JUPITER, Fla. (KMOV) -- The first couple months of the 2014 season were a vicious cycle. The Cardinals would have a tough, hard fought game for about seven innings and they'd be clinging to a lead. Manager Mike Matheny - after watching his young late inning fire ballers succeed in a pennant run the season prior - would use the exact same formula.
Carlos Martinez gets the 8th. Trevor Rosenthal gets the 9th.
Next day? Same thing. The next? Yep. And the next? You get the idea.
Martinez and Rosenthal virtually never had breaks. In fact, at one point in May, Matheny used Rosenthal on four consecutive days. That last one didn't go so well as he blew his second save opportunity of the season in a 6-5 loss to the Braves at home.
This year should be different. First and foremost, you'd assume Matheny - now in his 4th season as manager of the club - will give a little bit more rest to his big guns. No one can pitch every single day. It doesn't matter who you are.
Throw in the fact the Cards now have a more experienced setup guy in Jordan Walden. This isn't someone who's in his early 20s like Martinez and isn't used to the rigors of a full regular season. He also doesn't aspire to be a starter and isn't all that infatuated with the idea of being a closer either.
Walden's very happy with where he is. He likes the 8th and is very happy to do it.
A year of growth from Matheny, a year of growth from Rosenthal (remember he was a full time closer for the first time last year) and the addition of a bona fide set up guy in Walden should equal a lot of success for the Cardinals this year.
Those two have the ability to make games seven innings. For those unfamiliar with Walden he's one of the best 8th inning pitchers around. Since breaking into the league at age 22 in 2010 for the Angels he has never allowed opponents to hit better than .229 against him.
In fact, in 211.2 innings (888 batters faced in his career) Walden's opponents' batting average is a mind boggling .215 with a .298 opponents' on-base percentage. That's getting the job done. You can tell why GM John Mozeliak insisted on Walden being included in the deal for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins which also fetched the Cards Jason Heyward.
The setup in the 8th and 9th looks 50% different than it did a year ago. But factor in the other growth factors and a few other things? Let's just say this back end of the Cardinals bullpen is shaping up very nicely for 2015.