The St. Louis Cardinals made two more roster moves Thursday when they sent rookie right-handers Michael Wacha and Michael Blazek to Triple-A Memphis after each pitch the night prior, which continued a trend of incredible pitcher movement between Memphis and St. Louis this season.
The Cardinals have used 23 different pitchers this season as injuries plagued the staff early in the season and ineffectiveness has crept in the past month or so, but the game of musical chairs is about to end, thank goodness.
Major League Baseball allows teams to expand their rosters from 25 players to 40 on Sept. 1, so manager Mike Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak will be able to keep all of the young pitchers they have brought up at different points during the season.
Wacha and Blazek might be in the minors now, but their stay will most likely last just a couple of days, which should be a familiar role for them now. Of the 11 rookie pitchers the Cardinals have used, only Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist have stayed with the team full time since they were first called up, or in Miller’s and Ronsethal’s case, when they made the team out of spring training.
The Cardinals use of the minor leagues has been dizzying in 2013. Matheny and Mozeliak have taken full advantage of the rules that allow roster movement.
When the team needed an emergency starter, Wacha, John Gast, Tyler Lyons and Carlos Martinez stepped in to fill the spot. When they needed a reliever, pitchers such as Blazek, Keith Butler, Seth Maness and Sam Freeman had stints of various lengths in the bullpen.
Often, those pitchers would pitch for Memphis and St. Louis multiple times in the same week.
Still, Matheny and Mozeliak deserve credit for their wild use of the minor league roster to supplement the big-league club. It might have been extremely confusing to try to track the incredible amount of moves the team has made, but it has been perhaps the largest factor outside of catcher Yadier Molina that has kept the team in contention for a playoff spot as September approaches.
And now the Cardinals will have all of those options available throughout the remainder of the season.
Yet at the same time, they still have several important decisions to make.
Each team has to restrict its roster back to 25 players for the playoffs, but those decisions have to be made Sept. 1, as well.
Given how the Cardinals have used their bullpen throughout the season, Siegrist, Rosenthal and Maness are locks to be with the team in postseason. The pitchers on the bubble figure to be Wacha, Blazek and Martinez.
The team sent Butler and Fernando Salas to the minors in July and neither has been much of an option anytime the big club has recently made one of its myriad of moves. They will likely fill the final spots in the bullpen for the next month, but October will probably be a different story.
But at least postseason rosters cannot change unless a player needs to be replaced because of injury. Teams can change their rosters between rounds but not during them.
In any case, the Cardinals pitching staff could probably travel the world with all of the frequent flyer miles it has racked up on the team accounts this season.