Birds' Hurlers on the Mend – Part One

Up and down the Cardinals system, eleven young pitchers have worked hard to get back into action from injuries. Five of them have made it so far, including three who have returned from elbow ailments.

Any player who has been injured has to work hard to get back into game action. Such has clearly been the case with a number of young Cardinals system hurlers. From a group of eleven pitchers, five have already returned to play, with several more coming behind them.

In Part One of this report, we will focus on the five players coming back from elbow and knee injuries, of which three are now active and two are continuing in rehabilitation. Part Two will catch up with the other six, who have been recovering from shoulder ailments.

The information is presented by the type of injury and the pitchers' levels in the system, with the returned players listed first.

Elbow

Kyle McClellan – Springfield – Back in action

Right-hander Kyle McClellan began the 2007 season on the disabled list, recovering from two elbow procedures, including "Tommy John" ligament replacement surgery. The Cards' 25th round pick in the 2002 Draft was activated on April 30 and has been impressive. In fact, so impressive that he has moved up.

The Palm Beach Cardinals announced on Thursday that McClellan has been promoted to Double-A Springfield. With Palm Beach this season, the 23-year-old appeared in 16 games, including one start. The 6-foot-4, 205 pounder posted 4-1 record with a 1.24 ERA, striking out 24 and walking just four. Opponents hit just .210 against him in his 29 innings on the mound.

Matt Trent – Palm Beach – Back in action

24-year-old Matt Trent is another right-hander with elbow history who has now returned to the mound. He was promoted to High-A Palm Beach from Extended Spring Training on May 12. Since joining the Cardinals, the 6-foot-2, 220 pound Trent has posted a 3.95 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .212 average. He has fanned 14 and walked six in 13.2 innings.

This spring, Trent had been listed on the disabled list for Low-A Quad Cities, as that was his 2006 club. Last season, he appeared in 50 games for the Swing, posting a 2.61 ERA, allowing 54 hits, striking out 79 and walking 34 in 69 innings. Opponents hit just .218 against him.

The Virginia native underwent a clean up type of surgery in November, 2006 as a follow-up to the Tommy John procedure he had in college in 2003. That put Trent a bit behind this spring. In about the third week of March, he felt some tenderness in his elbow, so remained behind to continue his rehab in Extended Spring Training.

Trent originally became a Cardinal via the 30th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

Tyler Leach – Johnson City – Back in action

Tyler Leach is another Tommy John case, having missed the entire 2006 season. The 39th-round draft pick from 2005 initially struggled in early action in Extended Spring Training, allowing 14 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings, while walking 20 batters. However, given it was the 20-year-old right-hander's first game action following surgery, the important consideration was that he was pitching pain-free.

On Wednesday, the Johnson City Cardinals' Opening Day starter in their tandem rotation allowed just three hits over two scoreless innings with a strikeout and a walk. As the 6-foot-3, 200 pound Leach is still working his way back into form, his time on the mound is being limited by pitch count.

Phillip Andersen – Quad Cities – In rehab

In 2006, Phillip Andersen also had elbow ligament replacement surgery. The 23-year-old had originally been selected by the Cardinals in the 23rd round of the June, 2004 First-Year Player Draft.

The 6-foot-3, 175 pound right-hander made just four starts for low Class A Quad Cities last season, going 0-2 with a 7.11 ERA before being placed on the disabled list on April 25. Andersen underwent Tommy John surgery on May 17 and missed the remainder of the season.

Andersen has remained on Quad Cities' disabled list and has yet to pitch in any game action. While his rehab is continuing as expected, his return is not planned soon.

Knee

Jason Cairns – Quad Cities – in rehab

24-year old right-hander Jason Cairns began the 2007 season on Quad Cities' disabled list due to a knee injury. Cairns was originally selected by the Cardinals in the eighth round of the 2005 draft.

Last season, Cairns made 43 appearances for low Class A Quad Cities, posting a 3.21 ERA, allowing 64 hits, striking out 43 and walking 23 in 61.2 innings.

This spring, he was not ready to compete in Spring Training or Extended Spring Training games. However, reports are that Cairns is now on the mound throwing, though is still a few weeks away from being ready to face live hitters.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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