Cardinals notebook: Team is hopeful asymptomatic Wainwright can pass COVID-19 protocols, avoid missing start | St. Louis Cardinals

SAN FRANCISCO — Encouraged by Adam Wainwright’s lack of symptoms and the schedule’s extra day of accommodation, the Cardinals are hopeful the right-hander will be able to return from the COVID-19 injury list in time to make his next start as scheduled, on Tuesday.

The Cardinals’ creeping outbreak of the virus on this road trip extended to Wainwright on Friday afternoon when he tested positive for the coronavirus. The team placed their veteran ace on the COVID IL, though unlike Major League Baseball’s other injury lists Wainwright does have an avenue back to the active roster in less than four days.

It begins by being asymptomatic.

“Just so everyone knows, I feel great. 100% with zero symptoms,” Wainwright wrote on Twitter shortly after the team announced the move. Wainwright had COVID-19 during the offseason, he recently told reporters. “Out of an abundance of caution and following MLB protocols I have to test negative twice before I return. Which we’re hoping is very soon.”

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The protocols adopted this season by MLB and the players’ union require a player to go 24 hours without a fever and be symptom-free before beginning the re-entry process. That player must then have consecutive negative tests for the virus. If those conditions are met, the team’s physician can recommend the player be placed back on the active roster, pending approval from a joint committee of two physicians, one each for the union and leagues.

With an off day Monday, the Cardinals have time on their side entering the weekend, though they planned to meet late Friday to outline pitching plays if Wainwright is not cleared.

“If he does, great,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “What if he doesn’t? What do we need to do? He’s feeling great.”

Wainwright is the Cardinals’ second player to go on the COVID IL on this road trip and the sixth member of the traveling party to test positive.

Due to those positive tests, the Cardinals have had to adopt practices that were standard during 2020 and early in 2021 before they had enough vaccinations in the traveling party to reduce masking and distancing. Some Cardinals are wearing masks indoors, and they are widely doing so during meetings, on the plane, and when riding the team bus. The traveling party has been split to two San Francisco hotels to create some distance between players and other members of the team’s group.

And, due to contact tracing, they have to increase testing. Marmol said Thursday that they had not had any new positives that day, though Friday he added they were waiting on results for Wainwright. His positive will prompt additional contact tracing and ongoing testing until the medical officials feel “we’re in the clear,” Marmol said.

To fill Wainwright’s spot on the active roster, the Cardinals added Steven Matz. The lefty had been on the bereavement list so he could return to New York and attend the funeral of his maternal grandfather.

‘Best version of Jack’

Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty will throw a bullpen session Saturday at Oracle Park that will give him a chance to throw all of his pitches off the mound for the first time in 2022 and take his most significant stride yet toward a return to the rotation. But it remains an early stride.

The 25-pitch workout will be similar to one a pitcher would throw before reporting to spring training, and Marmol said Flaherty’s schedule will “probably (be) a little slower than spring training.”

“He’ll go through a decent process of ‘pens, building up in the ‘pen,” Marmol said. “It won’t be an overnight thing at all. It will be a pretty lengthy progression to make sure we have the best version of Jack before he goes on assignment.”

Flaherty has been recovering from bursitis in his right shoulder since the start of spring training, and he had a treatment in the opening weeks of March to reduce the inflammation. Once cleared to begin throwing, the right-hander scrutinized and streamlined his mechanics to determine if they were at the root of the discomfort.

He has been encouraged by recent throws.

“You get to a point when you feel good, and you want to test it — let’s see what we got,” Flaherty said. “It’s different than the offseason when there aren’t games. You get antsy because the team is playing, you’re watching games, and you be with them. You have to battle that impulse and rely on people smarter than us to set a schedule and follow it.”

O’Neill hearing, etc.

Tyler O’Neill and officials from the Cardinals participated Friday in an arbitration hearing, as first reported in that morning’s Post-Dispatch. Unable to reach agreement on a multi-year deal before the beginning of the hearing, the two sides will now await the binding decision from the arbiter on a one-year deal. The arbiter will choose between the team’s offer ($3.4 million) or player’s request ($4.15 million). … The Cardinals’ road victory blues will make their season debut Saturday at Oracle Park. The uniforms had been delayed by the lockout, postponing their usage. … With two base hits Thursday, Juan Yepez had at least two hits in his first two major-league games, matching a feat last done by a Cardinals rookie in 2003. Bo Hart, of course. … Yadier Molina is two hits shy of tying Hall of Famer Mike Piazza with 2,217 and sixth all-time among catchers.

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