It would be difficult to have a trip around the bases as rough as the one Stephen Piscotty endured Tuesday night.
The pitch from Jake Arrieta that hit Piscotty on the right elbow in the fifth inning didn’t knock him from the game. Neither did the throw by Willson Contreras that caught Piscotty on the left elbow as he slid into second on a wild pitch.
Later in his treacherous sequence around the bases, Piscotty left the game after being hit in the helmet by a throw sliding into home plate. The throw hit Piscotty on the earflap of his batting helmet, and left him sprawled face down behind the plate for more than a minute. Piscotty eventually walked off under his own power, and was removed from the game. The Cardinals announced a 'head contusion' for the right fielder.
The reward for his aggressive base running: a trip into the concussion protocol.
“Those are the kinds of things we say we’re going to need to see this year,” Matheny said of Piscotty’s aggression on the bases. “Advance on a ball, gets away from the catcher, then going hard all the way off the bat. It was a great job–a shame that happened.”
Piscotty's efforts weren't entirely in vain–he did score the only run of the night for St. Louis in a 2-1 loss to the Cubs.
“Probably the roughest turn around the bases I’ve ever seen,” Adam Wainwright said. “He got hit three times. Just glad he’s okay.”
Matheny also indicated that Piscotty seemed to have avoided a severe injury. Though the team does not yet have any timeline on his recovery, all indications on his status from his manager and teammates in the clubhouse after the game were cautiously optimistic.
“Won’t jump to any conclusions, but he seems to be doing okay,” Matheny said. “Seems to feel fine, those are all good signs. But he’s got to pass the tests. We’ll find out a little bit more tonight and a little bit more tomorrow morning."
Randal Grichuk replaced Piscotty in right field, with Matt Adams taking Grichuk's spot to make his debut as a left fielder for the top of the sixth–after seeing very little balls his way in spring, he caught the first two outs of the inning.
Tuesday's incident wasn't the first apparent head injury Piscotty has sustained as a Cardinal, and fortunately, this one does not appear to be as serious as his previous one. Back in September of 2015, Piscotty had to be carted off on a stretcher after colliding with Peter Bourjos when the two were going after a fly ball in Pittsburgh.
“I've seen him in one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in the outfield in Pittsburgh that time," Wainwright said. "I thought he was dead. I think everybody did. So he’s had some rough plays in the field."
Matheny reiterated after the game that the team always errs on the side of caution when it comes to head trauma, and considering Piscotty's 2015 incident, it would not be surprising to see him miss time. The Cardinals have a quick turnaround for a 12:45 start time Wednesday afternoon, and it would be highly unlikely for Piscotty to make that start.
Beyond Dexter Fowler as the starting center fielder, the Cardinals didn't make any notable additions to the outfield corps over the winter, so proven depth off the bench is definitely lacking on the roster. If a stint on the disabled list is required for Piscotty, Tommy Pham would be the most likely candidate for a recall from Memphis. Until Piscotty returns, Matheny's willingness to plug Adams into the outfield Tuesday indicates a platoon for left field could be in play between Adams and Jose Martinez.