Rotation Losing Arms but There's Plenty in Reserve

By Miklasz, Bernie | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Rotation Losing Arms but There's Plenty in Reserve


Miklasz, Bernie, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


A week ago Saturday, the Cardinals were reveling in their rotation. Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright had just pitched masterfully in consecutive shutouts over the Colorado Rockies, burnishing the team's starting-pitching ERA to a lustrous 2.11.

A writer from Sports Illustrated arrived to chronicle the brilliance of the Cardinals' quintet. Wainwright, Miller, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook were the men with the golden arms.

This is what I wrote, in part, last Sunday:

"Surely this 2.11 ERA will rise. Surely this ERA will be inflated by slumps, tired arms, muscle strains, hot hitters, a drop in confidence and the inevitable swirl of bad luck. Surely, they cannot keep this up. The baseball gods will humble the starters ..."

Well, that didn't take long.

Two of the Cardinals' wings have been clipped. Westbrook and Garcia are on the disabled list. GM John Mozeliak, manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist were planning to convene after Saturday night's 6-4 loss to Milwaukee to discuss options going forward.

Lynn who was pushed hard by Matheny in his previous start showed the apparent aftereffects Saturday, giving up eight hits and four earned runs in five innings. The home team's early 2-0 lead disappeared in Lynn's exhaust fumes.

And a St. Louis rotation that appeared bulletproof last weekend has a 5.48 ERA over the last seven starts.

Red flags.

Raised.

"A lot has been made of our pitching depth," Mozeliak said. "Our depth is going to be tested. You always hope you have enough internal talent to push you through it, but when you lose two- fifths of your rotation, that's a lot to ask."

Plan on Garcia having surgery to darn the troublesome left shoulder that caused him such angst in 2012. The club downplayed the seriousness of Westbrook's inflamed right elbow, but he's already behind schedule in his anticipated return.

So...

Rookie lefthander John Gast, in place as Westbrook's stand-in, will make his second major-league start Sunday as the Cardinals try to avoid a series loss to the Brewers. Gast has a clear opportunity to secure a more extensive stay in the show.

If Gast does a nice job, and Westbrook makes it back reasonably soon, the crisis is averted. The Cardinals' worries would be limited to plugging in a starter until Westbrook reappears.

If Westbrook remains sidelined indefinitely, lost on Mulder Road, and Gast's changeup doesn't trick major-league hitters, the Cardinals will be scrambling to stock two rotation spots to align with Wainwright, Lynn and Miller.

This situation is exactly why the Cardinals have scouted, drafted, developed, nurtured, coached, positioned and hoarded a prosperous supply of young and exceptionally talented pitching.

The Cardinals have so many starters, the surplus is the MLB equivalent of having an NFL practice squad. The Cardinals have so many candidates, they could lose all five starters and still come up with a respectable rotation. They could do like iconic North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith and go with a platoon: a "red" and "white" rotation.

There's Gast, Seth Maness, Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha. That's five names right there. Trevor Rosenthal is a sixth name, but he's too valuable serving in an eighth-inning relief role.

There's potentially a seventh name on the list:

He is the unique figure that's made more comebacks than Jason in the Friday the 13th horror-movie series. And he's just as scary to opposing hitters.

You may have heard of him:

Chris Carpenter.

More and more it's looking like the Cardinals will need the big man to rejoin the band, only a few months after his career was all but permanently shutdown because of a nerve disorder that weakened his arm.

The condition did not deprive Carp of heart or resolve. …

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