A lot of people expected the Cardinals to trade one or more of their young pitchers during the off season for more offensive help. The Cardinals are one of the few organizations in baseball with more quality starting pitchers than available spots in the rotation. But John Mozeliak avoided the temptation to deal away one of his young arms and now, with Jaime Garcia experiencing shoulder problems, we’re reminded why that strategy made sense.
It seems every season at least one starting pitcher goes down. Usually it’s more than one. When was the last time the Cardinals made it through an entire season without losing a couple of starters? But with the talent they’ve assembled the Cards are one of the few teams in the majors that can deal with the loss of a pitcher like Garcia and barely notice it.
At the start of spring training, Joe Kelly appeared to be the starter on the outside looking in. All Kelly did last season was go 10-5 with a 2.69 ERA. In the second half of the season he was among the most effective starters in the entire National League. He also pitched effectively in four postseason games. Kelly is just 25 years old, but seemed unflappable in pressure packed situations last season. He’s more than capable of becoming the Cardinals fifth starter this season, and given this opportunity may even blossom into a front of the rotation type of talent.
Carlos Martinez is also in the mix. Martinez was used as an 8th inning specialist last season, but he’s preparing as a starter this spring. With Jason Motte’s availability at the beginning of the season somewhat in limbo it would seem likely, barring another injury, that Martinez will start the season in that 8th inning role again.