Steven Matz suffered a torn left MCL in late July, leading to fear that the left-hander’s season would possibly be over, even if surgery wasn’t required. However, Matz is now making increased progress towards a return, with Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol telling reporters (including MLB.com’s John Denton) that Matz’s knee was pain-free while fielding some grounders on Wednesday. Matz also threw 30 pitches off the mound during the warm-up session. It could mean that Matz is nearing a minor league rehab assignment, though the Cardinals will continue to closely monitor his status considering his lack of workload.
Matz has pitched just once since May 22, as a shoulder impingement kept him on the injured list for almost two months, and he then suffered his MCL injury in his first start back off the IL. St. Louis has Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and trade deadline acquisitions Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana all thriving in the rotation, so if Matz is able to return, he could be used in a bullpen role or competing with Dakota Hudson, Jake Woodford or another rehabbing starter in Jack Flaherty for that final spot in the rotation. The Cardinals could potentially also explore using a six-man rotation down the stretch, or perhaps just give some of their regulars some rest if the Cards can clinch the NL Central title relatively early. With a 17-5 record thus far in August, the Cards have opened up a 5.5-game lead over the struggling Brewers in the division race.