Cards bullpen could be dependent on returns from DL -

Cards bullpen could be dependent on returns from DL

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By John Bailey By John Bailey

(BaseballStL) -- Every single year the same thing happens it seems.  The Cards have to scramble to fill gigantic holes in their bullpen to make sure the entire team doesn’t come crashing down in the middle of the season.

Mitchell Boggs’ unexpected demise a season ago coupled with Jason Motte’s need for Tommy John surgery led to promotions that no one saw coming (a la Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez and even Keith Butler).

It gets to the point where you just look at the bullpen as constructed to begin the year and you assume something will undoubtedly go wrong at some point and will need to provide a fix.  Whether it’s an injury or someone not pitching well, it’s coming. 

2014 is no different.  In fact, you can almost see the needs coming.  Keith Butler was horrendous in spring training (ERA north of 7 in spring training) but won the final spot in the bullpen because everyone else was, believe it or not, worse than he was.  Seth Maness has not found the groove that made him a double play extraordinaire last season again.

Even Pat Neshek – who’s pitched well of late – may not be able to handle a major role all season long for the Redbirds.

Reinforcements will be needed.  And there is no more obvious reinforcement than Jason Motte.  The former NL saves leader is coming off that missed year due to surgery and is on the mend in Jupiter, Florida.  He may not return for several more weeks but that time can’t come soon enough.  Having another big arm in the bullpen would be immensely helpful to Mike Matheny.

Replacing someone like Butler with Motte makes this team far stronger.

Then you have to factor in Jaime Garcia.  The lefty starter is trying to learn to pitch effectively with a less-than-100 percent shoulder.  If he goes on a rehab assignment within the next few weeks and has success in AAA-Memphis he could be back in St. Louis by May.

From there, it doesn’t matter if he’s put back into the starting rotation or back in the bullpen as a long reliever.  He’ll make this pitching staff better because someone (whether it’s him or someone else) will be in relief helping out.

Current options in Memphis are nothing special.  Lee Stoppleman and Jorge Rondon don’t look quite ready or deserving of a promotion.  Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons are starters who need to be ready in case a spot in the rotation suddenly opens unexpectedly. 

Let’s face it.  The bullpen’s going to need some help sooner rather than later.  And Jason Motte and Jaime Garcia will need to be there to provide it.

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