Monday, May 27, 2013

Injuries have Cardinals shifting focus from bullpen to rotation

After spending over a month trying to sort out their bullpen, the Cardinals now face new problems with a starting rotation that has been beset by injuries.

The bullpen issues stemmed from an season-ending injury to closer Jason Motte, which caused bullpen roles to shift--a shift that some, like Mitchell Boggs, were not ready for.   The Cardinals solved their problems by shifting Edward Mujica to closer and calling up Carlos Martinez and Seth Maness to shore up the back end of the pen.

Now, a rash of injuries to the Cardinals rotation has the Cardinals scrambling again.

First, Jake Westbrook went on the DL with an elbow injury.  Then Jaime Garcia was lost for the season with a shoulder injury.  As if that wasn't enough, Westbrook's replacement, John Gast, was removed from his last start with shoulder tightness.

Thus, the Cardinals are making changes on the fly again.

First, Michael Wacha, the Cardinals best pitching prospect still in the minors, was pulled from his start Monday and is probably option #1 to replace Gast in the rotation.  Nothing has been announced yet and, as Bernie Miklasz points out, there are still reasons why the Cardinals wouldn't call on Wacha, but it appears that he is likely replacement for Gast.

In addition, the Cardinals have sent Carlos Martinez down to AAA to stretch him out as a starter again.  With all the injuries to starting pitching, the Cardinals now need Martinez as a starter more than they do as a (little used) reliever.  While it probably won't take him long to ramp up, Martinez still has work to do on his secondary pitches before he can be considered for a starting role.

Finally, Victor Marte was recalled to fill Martinez' role in the pen.  Marte had a 4.91 ERA in 40.1 IP last year for the Cardinals, but considering that Martinez only pitched 9.1 innings in the 21 days he was up with the club, its unlikely that Marte will be used in high leverage situations.

So the Cards are shuffling the deck again and the fans are hoping that the magic continues.

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