The St. Louis Cardinals might have finally cut ties with one veteran right-handed reliever Friday when they sent Mitchell Boggs back to the minors, but they need to say goodbye to another.
Sure, Boggs gave up a back-breaking homerun to Kansas City Royals pinch-hitter Jeff Francour in the ninth inning of Thursday night’s epic and took the official loss, but his successor just made matters worse.
Victor Marte came in with Royals leftfielder Alex Gordon, who Boggs walked, on first base. Marte promptly hit shortstop Alcides Escobar in the hand, and made a throwing error on the next play to load the bases.
To top things off, first baseman Eric Hosmer hit a high chopper over Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig’s head to drive in the deciding two runs in what became a 4-2 Royals win before Marte intentionally walked pinch hitter Chris Getz.
Mercifully, Mother Nature sent a massive rainstorm that required a four-and-a-half hour delay to prevent Marte from allowing the Royals to do anymore damage. Joe Kelly, who might have been a better option to start the inning anyway, came in after the game restarted at 3:04 a.m. and quickly got three outs.
Obviously, Boggs wasn’t manager Mike Matheny’s best choice to try and close the game since he deemed regular closer Edward Mujica unavailable because he had pitched in each of the four previous games, but Marte obviously wouldn’t have been any better if he’d have started the inning.
The Cardinals have an incredible stockpile of young pitchers in their organization, including four who they have used in the bullpen. Why not use them? Sure, the Cardinals had only a 2-1 lead heading into the ninth inning, but the rookies have done nothing so far to prove they can’t handle that type of situation.
Boggs has, many times.
The Cardinals tried to make him their closer to start the season after Jason Motte suffered a season-ending elbow injury in spring training, but Boggs allowed 16 runs in 13 games with 10 walks that led to two blown saves and another two losses.
That led the Cardinals to send Boggs to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds on May 2, and he remained there until the big club recalled him May 19.
His performance wasn’t much better the second time around, either. He allowed a homerun to San Diego Padres outfielder Will Venable, the first batter he faced, May 20 in his return. He also gave up a run five days later against the Los Angeles Dodgers before Thursday’s meltdown.
Meanwhile, the team has had phenomenal success with pitchers such as Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness and Carlos Martinez. The team recently sent Martinez back to Memphis to condition as a starter, but those three pitchers have a combined 2.92 earned-run average in 45 appearances.
Marte’s first appearance of the 2013 season came Thursday, but it didn’t look much different than how he fared in 2012. The Cardinals picked the 32-year-old up off the scrap heap after he spent 2009-10 with the Royals, and he actually pitched pretty well in the first half of the season with a 3.82 ERA, 12 appearances in June when he allowed just five runs, combined.
However, by the time the season ended his ERA had ballooned to 4.91, and he did not make the postseason roster. The Cardinals used young pitchers such as Shelby Miller instead.
And that’s what they should do again in 2013. They called up Keith Butler from the Double-A Springfield Cardinals to replace Boggs, and they’ll soon need a replacement for Marte, if Thursday was any indication.
That decision will be easier once right-handed starter Jake Westbrook returns to help lessen the burden four rookies have carried in the starting rotation this season.
It might not be desirable to have so many young pitchers on the staff, but Matheny shouldn’t hesitate to use them in important situations because right now they are simply the best option.