Birds' Hurlers on the Mend – Part Two

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 two who have returned from shoulder 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 focused on the five players coming back from elbow and knee injuries, Here in Part Two, we will catch up with six more who have been recovering from shoulder ailments. Two are now active and four others are continuing in rehabilitation.

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

Shoulder

Robert Ransom – Palm Beach – Back in action

Right-handed pitcher Robert Ransom was activated from the disabled list by the Palm Beach Cardinals on June 10. Signed by the Cardinals in February, the 25-year-old appeared in his first official game since 2004 on June 9. In three outings, Ransom has allowed three earned runs in ten innings for a 2.70 ERA. He has fanned four and walked two. A 23rd round draft pick of the Cubs in 2003, Ransom pitched at three levels in 2004, ending the season in Double-A. He put together a sparkling 6-2, 2.35 ERA campaign, striking out 54 and walking just 12 in 88 2/3 innings-pitched. But, he had begun to feel shoulder pain late in the 2004 season and when rehabilitation failed, he had to undergo surgery in 2005 to repair a frayed labrum. A second surgery was later required to clean up scar tissue.

The 6-foot-3, 225 pound Ransom had also previously undergone labrum surgery in his sophomore year at Vanderbilt University. After having missed two full seasons of action, he was ultimately released by the Cubs following the 2006 season.

Josh Wilson – Batavia – Back in action

In his first official game action this season, 20-year-old right-hander Josh Wilson threw three shutout innings for Batavia on Wednesday. He allowed just a single hit, struck out two and did not walk anyone.

The Cards snagged the then-18-year-old from Whitehouse, Texas 70th overall in the 2005 draft. The 5-foot-11, 180 pound Wilson was considered a "power arm" as his fastball reached the low-to-mid 90s and his curveball showed great potential.

Wilson had a decent professional debut at Johnson City in 2005, posting a 4.22 ERA in 12 starts. Prior to the 2006 season, he was ranked as the Cardinals' number 23 prospect by the staff here at stlcardinals.scout.com. After a stint in extended spring training last year, Wilson was called upon to join the Class-A Quad Cities rotation, but struggled. After posting a 0-2, 9.00 ERA mark in three starts, Wilson was returned to Florida, where the diagnosis of a tear in his labrum and subsequent surgery did in his sophomore campaign.

Wilson faced a lengthy rehabilitation period on his shoulder and as a result did not pitch in Spring Training and had just three official innings during Extended Spring Training before joining Batavia earlier this week.

Stuart Pomeranz - Springfield – in rehab

22-year-old right-handed pitcher Stuart Pomeranz remains shut down from pitching. The Cardinals' 2003 second-round draft pick was taken out of action in Spring Training due to concern over a stiff shoulder, and tossed just one official inning in Extended Spring Training before being sidelined again.

The 6-foot-7, 220 pound Texan was initially projected to be ready to join Springfield in early May. That hasn't happened. Though he has experienced no setbacks, Pomeranz' shoulder is not ready to go. Our number 7 prospect in the Cardinals system prior to the season remains on Springfield's disabled list.

While Pomeranz is said to be making progress with his shoulder, his return is not imminent. He is continuing on his current exercise program.

Mark McCormick – Palm Beach – in rehab

The Cards' supplemental first round pick (43rd overall) in the 2005 draft is said to be progressing well. He remains on schedule, progressing from throwing on the side to taking the mound in May. The 6-foot-2, 195 pound McCormick is continuing to throw from the mound with no problems. Though he is not yet pitching at full strength, the key at this point is that he is experiencing no discomfort.

Plans are for McCormick to gradually increase his intensity from the mound. The next step will be to start facing batters as the 23-year-old ramps up to a return to competitive action. He is currently on Palm Beach's disabled list.

It has been a long road back for the pitcher we ranked as the organization's 11th-best prospect before the season. McCormick struggled with shoulder problems most of last season before going under the knife.

Not long ago, the right-hander was regarded as having the best arm in the system with a mid-to-high-90s fastball. Other than injury, his biggest issue since being drafted has been command.

McCormick began 2006 with Quad Cities and made ten starts before going on the disabled list in June with a bone bruise in his right shoulder. He returned for one more start for the Swing before being going back on the DL due to shoulder inflammation in July. McCormick was activated again in late August and promoted to Palm Beach where he made two starts and posted an ERA of 11.25. In 11 starts for the Swing, he posted a 3.78 ERA, allowing 38 hits, striking out 63 and walking 38 in 52.1 innings.

Ryan Hodinka – Batavia – in rehab

Ryan Hodinka signed with the Cardinals organization as a non-drafted free agent last June. In 2006, the 6-foot-1, 175 pound left-hander appeared in 19 games for Class A State College, posting a 4.73 ERA in 26.2 innings. Opponents hit .290 against him.

Here in 2007, the 23-year-old pitched eight innings in Spring Training, allowing just a single run. In a continuing pattern, he struck out nine, but also walked six.

Hodinka remained behind in Extended Spring Training, where he was touched for 16 runs in 23 innings, a 6.26 ERA. He fanned 24 in 23 innings, but issued 17 free passes. As the short-season club assignments were made, Hodinka was placed on Batavia's disabled list due to an inflamed shoulder.

Hodinka is now throwing his side sessions without incident. He is expected to throw at least one more side before returning. Of all the players in both parts of this report, Hodinka is probably the closest to being ready to resume active duty.

Kris Bakey – Johnson City – in rehab

Kris Bakey, a 22-year-old right-handed relief pitcher, finished the 2006 season as Johnson City's closer, where he ended up with a 2-5 record with four saves and a 3.38 ERA. He struck out 30 and walked just 13 in 34.2 IP.

This spring, the 6-foot-3, 225 pound non-drafted free agent from Stony Brook University of New York was unable to pitch in Spring Training due to a shoulder injury. He continued his recovery in Extended Spring Training, but was still not ready to face hitters in a game setting.

While Bakey is said to be making progress in his rehabilitation, he is not close to being ready to return to game action.



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

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