ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals will open the 2017 season without Tyler Lyons as a lefty option for their bullpen after it was determined that Lyons needed surgery to repair a still-ailing right knee.
Lyons was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right knee on Aug. 3, at which time he expressed optimism that he'd pitch again in 2016. Not only was that not the case, but continued discomfort with that knee left Lyons with little choice but to undergo an operation last week. As was first reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lyons is expected to need a recovery time of five to six months, which means he will not be an on-field participant in Spring Training.
The development further thins the Cardinals' left-handed depth, which had already taken a hit last month with the determination that Zach Duke required Tommy John surgery.
Lyons last pitched on July 30 and had proven to be a valuable and versatile arm out of the 'pen for the Cardinals. In 30 appearances, he had a 3.38 ERA and 1.021 WHIP.
Chad Huffman, once a second-round Draft pick in 2006, has returned to the Cardinals under a Minor League contract. Huffman, who spent last season playing for the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate, spent a year in St. Louis' system after signing a Minor League deal in February 2013. He went on to hit .282/.379/.472 with an .852 OPS in 108 games with Triple-A Memphis. Huffman became a free agent at the end of that season and then spent two years playing in Japan.
Huffman will offer the Cardinals depth at both corner outfield positions and first base. His only bit of big league exposure came in 2010, when Huffman appeared in nine games with the Yankees. He made four starts (all in the outfield) and went 3-for-18 at the plate. Huffman has also spent time in the Padres' and Indians' organizations.
There will be at least one teammate in spring that Huffman will know extremely well: Matt Carpenter. The two attended the same high school and went on to play for Texas Christian University. Huffman is seven months older than Carpenter, who is projected to open the season as the Cardinals' starting first baseman.
For the third straight year, the Cardinals will have their Opening Day game moved up a day to accommodate a national telecast. ESPN is expected to soon announce that it has selected the Cardinals-Cubs Opening Day matchup as part of its April 2 schedule.
The Cardinals' opener against the defending World Series champions had originally been scheduled for 3:15 p.m. CT on April 3. Now, that Monday will turn into an off-day for St. Louis, which also has an off-day scheduled at the back end of that three-game home series against Chicago.
The Cardinals, who will wrap up their spring exhibition schedule on March 31, similarly had their season openers against the Cubs (2015) and Pirates ('16) rescheduled to accommodate broadcast needs.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.