9:38 pm: Mikolas is headed for an MRI tonight, manager Mike Shildt told reporters (including Jeff Jones of the Belleville News Democrat).
8:03 pm: Cardinals righty Miles Mikolas left this evening’s start against the Cubs before the fifth inning after a visit from the trainer. The team later announced he was removed with right forearm tightness. Daniel Ponce de Leon was called on to replace him.
Mikolas’ start today marked his return to a big league mound for the first time in nineteen months. He missed the entire 2020 season after undergoing surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his right forearm. Expected to return at the start of this year, Mikolas ultimately wound up delayed nearly two months by a shoulder issue. Any pitcher exiting in the middle of a start with forearm tightness is concerning, since that can often be a precursor to Tommy John surgery. Given Mikolas’ recent injury history, it’s especially alarming.
The 32-year-old did make three successful rehab starts with Triple-A Memphis before getting back on a big league mound. In this evening’s game, Mikolas’ fastball was in the 89-92 MPH range, topping out at 92.7 MPH. That’s below the 93-94 MPH he averaged on his heater in 2018-19, although it hadn’t seemed particularly surprising his velocity would be down a bit given his long layoff from pitching.
The Cardinals already had a five-man starting staff of Jack Flaherty, Kwang-hyun Kim, Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martínez and John Gant before Mikolas’ return. If this latest issue ends up forcing him back to the injured list, those players figure to continue taking the ball every fifth day.