Here’s another “Three Dudes” look at Cardinals players who warrant some attention at this moment in time …


I’d be surprised if Gray isn’t on the IL at the start of the regular season to give his “mild” hamstring strain sufficient time to heal. But after the layoff, he’ll also need time to build stamina. The worst thing for the Cardinals to do is rush Gray back into the rotation. The worst thing for Gray to do is push to reenter the rotation if he’s less than 100 percent ready. There are 162 regular-season games. Unless there’s a setback that would keep him on the IL for a longer stay, a healthy Gray will have at least five months of pitching in front of him.

The Cardinals not only need Gray to be at his best, it’s important for him to remain in the rotation after returning from this early glitch. And that means doing what’s necessary to prevent a recurrence of this injury. Injuries are always unfortunate, but it’s not as if Gray’s job requires him to play every day.

If the Cardinals can’t win a respectable share of games without Gray in their rotation for a relatively short time — well, they aren’t very good. One more note: when Gray returned from an early-season hamstring problem in 2022, he had a 1.65 ERA in his first five starts.


As the Cardinals wait for their declared center-field starter to restore the strength and flexibility in his right wrist, there’s something I can’t understand: why did Edman wait so long to have arthroscopic surgery to clean up the injury? The wrist bothered Edman during the 2022 season. The problem continued in 2023, and Edman spent 26 days on the IL in July to calm inflammation in the problematic wrist. But he was back in the lineup by Aug. 1 and played 53 games through the end of the season.

I’m sorry, but what was gained by that? The team was out of postseason contention. Other players were injured – infielder Brendan Donovan, outfielder Dylan Carlson and, later on, second baseman Nolan Gorman. The depth was lower than usual, but the Cardinals still had Richie Palacios and Mike Siani to play center field, Masyn Winn was the starter at short, and Jose Fermin and Irving Lopez could handle second base. Gorman played the first two-plus weeks of September and started his last game at 2B on Sept. 12.

There was no crisis that required Edman to stay in the lineup and play defense. The replacement players weren’t ideal, but it didn’t matter. The Cardinals were just trying to get to the finish line of a brutal season. Even less ideal was having Edman compete in meaningless games when he could have withdrawn to have an earlier surgery and give himself more time to get completely ready for the start of the regular season.

The late-season 2023 Cardinals didn’t need Edman, so there was no reason for him to try and play the hero role. But had Edman taken care of the wrist procedure sooner, he’d be ready to roll for the 2024 Cardinals. Even if Edman returns by opening day or soon after, can he perform to maximum effectiveness right away?


With Matt Carpenter and Brandon Crawford in the house, there is no room on the 26-man roster for Baker. And we can say the same about bat-first outfielder Alex Burleson. Not now, anyway. Unexpected injuries could create an opening for a bench role, but if we’re talking about one open spot, would the Cardinals keep Baker instead of Burleson? It’s possible. Crawford and Carpenter are left-handed hitters. Burleson hits from the left side. Baker would give the team a right-handed bat for pinch-hitting purposes and matchup edges. That’s in theory, anyway.

Baker isn’t a kid. He’ll turn 27 on March 10. The Cardinals brought him up from Triple A Memphis a couple of times during the first half of the 2023 season, but Baker had only 20 plate appearances. He was recalled again later on, and stayed with the Cardinals from Aug. 14 through the completion of their season. Baker had more of an opportunity to show that he belongs but didn’t get much done in his 79 late-season plate appearances, batting .194 with a .328 slugging percentage and too many strikeouts.

Overall in 2023 Baker batted .209 for St. Louis with a .314 slug in 99 plate appearances. And he did poorly against lefty pitchers, batting .189 with a .216 slug. The only positive from Baker’s major-league trial in ‘23 was his 13 percent walk rate. But that was offset by a high (33.3%) strikeout rate.

Baker created excitement by slamming 33 home runs, slugging .720 and putting up a 1.160 OPS for Memphis last season. He clubbed a homer every 9.5 at-bats against Triple A pitching in 2023 but had only two big shots in 86 at-bats for the Cardinals.

In the minors Baker developed into an imposing hitter who hammers baseballs with great force. I wonder what Baker could do with a 500 at-bat season in the big leagues. But he’s blocked. He’s getting older. He doesn’t run well. His defense is a problem. So there’s no reason for the Cardinals to keep Baker in St. Louis if he can’t beat up on MLB pitchers. He probably needs more time to prove that he can slug in the majors, but the Cardinals seem set to give that time to other players. There have been countless stories told and written about heralded young sluggers who never could master major-league pitchers.

When I was a kid growing up in Baltimore, the Orioles had a fearsome power-hitting prospect named Roger Freed. I couldn’t wait to see him get his chance with the O’s. But Freed struggled, bouncing from the Orioles to the Phillies, to the Reds to the Expos, playing ball in Mexico and – finally – finding a spot with the Cardinals.

Freed spent parts of his final three seasons with St. Louis (1977-79) and became popular with Cardinal fans. In 232 plate appearances as a Card, Freed batted .306, slugged .495 and posted an 138 OPS+ that was 38 percent above league average offensively. That was the guy I’d heard about in the late 1960s as Freed made his way through the Baltimore system.

Freed tapped into his latent power late in his career. But he never became a star, never became a regular. He played his final MLB game in 1979 at age 33. The fan-favorite Freed passed away early in 1996 – too soon – at the age 49.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Spotrac, Sports Info Solutions and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.