The Cardinals expect ace Sonny Gray suffered a hamstring strain and may miss Opening Day

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Sonny Gray suffered a mild hamstring strain, putting him at risk for Opening Day, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters in Jupiter, Fla., Tuesday morning.

“This is something that will slow down (Gray),” Mozeliak said. “But we don’t think it will be something that will go deep into the season by any means.”

Gray, who signed a three-year, $75 million contract in November, was scheduled to be the Cardinals' starter entering the season and was officially named the team's starter on Opening Day last week. However, the 34-year-old right-hander felt tightness in his hamstring after throwing a pitch in the second inning of his second exhibition start on Monday, and he immediately left the game. Gray underwent an MRI later that evening, which revealed a minor strain.

The Cardinals are scheduled to open the 2024 season on March 28 against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. With nearly three weeks to go until that date, the runway for Gray to be cleared is short.

“I imagine (an Opening Day start) is in question, but we'll give him some time,” Mozeliak said, later adding that the current spring schedule would make it a “challenge” for Gray to make that start. .

Gray has had trouble with his right hamstring before. He missed more than a month of the 2022 season with the Minnesota Twins due to two separate hamstring strains, but completed a healthy 2023, pitching in all 32 games and finishing second in American League Cy Young Award voting.

Mozeliak described Gray's fatigue as “less” than what he dealt with in 2022. However, hamstring injuries can be difficult, and the Cardinals do not have a timeline for when Gray could be cleared to return to action.

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“I wouldn't put any return to play (schedule) on it,” Mozeliak said. “It's been less than 24 hours, so we'll see how he reacts over the next few days. But from reading the MRI, we're definitely encouraged.

The Cardinals line up without Gray currently in Miles Mikolas, Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn and Steven Matz, with Matthew Liberatore or Zach Thompson slated to take the fifth spot. St. Louis had also previously discussed starting the year with a six-man rotation, and that option still stands.

After signing Gray, Gibson and Lynn (along with several relievers) during the offseason, Mozeliak ruled the Cubs out of adding another pitcher. Top free agents Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery (former Cardinal) are still available, but there is no indication that Gray's injury will change the organization's mindset until there is a clearer timeline on Gray's recovery.

“I definitely feel like (adding pitching depth) isn't something that's needed at this point,” Mozeliak said. “If something changes, we'll have to look at it differently, but we don't think we'll have to do that at this point.

“Fingers crossed, this won't be something that will last long.”

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(Photo: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

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