Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cardinals' Next Pitch May Be for New Arms

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cardinals' Next Pitch May Be for New Arms

Article excerpt

Right Now Grade D

Good news about the Cardinals: No National League pitching staff has shown more improvement from last season through this week's All-Star break.

Their staff earned-run average of 5.14 ranked last in the NL in 1994. Through Wednesday, four NL teams had an ERA worse than the Cards' 4.32.

The bad news: The starting rotation isn't responsible for much of that improvement. The rotation's seven main characters have yielded an extra half-run per game. That's not what general manager Walt Jocketty expected when he added Ken Hill and Danny Jackson to what seemed a promising young staff.

Injuries and illness have affected performance. But the Cardinals also have to take a long, hard look at what they have.

Are there enough pitchers capable of pitching into the sixth and seventh inning consistently over a considerable part of the schedule? Is there a proven stopper, the kind of dominating pitcher who won't allow a losing streak to last? Is the staff young enough, durable enough, to build momentum that extends beyond today?

You can argue about this staff's potential. But its history and present situation don't look good.

Jackson, 33, lost his first nine games. Thyroid cancer and improper medication were part of the problem, and he has pitched better lately. Still, he's been on the disabled list eight times in his career, has won more than 11 games only twice in the last six seasons and has a 3.77 career ERA before this summer. He has a contract for next season and will give maximum effort when he pitches. Just don't count on him to be an ace.

Hill, 29, should be the Cardinals' ace. He seemed to fill that role much of the last three seasons for the Expos. But as a potential free agent who gets hit too often and doesn't seem to have much confidence in the Cardinals, he's worth more in a trade than he is on the mound.

Mike Morgan also could be a free agent, and he might bring something worthwhile in a trade. When healthy and when the Cardinals put in grass at Busch Stadium, he could be a splendid member of the staff. He's also 35 and rarely healthy for a full season.

Allen Watson, 24, and Donovan Osborne, 26, are former No. 1 picks who have been injury-plagued disappointments. Both are intense, both are lefthanders with coveted gifts. But at this point, as much as the Cardinals need from them, they can't count on them for better than three or four runs allowed in five or six innings each start.

Though he was hit hard Thursday night, Tom Urbani, 27, has pitched some strong games since he's finally been given a regular spot in the rotation. …

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