappointed.”
Mikolas started the exhibition game against the Royals last Wednesday and was not happy with how he recovered from that outing and how his arm felt during a bullpen session on Sunday.
“He shut it down and said it wasn’t feeling right,” Mozeliak said. “He knew it felt a lot like it did in spring training and so we decided to take a closer look at it.”
The rest from March to July allowed Mikolas to feel better about his chances of pitching this season at the start of summer camp, Mozeliak said.
“He wasn’t feeling that same discomfort but as he revved it up over the last couple of appearances he did start to feel it again and unfortunately he just could not proceed,” he said.
The Cardinals replaced Mikolas on the roster with rookie Jake Woodford, who was on their taxi squad for this road trip. Daniel Ponce de Leon will start in place of Mikolas on Wednesday. Jack Flaherty could have been available on full rest to make the start, but the Cardinals elected to keep him in line as scheduled to start Friday in Milwaukee.
There has been no consideration so far of moving Kwang Hyun Kim from the closer role to the rotation, both Mozeliak and manager Mike Shildt said.
“Right now we are just trying to have the least amount of movement,” Mozeliak said. “From the simplest standpoint of not trying to upset what we have set up at this point the easiest move was to have Ponce make that start. In terms of being wedded as to what our rotation will look like over the next week or two weeks, honestly we are just day to day.
“We’ll just see how things play out.”
Shildt said Kim has made the transition to the bullpen and “we feel that’s his best spot.”
“We made a move to put him in the back end of the bullpen because we are comfortable and have confidence in him,” Shildt said. “Ponce is built up and ready to take on that responsibility (starting).”
Ponce de Leon and Austin Gomber also had been working as starters during summer camp, and Ponce de Leon also pitched very well during spring training in Florida.
“Ponce has earned an opportunity to pitch,” Mozeliak said. “Losing Miles certainly hurts but ultimately giving Ponce this opportunity, I hope he runs with it. “Mozeliak said he considered it “good news” that the MRI showed that Mikolas’s elbow ligament was intact and that by not trying to pitch through the injury it will keep him from needing Tommy John surgery, which also would have knocked him out for all of next season.
“As unfortunate as it is to not have him for this 60-game season it beats having to do a full repair,” Mozeliak said.
Mikolas has been part of the Cardinals’ rotation since signing with the team as a free agent after pitching in Japan prior to the 2018 season.
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Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports