FT. MYERS, Fl. (KMOV.com) -- Better late than never, they say. Trevor Rosenthal, whose first spring start was waylaid by soreness in his right latissimus dorsi, will get a second chance Thursday.
The Cardinals listed the former closer as the scheduled starter for their game against the Twins at Roger Dean Stadium. After a string of impressive outings in which the 26-year-old showcased a more fully-realized repertoire, Rosenthal took the mound for one inning on March 3 against the Nationals in West Palm Beach. The appearance was meant as a tune up, taking the place of a regularly scheduled bullpen session.
The outing seemed to aggravate a muscle tweak, which first appeared after a weight room incident prior to the start. An MRI showed no significant damage, but he was shut down to avoid further strain on the muscle and began slowly working back over the past 12 days.
He threw his first rehab session on March 9, joining fellow sidelined pitcher Luke Weaver. At the time, Rosenthal threw with 70 percent effort, mainly focusing on body control to test his back. He was said to be slightly behind Weaver at the time, and the latter appeared in a game Tuesday. Rosenthal threw a full-speed session Sunday and came out of it feeling ready for game action. He will have a relatively meager allowance as far as pitch count is concerned, as the process of stretching out for multiple innings was halted with the injury.
Despite his first scheduled start since 2012, Rosenthal doesn’t appear any closer to a defined role. Seung Hwan Oh is the team’s closer. The rotation, while shaken up by Alex Reyes’ injury, is set. Manager Mike Matheny has been candid this spring about the team’s avoidance of funneling Rosenthal into a particular slot. The Cardinals hope to stretch him out as much as possible over the remaining games in March, then allow the best fit to materialize organically.
The Jordan Schafer “slash” experiment came to an unceremonious end with Tuesday’s announcement the lefty would need arm surgery. The combination outfielder/pinch runner/lefty specialist intrigued the front office enough to experiment freely this spring with multiple deployments; beginning with treating him as a traditional reliever and evolving into calling on him to pinch hit in one half inning, pitch in the next. The team also toyed with the idea of playing Schafer in the outfield, then bringing him to the mound straight from field. His arm injury undercut that plan, as they never had a chance to try it out.
His loss means innings (which at this point in spring are a restricted commodity) are available for two key arms vying for a bullpen role. Miguel Socolovich and Sam Tuivailala have both drawn a spotlight by returning to pitches they had strayed away from. For Tuivailala, it’s a high velocity curveball, a pitch that had been- until recently- replaced with a cutter. For Socolovich, it’s, of all things, his fastball.
“He has a good fastball. In the past he was just real dependent on his secondary pitches. He’s got a good enough fastball to come at anybody and that will make his secondary pitches better,” Matheny said.
When he made the majors, Socolovich knew his big fastball preceded him. His response was to throw offspeed pitches in fastball counts, something he did to great effect. Unfortunately, success meant he threw more and more secondary pitches, less fastballs. After a while, the league adjusted. His rediscovery of his high-level heater has yielded a tremendously successful spring (1 hit, 1 run, 5 strikeouts), and that coupled with his lack of options has him positioned to break camp on the 25-man roster.
Oh back in town
Seung Hwan Oh returned from overseas after the South Korean national team was bounced early from the World Baseball Classic. He arrived in Cardinal camp Thursday, after being given a couple days to adjust to the extreme time difference. He will likely appear in a game within a day or so.