Cardinals ace Sonny Gray could miss opening day start against the Dodgers because of hamstring

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Sonny Gray, right, talks in the dugout with manager Oliver Marmol after being removed during the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals Monday, March 4, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Fla. The team announced that Gray was removed due to tightness in his right hamstring. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Sonny Gray, right, talks in the dugout with manager Oliver Marmol after being removed during the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals Monday, March 4, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Fla. The team announced that Gray was removed due to tightness in his right hamstring. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals ace Sonny Gray could miss an opening day start because of a mild right hamstring strain sustained in his latest spring training outing.

Gray had been slated to start at the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 28.

“If it’s in the cards for me to still do that, then obviously I’m going to do everything in my power to make that happen,” Gray said Tuesday.

The three-time All-Star right-hander left his start Monday against Washington after 20 pitches. The Cardinals initially said Gray had tightness in his hamstring, and an MRI revealed the strain.

“We’ve had some encouraging news that it’s a mild strain. Not going to put any return-to-play (date) on it,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “It’s been less than 24 hours. We’re going to see how he responds over the next few days. But from the MRI reading, we’re definitely encouraged. Fingers crossed this isn’t something that’s going to linger too long.”

Following their poorest season since 1995, the Cardinals gave Gray a $75 million, three-year contract in November to anchor a revamped rotation that includes fellow newcomer Kyle Gibson and returning starter Lance Lynn. Gray is coming off one of the best seasons of his 11-year major league career, going 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA for Minnesota while finishing second to the New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole in AL Cy Young voting.

Gray was sharp in his spring training debut, throwing a pair of scoreless innings, and he was shutting down Washington before his hamstring problem popped up with two outs in the second inning. He motioned for catcher Willson Contreras to come to the mound, and soon manager Oliver Marmol and Cardinals head athletic trainer Adam Olsen had joined them.

Gray has a history of hamstring injuries, twice missing time during the 2022 season with Minnesota.

“It is somewhat of a similar feeling,” Gray said. “Physically, I feel like I’m in a much better spot now than I was then.”

Mozeliak said the Cardinals have not discussed who would replace Gray against the Dodgers on opening day. Miles Mikolas appears to be the most likely candidate after starting on opening day last year.

If Gray starts the season on the injured list, Matthew Liberatore and Zach Thompson are in line to take his spot in the rotation.

“It would be challenging, I think, at this point (to start opening day),” Mozeliak acknowledged at the Cardinals’ spring training base in Jupiter, Florida. “We just have to give it a little air, a little space, and we’ll understand more the next few days.”

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