X-rays and an MRI both came back negative after Jed Lowrie sprained his right thumb diving back into second base on a pickoff throw on Wednesday, but the Astros are still concerned that he might miss the start of the season.
Lowrie took some ground balls and played catch yesterday, but Astros manager Brad Mills told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that his thumb was still “pretty tender” and that “he wasn’t able to grip the ball as well as we’d like.” He also expressed doubt about whether he would be able to play in any exhibition games next week.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said that it wouldn’t be “the end of the world” if Lowrie starts the season on the disabled list, so it’s clear they won’t rush him if he’s not ready. Assuming he is held out of Grapefruit League action, the Astros could backdate a potential DL-stint to Wednesday, so he may only end up missing the first few games of the season.
Rule 5 pick Marwin Gonzalez and last year’s Opening Day shortstop Angel Sanchez are among the potential alternatives if Lowrie needs more time to recover.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosh reports that the Cardinals are shutting down pitcher Carlos Martínez from throwing for two weeks because his shoulder strength isn’t where it should have been at this point. Langosch added that an MRI showed no structural damage in Martínez’s right shoulder.
Interestingly, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak didn’t sound too happy with Martínez offseason training regimen. Per Mark Saxon of The Athletic, Mozeliak said, “Obviously, there’s a history with Carlos’ shoulder and it would be probably in everybody’s best interest if he maintained a constant or perpetual approach to that program.”
Martínez, 27, battled oblique and shoulder injuries last year. He accrued just 118 2/3 innings, making just 18 starts. He was moved to the bullpen when he returned from the disabled list in August and finished out the season in that role. Still, Martínez managed a 3.11 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 60 walks.
Langosch reported last week that the Cardinals were considering using Martínez in relief again in 2019. The latest news may push the Cardinals to indeed use Martínez out of the bullpen once again. He will be reevaluated in early March, but there is a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day.