Barring surprise offer, Cards pitchers in for tough competition in camp

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by Brian Feldman / BaseballStL | @BFeldman

KMOV.com

Posted on December 20, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 20 at 4:00 PM

(BaseballStL) -- Check the roster and the numbers add up quickly.  The Cardinals have just a flat out embarrassment of riches when it comes to their pitching staff.  A current ace with 99 career wins here, a budding star who burst onto the scene in October there. 

Not to mention a 23-year old who finished 3rd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting but pitched just one inning in the postseason.

There’s just five spots in a starting rotation yet the Cards boast seven who are more than deserving of claiming one.  Seven.  That means, barring something unforeseen between now and spring training, Mike Matheny is going to have to have some very uncomfortable conversations. 

He’s going to have to tell two guys, most likely, that they are headed to the bullpen despite having one heck of a career resume.

Let’s go through the list, shall we?

Locks

1. Adam Wainwright: No doubt about it starter. Ace of the staff.  Moving on.

2. Michael Wacha: Ditto.  His performance in October erases all doubt about where he begins 2014.

 Probables

3. Shelby Miller: This is where things get tricky.  After winning 15 games and constructing a 3.06 ERA in 173 innings last season, you would have to assume he’s in the rotation.  His absence from the postseason was largely based on how he was pitching at the time, not how the team feels about him long term.  If Miller wasn’t going to be in the rotation in 2014 he would’ve been traded.  Has no bullpen experience.

4. Jaime Garcia: The 27-year old frustrating enigma has a contract on his side.  Garcia has two more guaranteed years on his deal worth $17 million.  It’d be awfully hard to justify putting that in the bullpen, especially when Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist are already there.  Garcia has swing and miss stuff, there’s no doubt about that.  The Cardinals would just like to see a little more consistency (and health) from the lefty.

 

Maybes

5. Lance Lynn: Here is where the real controversy begins.  If the previous four are indeed starters, that leaves just one more spot available.  Lynn has experience on his side as he’s pitched 412 career regular season innings as a Cardinal.  The 26-year old can be as dominant as anyone in baseball when he’s on (2012 All Star) but can be as erratic as anyone when he’s not (lost his job just a couple months after that All Star appearance). He could be a weapon in the bullpen since he does have experience there.

6. Joe Kelly: If you want to know exactly what you’re going to get out of a starter then this is probably your guy.  Kelly has been as consistent as they come since entering the big leagues.  The 25-year old won’t wow you with his final line (he walks too many to regularly go past six innings) but Kelly almost always makes a big pitch to get out of trouble and minimize damage.  Wasn’t great in the postseason but certainly didn’t embarrass himself.  May have to be long reliever again who waits for an opportunity.

7. Carlos Martinez: Here’s the ultimate wild card.  A 22-year-old who wasn’t even in AAA to start 2013 yet rose to being a dominant set up man throughout the postseason.  He’s always been a starter but due to his slender frame (180 pounds) some wonder if he can hold up month after month, year after year in a Major League rotation.  With Trevor Rosenthal locked in as closer this might be the time to try and move him. 

Which way will the Cardinals go to start the 2014 season?  Obviously, everything will hinge on how these guys pitch in spring training.  This is shaping up to be one of the most competitive camps ever on the mound.  No one is safe.  Not former All Stars, not golden child’s of the organization. 

One slip up this February and March and someone really good could be headed to the bullpen. 

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