Arms Race

As July quickly approaches, so does the halfway point of the season. The Cardinals still find themselves in second place just a game back of the Milwaukee Brewers even after dropping 10 of their last 12, including a seven game losing streak, and losing yet another player—some guy named Albert Pujols—to an extended stint on the DL. For a team that cannot seem to catch a break, they sure do appear lucky to be where they are.

But a mini shake-up started this week as the Cards released Miguel Batista and called Lance Lynn back up from AAA to take the open spot in the bullpen. And Lynn responded by giving the team three scoreless innings Friday night after Jake Westbrook could not make it out of the 5th inning and Mitchell Boggs finished the frame. The last straw for Batista was his involvement in the horrific 8th inning against the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday night. In fact, that inning could have been the last straw for a couple different pitchers, but Batista was the first to take one for the team.

And really, something had to be done. To think that the Cards and Kyle McClellan were six out away from beating the Phillies and Roy Halladay only to have the victory jerked out of their hands by a combination of hit batters, bases on balls, and a handful of hits was a sickening start to a big series with one of the elite teams in the league. That inning set the tone for a series loss to Philly and their stellar rotation. Though Westbrook could not go deep into the game Friday against the Jays, the Cards’ starting rotation had been eating up more innings of late. And that is exactly what the doctor ordered for the bullpen, which is already starting to show signs of overexposure with three months yet to play this season.

Speaking of overexposure, the Cards may need to start keeping an eye on Fernando Salas. He served up the game-winning home run to Jose Bautista Friday night, taking the loss. Though he is still 4-2 on the season, it seems like Salas is giving up runs in every other outing lately, and that is a disturbing trend for the de facto closer.

The Cardinals also brought Raul Valdes up from AAA Memphis, giving them three lefthanders in the bullpen. I don’t know that the move should serve as a notice to Trever Miller and/or Brian Tallet, but the extra lefty is not something you see every day on a Tony LaRussa/Dave Duncan roster. Valdes was OK as a starter but really began pitching well as a reliever at Memphis—his ERA was 0.55 in 14 appearances—and deserved the promotion. But it may not be a stretch to think the bullpen shake-up could continue over the next couple of weeks based on the results those pitchers produce in their coming outings.

With the trade deadline looming and no NL Central team running away with the division, John Mozeliak and co. have begun to take action in tweaking the roster. Rumors are starting to swirl about certain teams calling certain other teams to inquire on certain players, but at this point there is no reason to play fortune teller. Obviously the Cards could use more pitching; so could 29 other teams. But the front office and coaching staff certainly know what they have right now and what could be brought in to help the team.

The moral of the story? Don’t get too attached to anyone in the bullpen right now. Because changes may be coming soon. In fact, they have already started.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he wants. Follow him on Twitter at @birdbrained.

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