Trevor Rosenthal best-suited to help St. Louis Cardinals as reliever

Trevor Rosenthal might have lost the battle for the final starting rotation spot, but the St. Louis Cardinals gained a great resource for their bullpen in 2013.

Trevor Rosenthal - photo from FoxSportsMidwest
Trevor Rosenthal – photo from FoxSportsMidwest

The Cardinals officially said last week that Rosenthal is out of the running for the fifth spot in the rotation and will start the season in the bullpen. And while that might be disappointing for a pitcher who had a goal of winning that battle, the move should work out best for both sides.

Rosenthal can throw more than 100 mph and often looked as unhittable as any pitcher in Major League Baseball last season out of the bullpen, and the Cardinals will give him the chance to do more of the same in 2013.

As a reliever, Rosenthal could rare back and throw the ball as hard as he wanted without having to worry about stamina. That gave his fastball the extra few miles per hour that often make the difference in whether a hitter gets a hit or swings threw a pitch.

And he most likely would’ve lost that quality had he moved to the rotation.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander can still crank it up to 100 mph late in a ballgame, but he is a rare (almost unique) pitcher who can throw as hard as a starter as he could if he were a reliever. Others tend to lose a few miles per hour on their fastball once they’re asked to throw more than one or two innings.

Adam Wainwright began his Cardinals career out of the bullpen as the closer for the 2006 World Series championship team. He threw in the high 90s as a reliever but rarely reaches above 94 or 95 mph as a starter.

Granted, Wainwright is plenty effective as a starter and is on the precipice of receiving a whole lot of money because he can pitch effectively for seven innings or more. That could very well be the path Rosenthal eventually follows, but for now he is best suited for the bullpen.

He started one game at the beginning of spring training, and it didn’t go well. He gave up four runs on five hits in two innings against the Miami Marlins while walking two batters and failing to strike out anybody.

Sure, that was an early spring training game, but the Cardinals would be foolish to take a chance on a young pitcher in their rotation when they have others who they have already groomed to be long-term starters for the organization.

Those two are Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller, and they will battle for the final spot in the rotation.

Kelly did not look good in his last start, giving up two runs and three walks in two innings Thursday against the New York Yankees.

But Miller hasn’t been much better. He gave up two runs and three hits in two innings Friday against the Washington Nationals but walked just one hitter.

Overall, Kelly has more experience as a starter and is more of a sure bet than Miller at this point.

Theoretically, the Cardinals could give Kelly the starting job and send Miller to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds to start the season. Then Miller could come up into the rotation and Kelly could slide to the bullpen if a reliever gets injured, or if the Cardinals find they need more depth in the bullpen.

That situation will work itself out in time, but at least the Cardinals already know they have a flamethrower who can shut down hitters late in a ballgame, even if he technically lost a job to get to that position.

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