MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

With players on mend, clubs await help

St. Louis among division-leading teams poised for boost before Trade Deadline

With players on mend, clubs await help

St. Louis left fielder Matt Holliday went 0-for-3 on Friday night against the Mets. He was, however, in the Cardinals' lineup. And just Holliday's presence was a relief for the National League Central-leading Cards, who moved back to a 3 1/2-game lead on second-place Pittsburgh.

While the speculation in baseball is about potential deals that contenders can make prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, there also can be help from within.

And it starts with the Cardinals. They are still missing first baseman Matt Adams, who underwent right quadriceps surgery May 29 and is most likely out until late September, and center fielder Jon Jay, who has been sidelined since July 1 with left wrist discomfort. The return of Holliday, however, puts an offensive force back in the middle of the lineup.

The Cards were 38-20 before Holliday went on the DL. They went 18-13 without him, as their NL Central lead dwindled from 6 1/2 to 2 1/2 games prior to the All-Star break.

The Cardinals also are encouraged by the pending additions of left-handed starting pitcher Jaime Garcia, who figures to return for the series against the Reds on July 27-29, and fellow lefty Marco Gonzales, who could also be back this month. The presence of one or both would help the Cards maintain a careful approach with starting pitchers Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, both of whom were selected to the NL All-Star team but did not pitch.

Wacha and Martinez both worked over 100 innings prior to the break, and the Cardinals used the four-day recess to provide extra rest for them. Martinez will make his first post-All-Star Game start Tuesday against the White Sox, giving him 12 days between starts. Wacha faces the White Sox the next day on 14 days of rest.

The Cards' good health outlook comes at a time their two key division challengers are dealing with a major loss. Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison underwent surgery for a torn ligament in his left thumb on July 8, and he isn't expected back until late August. The youthful Cubs last weekend lost the veteran presence of catcher Miguel Montero, who sustained a sprained left thumb.

Harrison steals second

The Angels moved ahead of the Astros and into first place in the American League West last Sunday, and they are now looking at the return of Jered Weaver (left him inflammation) in the next couple of days.

The Royals are looking to reinforce their rotation, and Kris Medlen (recovering from 2014 Tommy John surgery) and Jason Vargas (left flexor strain) both project to be ready to return to the rotation before the end of the month. The defending AL Central champion Tigers, meanwhile, expect first baseman Miguel Cabrera (left calf strain) back by the end of August.

While the NL West-leading Dodgers are looking to reinforce a rotation that is missing Brandon McCarthy (Tommy John surgery) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder surgery), the defending World Series champion Giants can look to the return of right-handers Tim Hudson (right shoulder strain) and Tim Lincecum (right forearm contusion).

NL East-leading Washington is looking for the return of its corner infielders -- first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis) and third baseman Anthony Rendon (left quad strain) -- along with right fielder Jayson Werth (two fractures in left wrist) and center fielder Denard Span (back tightness).

Zimmerman's slick play

Draftings
The Dodgers were unable sign Louisville pitcher Kyle Funkhouser, who was the 35th pick in the 2015 Draft. It's the eighth year in a row in which at least one first-round Draft choice did not sign, and the fourth time it has been a college pitcher. The Nationals couldn't sign Aaron Crow in 2008, the D-backs were unable to agree to terms with Barret Loux in '10, and the Bucs didn't sign Mark Appel in '12.

Loux had an arm injury, which the scouting staff was aware of, but scouting director Tommy Allison was overruled in his desire to select Chris Sale instead.

Only six of the 315 players selected in the first 10 rounds did not sign prior to Friday's deadline, including right-hander Brian Singer of Eustis, Fla., who was Toronto's second-round selection. It's the fifth time since 2009 that the Blue Jays didn't agree to terms with a player selected in the first two rounds.

Happy anniversary
• Saturday is the 32nd anniversary of Pat Corrales being let go by the first-place Phillies, who were 43-42 at the time, and replaced by Paul Owens, who guided the Phillies to the 1983 NL pennant.

• Tuesday is the 45th anniversary of Clay Kirby pitching eight no-hit innings against the Mets, but trailing 1-0, and being lifted for a pinch-hitter by manager Preston Gomez with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. The Padres have still never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter.

Quickly
• Twelve teams went into Saturday five games or closer in the Wild Card races. The Twins and Astros are the top two in the AL, followed by the Tigers, Rays, O's and Blue Jays. The Pirates and Cubs are atop the NL Wild Card standings, followed by the Mets, Giants, D-backs and Braves.

• The schedule isn't kind to the Bucs, who have more than half of their final 73 games against teams with winning records, including a 12-game stretch from Aug. 3-16 when they play the Cubs and Dodgers at home and travel to face the Cardinals and Mets.

• The Yankees and Rays both used 27 pitchers before the All-Star break. The Dodgers used 26.

Tracy Ringolsby is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.