Mark Mulder: Comeback Does Not Appear Close

The St. Louis Cardinals' Mark Mulder has had his rehab cut short due to a rotator cuff strain. Dustin Mattison recaps his path back toward the majors including a scouting report from the lefty's most recent start for Triple-A Memphis.

The St. Louis Cardinals had high hopes when the team acquired Mark Mulder from the Oakland Athletics in December of 2004. But after a successful 2005, Mulder has been marred with injuries the last three seasons. Scheduled to come off the disabled list on May 14, Mulder was to make a final rehab start at Tucson on Sunday. But instead of traveling to Las Vegas with teammates, Mulder headed to St. Louis to see team physician Dr. George Paletta on Wednesday morning. The news was not good as Paletta diagnosed Mulder with a mild rotator cuff strain on his throwing shoulder.

The 30-year-old will be shut down for 7-10 days and will then be reevaluated before any decisions will be made concerning his comeback.

The Cardinals, coming off a World Series sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox in October, 2004, were looking for another ace to go along with Chris Carpenter. Mulder had just logged a 17-win season and 72 wins from 2001-2004. In his first season in the National League, Mulder posted a record of 16-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 205 innings. Since that season, the Illinois native has posted a record of 6-10 with an ERA of 8.13 in 104.1 innings.

In exchange for Mulder, the Cardinals gave up promising pitchers Dan Haren and Kiko Calero as well as the top prospect in the system, first baseman Daric Barton. In his three years in Oakland, Haren pitched 663 innings, among the leaders during that time frame, and finishing in the top three in the number of starts as well. Haren won 43 games and finished in the top ten in strikeouts in the American League each season. Now with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Haren is 4-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 2008.

Barton has become the starting first baseman for the A's and has a career line of .295/.390/.468 in 52 career games. Calero is currently on the disabled list, but the former minor league free agent has appeared in 174 games and has an ERA under four since being traded to the Bay Area.

After having left shoulder surgery in consecutive off-seasons, Mulder has been unable to show the promise for which the Cardinals traded. Here is a recap of his recovery process this season.

Mulder started his rehab process at Palm Beach. In Florida, Mulder allowed two runs on six hits in five innings. Facing much less experienced hitters, Mulder was only able to strike out one batter.

He would then travel to Springfield to get his fill of the Texas League. In two outings, Mulder yielded four runs on nine hits and seven walks in 11 innings covering two starts. Still without the ability to put hitters away, he only got six strikeouts.

Next, the lefty would travel east to Memphis. The home of the King, no not Steven Hill, Elvis must have found Memphis to be much kinder than Mulder as Pacific Coast League hitters feasted on the former All-Star. In his first outing against Salt Lake City, Mulder would allow seven runs on nine hits in only 3.2 innings.

Then on Monday night, Colorado Springs would touch the former Oakland A for seven runs on nine hits, but this time he would make through six innings. In his stay in Triple-A covering 9.2 innings, Mulder has five strikeouts.

Against Colorado, Mulder sat at 85-87 MPH, topping out at 89. His command is still lacking and allowed Sky Sox hitters to tee off for four extra base hits. The multiple shoulder surgeries have really slowed his arm speed and he is getting very little drive to the plate, which seems to be the reason his velocity is lacking. He did work more on his off-speed pitches but didn't seem to have much feel for any of those offerings.

From time to time, Mulder did seem to step it up but then would seem to lose his concentration. As the game went on, he did smooth out his mechanics and began to look more comfortable. Known for having a good move, Sky Sox runners stole two bases against him, to me another sign that his concentration is lacking.

Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at

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