2011 Key Player: Kyle Lohse

The 2011 Cardinals were poised to have one of the strongest rotations in the National League. A Cy Young winner still capable of competing at a high level, an ace that has pitched Cy Young caliber seasons the last two years, a young fire baller and an innings eating consistent pitcher. Add to those four the enigma that is Kyle Lohse, and you had a five man rotation that most teams not named the Phillies would love to have.

Before the first pitch of a spring training exhibition contest could be thrown the Cardinals were dealt the blow of the season. Adam Wainwright, their ace and hopeful Cy Young candidate, would be undergoing Tommy John surgery. The injury would bring to an end a season that had yet to begin for the young man and leave the team looking at what they had to fill the role. With the young fire baller (Jaime Garcia) noticeably struggling and a tight hamstring popping up in former Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter, the roles of the starters were being questioned everywhere.

Lohse was a late spring signing by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008. A young pitcher with something to prove, Lohse put together a season in 2008 that had the Cardinals dreaming of a top of the rotation quality pitcher. After a 15 win season with a 3.78 earned run average, both career bests, the Cardinals decided to lock Lohse up in a contract through 2012. The injury bug would bite Lohse the following year with muscle problems in his right forearm and take the dreams of a top of the rotation starter and bring them crashing down to a overpriced number five starter at best.

After the injury to Wainwright this year, Lohse’s role became one of the most talk about and scrutinized. If the Cardinals are to succeed and overcome the injury to their ace, Lohse will play a key part in that success. The Cardinals need Lohse to become the innings work horse he once was, control his earned run average, keep the ball on the ground and return to form.

Lohse does not need to overachieve. He does not even need to return to the 15 game winner he was when he earned his contract. A twelve or thirteen win season would solidify the middle of the rotation and keep the Cardinals well in the hunt for the National League Central title in 2011. If the last few seasons are more indicative of what Lohse brings to the table, the Cardinals rotation (and their pennant hopes) are in serious trouble. So far this Spring, Lohse is pitching like the guy that earned that contract in 2008.

For the Cardinals sake, he needs to keep it up.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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