Wainwright gets start against Marlins as bullpen battle heats up

Wainwright gets start against Marlins as bullpen battle heats up

Credit: Getty Images

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals during photo day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 26, 2008 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

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by Brian Feldman / BaseballSTL

Baseball StL

Posted on March 23, 2012 at 7:47 AM

Updated Friday, Mar 23 at 11:00 AM

(BaseballStL) -- The Cards 'hit the road' to play the Marlins today at Roger Dean Stadium.  It's a far trip for them as the away team.  Adam Wainwright takes the mound for the 4th time this month as he makes his way back from surgery. 

The lineup backing the Redbirds' pitcher:

1) Daniel Descalso - SS

2) Jon Jay - CF

3) Matt Holliday - LF

4) Lance Berkman - 1B

5) Carlos Beltran - RF

6) Matt Carpenter - 3B

7) Koyie Hill - C

8) Alex Cora - 2B

9) Adam Wainwright - P

Wainwright will be followed by Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez, Kyle McClellan and Fernando Salas in the bullpen

Storylines to watch for:

-- Adam Wainwright looks to push the envelope just a little bit more in his conditioning.  He could 5 innings today as he works his way up to the 80 pitch point area.  He'll make another start in March where he'd most likely go 6 innings and get to that 100 pitch mark (7 innings if he doesn't use enough pitches in 6).  How long Wainwright lasts in starts is going to be a HUGE thing for the Cardinals this season...especially early on.  With Chris Carpenter probably missing the beginning of April and Wainwright so new in his recovery from Tommy John it could be a very taxing situation for the bullpen.  The Cards simply won't let Wainwright push it too much in the early parts of the season.  If he gets through 6 innings and has thrown , say, 85 pitches there is a pretty good chance that'll be it for him to begin the season.  I find it hard to believe Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist would allow Wainwright to even get a whiff of the 7th inning or later unless he's absolutely cruising to a rate of 10 pitches per inning.  And even then they'd probably have someone warming up to go in at the drop of a hat if he were to get into trouble.  But by the end of the year?  I firmly believe after the first few months of saving Wainwright's innings he'll be let loose in September and, possibly, October.  If the Cards are battling the Reds for the division crown in mid-September and Wainwright has thrown 7 innings and it's a 1-1 game and he's at, oh, 100 pitches...do you really think he's coming out of the game because they're concerned for his arm?  If there's no pain, Wainwright's going back out there for more.  So for today it'll be interesting to see how free and easy Wainwright throws in his innings and how deep he can go.

-- Matt Carpenter gets a chance to start at 3rd base today after getting 3 hits yesterday against the Nationals.  Just like last year, Carpenter is battling for a bench spot at the major league level but quite possibly could get his heart broken again and be sent back to AAA.  The fact Skip Schumaker got hurt but Allen Craig is returning cancel each other out.  It means there's one bench spot definitely open (Tony Cruz/Bryan Anderson/Koyie Hill have one, Daniel Descalso and Allen Craig have two more) with another open for a brief time while Schumaker heals.  Because Schumaker was capable of playing the infield that hurts the depth there a bit.  Now all you've got is Descalso as a utility infielder.  That's why I see Alex Cora (who's starting at 2nd base today) as a logical fit to be another infielder off the bench.  Erik Komatsu has done a nice job doing a little bit of everything in the OF as well so he could be the other outfielder.  Where does that leave Carpenter?  He needs to play like he did yesterday and completely outperform Komatsu if he wants to have a chance.  Cora's value is that he can play all infield spots, including the middle infield.  While Carpenter can play 3rd and a little 1st...that doesn't help this team as much as someone who can play SS/2B.  He's got another chance though to have a big game and force the issue.

-- There is a similar competition in the bullpen.  Eduardo Sanchez has been phenomenal and will get a chance to show it again today if he gets into the game.  With Chris Carpenter out and Lance Lynn sliding into the rotation for the time being that opens up another spot for someone in the bullpen.  The way I see it...Jason Motte, Kyle McClellan, Fernando Salas (righties) and Mark Rzepczynski (lefty) are locks.  That leaves JC Romero, Mitchell Boggs, Scott Linebrink and Sanchez for 3 spots.  Romero has an edge because he's a lefty and I just don't see the Cards taking just one lefty into the season.  McClellan has always been looked at as another lefty because his numbers are so good against them...but with Lynn in the rotation McClellan is another setup guy right now.  Linebrink is also a veteran and that is something this bullpen does not have right now.  So he could have an edge too.  So you've got Boggs (who's struggled) and Sanchez (who's been terrific).  Options to go back to AAA will have a say in that.  So will performance.  It continues today vs the Marilns....

Keep checking out KMOV.com and our mobile/iPad apps for the latest updates from spring training in Jupiter, FL.

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