ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Cardinal closer Seung Hwan Oh gave fans a scare Tuesday when a visit from the medical staff prompted him to be pulled from the game in the top of the ninth inning.
The Korean rookie had just been served back-to-back comebackers, both careening off his glove as he tried to make the play.
The exertion, coupled with the simple act of pitching, reaggravated his groin, the same one that caused him to miss action and kept him day-to-day earlier in the month.
“There was a little bit there in the inning, but it wasn’t one specific motion that I felt it,” Oh said through translator Eugene Koo. “Mike [Matheny] kind of guessed that it was not only from my motion but when I was going for the ball so he decided to take me out.”
Oh had just finished off a tense eighth inning with back-to-back strikeouts, stranding a Redleg at third to keep the game a one-run affair. The two whiffs brought his season total to 100 even, making him just the third Cardinal reliever to strike out 100 hitters in a season. Across all bullpens, there are just seven other pitchers who have struck out that many. Oh has fewer walks than all but two of them, which is an impressive resume for a pitcher’s first turn against MLB hitting.
It’s because of that value, and because no pitcher is as singularly important to the Cardinals dwindling playoff hopes, that the team could not afford to push him further.
“He had already thrown a lot of pitches. I was going to be careful with him anyhow, going too far,” Matheny said. “We get to the lefties and [Zach] Duke is ready. All that pointed in the direction of getting him off the field.”
Oh was examined by the medical team and appeared optimistic, saying he didn’t feel anything that gave him serious concern.
“It’s nothing worse than what I had before, about two weeks ago. So it’s totally fine. We still have a few more games to play so Mike told me to just focus on tomorrow,” he said. “If they didn’t come out to the mound, I would have kept going. I could have pitched to the end.”
There are four games left for the Cardinals, and it’s likely the Oh would be used as much as possible if his body can bear it.
He admitted he feels the groin discomfort during his pitching motion more than when he comes off the mound to make a play, but has been able to manage it without compromising his effectiveness.
Wednesday’s 60-degree game-time temperature certainly didn’t help, as the bullpen sat still for about two hours while the thermometer dropped. The nights are forecasted to remain cool the rest of the week.
Oh will be checked out tomorrow once he’s had a night’s rest, but expects to be available if needed.