The return of Harrison Bader has meant things have finally returned to normal for the St Louis Cardinals outfield. And then in a scare Monday night, as Bader dove on a Nick Madrigal floater in center field, he came up injured.
The initial signs, however, were that Bader did not suffer anything serious. The Cardinals called it a “right side rib injury,” with manager Mike Shildt telling reporters, including Zachary Silver of MLB.com, that initial imaging on Bader came back clean and that he will undergo more tests to confirm the initial diagnosis.
But Bader was later diagnosed with a hairline rib fracture and became the latest Cardinals player to be placed on the injured list.
The loss of Bader will be tough for the Cardinals to overcome and the internal options are scarce with Tyler O’Neill also on the IL. The team can shift Dylan Carlson back to center, something he did earlier in the season, and rely on Lane Thomas and Austin Dean to fill the void
But both present considerable downgrades as Bader is widely considered among the games elite defensive center fielders, making it no secret that he is eyeing his first Gold Glove award this season, and he has been nothing short of brilliant since coming off the injured list.
But Bader, 26, has made a large impact offensively, which is something he needed to do in a season that will determine his long-term outlook with the organization. While he is hitting only .219/.301/.411 in 73 at-bats, he has four home runs, matching his total from last season in 106 at-bats.
Staying healthy will be key for Bader to ensure that he stays with the Cardinals long-term. He will also need to increase his offensive production in addition to his home run numbers. But the right rib fracture is the latest setback in what has been a frustrating season for Bader.