In recent years a common theme during spring training for the St. Louis Cardinals has been major injuries. This year appears no different as pitcher Jaime Garcia left spring training in Jupiter to go back to St. Louis for tests on his sore shoulder and Garcia injuries are becoming an annual tradition of their own. Garcia had shoulder surgery last May, and spent most of 2013 rehabbing. He has repeatedly said that rehab went well enough to where he thought he could have been available for the Cardinals last October, which makes this soreness less than two weeks into 2014 spring training even more puzzling.
The Cardinals are over-prepared for an injury to a starting pitcher. The absence of Garcia will be an opportunity for the proven Joe Kelly, or the potent Carlos Martinez. The only dynamic that changes is that Garcia was slated to be the only lefty in the rotation and both of his obvious replacements are right-handers. Even if the Cards are desperate for a lefty starter, they have Tyler Lyons waiting in the wings. This could, however, limit the flexibility and creativity the Cardinals have with their rotation, but they still figure to be as flush as any team when it comes to pitching.
It was deemed that Garcia did not need surgery for the time being, but his recovery will take time and he will almost surely not be ready for the Opening Day. The setback could be critical for Garcia because when he is healthy enough to start a major league game again, the Cardinals might have long forgotten about him. Kelly is more than ready to be a rotation regular, and Martinez, although lacking some maturity, might have the most potential of anyone on the entire pitching staff. The Cardinals have so much young pitching talent that eventually it will become silly to continue to wait for Garcia to be fully healthy.
Jaime Garcia is still only 27, but he has not been healthy for a full year since 2011. He has two guaranteed years left on his contract and then team options in 2016 ($11.5 million) and 2017 ($12 million). If he cannot prove he can stay healthy in the next two years it seems very unlikely that the Cardinals would want to utilize those options when they appear to have many younger, cheaper options on the horizon.