With Spring Training games already underway, its time to take a look at some of the Cardinals Spring Training Battles.
First off is the one that everyone will be paying attention to the 5th Starter job.
With Jaime Garcia out indefinitely, Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly and Tyler Lyons will battle for the 5th spot in the rotation. Here's a breakdown of each of the candidates.
Kelly would have to be considered the favorite for the 5th spot, at least at this point.
Over the last two seasons, Kelly has compiled a 13-9 record and 3.03 ERA in 31 starts for the Cardinals, including 9-2 with a 1.91 ERA during the second half of 2013.
However, for some reason, the Cards do not appear to favor Kelly as a starter, forcing him to compete for the 5th spot despite those gaudy stats.
The same thing happened with Kelly in the spring of 2013. Kelly had to compete with Shelby Miller for the 5th spot, before eventually losing and being relegated to a long relief role.
Perhaps with his more recent success, the Cardinals will give him the 5th spot this year
Martinez has probably the best stuff of the 3 competitors and it was somewhat telling the the Cardinals allowed him to pitch 3 innings in his first spring start.
The biggest question though is whether the Cardinals think they are better off with him in the rotation or the bullpen. Martinez was impressive in the 2013 postseason, manning the 8th inning role and setting up for closer Trevor Rosenthal.
With Jason Motte still recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals may want to return Martinez to that same 8th inning role, at least until Motte is ready.
In addition, Martinez could probably use some more time in AAA to work on his changeup before he is considered ready for the rotation. However, if he has an impressive spring he could force his way into the 5th spot.
Lyons is a bit of a long shot to earn the 5th starter spot. He doesn't have the stuff of Martinez nor the experience of Kelly. However, what he does have is the fact that he's lefthanded.
If the Cardinals feel they are better off with a lefty in the rotation, Lyons would likely get the nod.
Besides, its not like he's chopped liver as a pitcher. He had an impressive 3.32 ERA in the hitter-friendly PCL in 2013 and won his first two big league starts, allowing just 2 runs in 14 innings, before the league adjusted (and he didn't).
However, he would have to have an outstanding spring to overtake both Kelly and Martinez.
Overall I think Kelly will get the nod as the 5th starter. His experience and performance last year says he deserves the shot.
Martinez will likely be put in the bullpen to start the 2014 season, at least until Motte is ready. Then he will probaly be sent down to work on his secondary pitches.
Lyons will probably head to AAA to keep himself stretched out. He would likely be the first guy called up when the Cardinals need another starter.