Matthew Liberatore to start for Cardinals Wednesday

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Matthew Liberatore (52) works in the first inning of a...
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Matthew Liberatore (52) works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Thursday, July 7, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)(John Bazemore | AP)
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 2:06 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Cardinals pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore will make his season debut with St. Louis on Wednesday, but he’s not slated to replace any of the five starting pitchers who currently reside in the rotation.

Liberatore will start for the Cardinals Wednesday night against the Brewers amid the team’s plan to shift to a six-man starting rotation for the time being. Adam Wainwright was scheduled to make his third start of the season Wednesday but will see his scheduled start pushed back by a day to accommodate Liberatore’s arrival.

The Cardinals are in the midst of a stretch that will see the team go without a day off until June 1. In a season for St. Louis in which no clear answer to the ‘ace of the rotation’ question has definitively emerged, the Cardinals don’t exactly need to rush through to any one starter’s next turn on the bump.

The move to a six-man rotation, even if only temporary due to the rigors of the schedule this month, also provides an opportunity for one of the organization’s top-performing pitching prospects to again show his wares at the MLB level.

Liberatore has a 3.13 ERA at Triple-A Memphis this season, a notable improvement over his numbers from a year ago, as the former first-round draft pick sported an ERA north of 5.00 in both Memphis and St. Louis last season. Selected in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays out of high school in 2018, Liberatore came over to the Cardinals in the trade that sent outfielder Randy Arozarena to Tampa.

Although St. Louis has taken some shrapnel in the court of public opinion over that trade as Arozarena has blossomed into a star for the Rays, the Cardinals still don’t believe their end of that swap has had the chance to fully play out yet. After lamenting his lack of a bulldog mentality on the mound last season at January’s Winter Warm-Up, Liberatore clearly came into 2023 with a renewed sense of purpose.

Liberatore performed well in Grapefruit League play this spring before racing out to a 4-1 start with a 3.13 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 46 innings in Memphis. He’s lined up Wednesday to oppose a Brewers lineup that has just a .647 OPS against left-handed pitching on the season, ranking 29th in MLB in the category.

The matchup advantage against Milwaukee helps explain the timing of this decision for the Cardinals, who could certainly benefit from signs of staying power from Liberatore on Wednesday night. With three of the team’s now-six starting pitchers on expiring contracts, Liberatore’s performance over the next couple of weeks could go a long way toward cementing his opportunity to not only this hang around in this year’s rotation, but also to gain consideration for next year’s rotation, as well.

The team has not formally announced the Liberatore arrival and corresponding roster move. More information on the roster fallout will come Wednesday as the Cardinals are also expected to make a decision on the immediate future of Dylan Carlson, for whom a brief injured list stint remains a possibility after the outfielder sprained his ankle Sunday in Boston.