Feldman: Trevor Rosenthal - Starter or reliever?

Feldman: Trevor Rosenthal - Starter or reliever?

Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 4: Trevor Rosenthal #64 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates with Yadier Molina #4 after defeating the New York Mets at Busch Stadium on September 4, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)


by Brian Feldman / BaseballSTL


Posted on January 18, 2013 at 4:06 PM

(BaseballSTL) -- It’s kind of tough to beat what Trevor Rosenthal did for the Cardinals in 2012.  No, he wasn’t up here in St. Louis for very long.  Heck, he appeared in just 19 games at the end of the year before making the postseason roster.

But in 22.2 regular season innings, allowing just seven earned runs for a 2.78 ERA?  A WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of just 0.93?  Then throwing a flawless 8.2 innings in the postseason? 

How do things get any better? 

The Lee’s Summit native made such impressive work out of the bullpen throwing 100 miles per hour that people are having visions of him closing out games for years here. 

But there in lies the problem.  Should he even get that opportunity?  Should he be given a chance to be a starting pitcher for the Redbirds? 

I, myself, am a firm believer that all pitchers should be starters until they show their stuff isn’t good enough and have to become a reliever.  Until they show they need to be relievers, everyone should start.  And the reasoning is simple.  Math.

Starters, good ones anyway, throw around 200 innings per season.  Relievers?  Well, let’s just say Cards closer Jason Motte threw just 72 innings in 2012.  In fact, he’s only thrown 260 in his entire career.

Think about that.  A relief pitcher needs about three seasons to be on the mound as much as a starter’s one season. 

That’s like the difference between a basketball player who is on the court for the first three periods of every game but is replaced by someone else for the fourth.  Yes, the latter finishes the game.  But the other guy is on the court more. 

Wouldn’t you rather have your BEST person out there the MOST?

Rosenthal’s viewed as a guy who’s got plus-plus stuff and ranks very high on many prospect rankings.  He spent most of last year in AA-Springfield as a starter and had a 2.78 ERA and a .202 opponents batting average in 94 innings.  So it’s not like he hasn’t had success in the rotation.

A huge issue is what to do with him this year though.  While, again this is my opinion solely based on wanting your best players on the field as much as possible, Rosenthal should be a starter long term...there isn’t room in the rotation at the moment in St. Louis. 

Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook are 100% locks.  Lance Lynn should be as well as long as he doesn’t have a terrible spring training.  And Jaime Garcia is a lock pending health. 

Should Garcia not be ready to go once the season begins, he’s battling a shoulder injury that ended his 2012 season, a spot would open up for Rosenthal to compete with Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly for.

But if Garcia ends up healthy?  Then what?

Do you return Rosenthal to AAA-Memphis to continue working on being a starter while waiting for someone to get hurt in St. Louis?  Do you put him in the bullpen to get immediate dividends out of that arm, but risk not getting him the work he needs to one day be a starter?

It’s a tough call.  One that can’t be answered until we see how things play out in Florida.  You never know who might end up getting hurt, who might surprise or disappoint or who might unexpectedly get abducted by aliens. 

Mapping out someone’s future months before a decision has to be made is pointless. 

However, whatever happens in the short term, the long term (to me) remains the same.  You want your best players on the field.  Starters pitch 200 innings a season.  Relievers, far less.

Give Rosenthal a chance to start in the majors and see where it takes you.  You can always move him back to the bullpen if it doesn’t work out.