ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- No one is really sure what happened with regards to Brian Fuentes’ family that led him to leave the team for “personal reasons”. But the end result is the same. The 37-year California native is “unlikely” to return to the Cardinals in 2012, per manager Mike Matheny.
First and foremost, leave your conspiracy theories at the door. I don’t believe this was a way to get rid of Fuentes and his 9.00 ERA. The Cardinals don’t owe him anything. If they didn’t like him, they would have just released him outright.
Like they did with J.C. Romero earlier in the season.
Something happened and Fuentes decided it was more important than baseball. He’s a man. That’s his decision. Who are we to judge him for that?
What we can judge, however, is what this does for the Redbirds going forward. Remember, the Cardinals had a plan for how they wanted to fix this team midseason...and Fuentes was a part of that. To simply lose him, and not due to injury, is disheartening.
You went from Mark Rzepczynski, Brian Fuentes and Barrett Browning as the 3 lefties in your bullpen to just Rzepczynski and Browning. And let’s not forget Browning—who started off tremendously—has fallen off a little bit this month. After posting a 2.70 ERA and having a 20:9 groundball-to-fly ball ratio through July, he’s got a 6.43 ERA and a 14:14 GB-to-FB ratio in August.
So you not only just lost a lefty, but an experienced one at that. And there’s no pseudo-lefty Kyle McClellan who puts up outstanding numbers vs them even as a righty.
What this does is put more pressure on 2 individuals. Trevor Rosenthal and Sam Freeman. Rosenthal’s the flame throwing 22-year old from Lee’s Summit who made a brief cameo earlier this year. Before all this went down he simply would’ve been allowed to come back in September when the rosters expanded to 40 and be used in a complimentary role.
Well, guess what? He’s here now. And he’s going to be needed. Maybe not in the 7th, 8th or 9th because of what Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte have done. But he’ll still be needed in more crucial spots than he would’ve been in before. And that’s a gamble. Something the Cardinals were trying to avoid.
The other person who’s now going to be thrust into a slightly larger role is Sam Freeman. The Kansas alum is another youngster with a fantastic arm who’s been dominating in the minors. He, too, made a brief cameo with the big league club earlier this year but was a little wild (likely due to nerves). Freeman’s got a 1.77 ERA this year in the minors split between AA-Springfield and AAA-Memphis with opponents hitting just .207 off of him. But when he was in St. Louis earlier this year he walked 7 batters in just 12 innings. Well, when rosters expand in September...guess who’s going to be that 3rd lefty? Freeman. The Cards are sure hoping he keeps the walks to a minimum.
So there you have it. One simple decision by Brian Fuentes has created a ripple effect that changes the complexion of this bullpen.
If this would’ve happened earlier, the Cards could have found someone else to bring in to help. Now? It’s likely too late.