Tag Archive | "Keith Butler"

St. Louis Cardinals should choose Jorge Rondon for final bullpen spot

Now that St. Louis Cardinals management has decided which pitcher it wants to begin the season in the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation, its focus can shift to a similar dilemma that exists for the last spot in the bullpen.

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Cardinals manager Mike Matheny announced Sunday that Joe Kelly would begin the season in the No. 5 spot in the rotation, while rookie Carlos Martinez would move back to the either-inning setup relief role he had at the end of the 2013 season and postseason.

The Cardinals decided to reward Kelly’s experience rather than Martinez’s stellar spring training numbers. Kelly has a 6.28 earned-run average in four starts, while Martinez posted a 1.76 ERA in his four starts.

Despite those contradictory numbers, the Cardinals made a sound decision to go with Kelly instead of Martinez.

Kelly has the experience of two Major League Baseball seasons where he showed the organization he could be a consistent contributor, given his 3.08 career ERA.

Plus, Martinez proved to be a dynamic setup reliever during the 2013 playoffs when he had 11 strikeouts in 12.2 innings during a run that ended in Game 6 of the World Series in a loss to the Boston Red Sox.

However, the Cardinals should make the opposite decision when they determine which pitcher will receive the last open spot in the bullpen.

Jorge Rondon, Keith Butler and Scott McGregor are the three candidates, and the two losers will likely begin the season with the Triple A Memphis Redbirds.

Butler is the pitcher with the most major-league experience. He pitched in 16 games with the Cardinals in 2013 and had an ERA of 4.08, with 11 walks and 16 strikeouts, but the team sent him back to the minors after he pitched Aug. 7 and he did not make the postseason roster.

McGregor and Rondon have never appeared in a big-league game, but Rondon has been far superior in spring training. McGregor has allowed three runs in four innings of work with two walks and two strikeouts. Rondon has yet to allow an earned run in 8.1 innings, and he has three walks compared to seven strikeouts.

Each of those three pitchers is in competition to likely be the right-handed option for the Cardinals in the seventh inning of games in which they have a lead.

That is certainly an important role, and the Cardinals would have nearly as complete of a roster as they ever have if the winner of this three-way battle excels once the regular season begins.

Rondon would figure to be in the lead to win the spot because he has shown the most potential, even though Butler has the most experience.

Rondon throws harder than Butler, but he too has struggled with his command during his seven years in the minor leagues, as he has racked up 230 walks compared to 338 strikeouts and had 37 walks to 42 strikeouts in 2013 at Memphis.

Still, Butler’s potential appears to be limited if he can’t locate his pitches because he does not have the electric action on his pitches that several of the Cardinals top young pitchers do, and McGregor has not done much with his limited opportunities.

The Cardinals need a middle reliever who can consistently throw strikes more than anything, and they might not need the winner of this battle for long anyway.

They already have groundball-specialist Seth Maness penciled into a bullpen spot, and former closer Jason Motte is on schedule to return to the big-league team in late April or early May, and he could take the spot of Rondon, McGregor or Butler because he has the experience and the ability to consistently throw strikes.

Still, the team needs a reliever to fill in during the meantime because the Mitchell Boggs disaster of April 2013 showed how important a reliever is even in the first few weeks of the season.

The Cardinals have a dynamic duo to finish games with Martinez and closer Trevor Rosenthal, but they’ll need someone to carry leads the starter gives them and hand them off for the eighth and ninth innings.

As of now, Rondon looks to be the man for that job.

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St. Louis Cardinals’ Bullpen Battle Takes Center Stage for Roster Decisions

The St. Louis Cardinals came to spring training with very few roster decisions to make.  Most of those decisions have been reached in the last few days.

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Kolten Wong appears to be the starting second baseman, Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos will share time in center field, Joe Kelly will be the fifth starter, Carlos Martinez will serve as the eighth-inning reliever and Pat Neshek has seemingly made the club.  That leaves only one decision to be made: Which pitcher will join the bullpen as the seventh reliever?

The competition comes down to three young hopefuls: Jorge Rondon, Scott McGregor and Keith Butler.  Those three arms head into the final week of spring training hoping to win a spot on the roster of players heading north to Cincinnati for Opening Day.

Butler is the known commodity of the group, having pitched 20 innings over 16 games for the Cardinals in 2013.  His performance was far from dominant, walking 11 hitters while striking out 16, but it is enough to earn him consideration yet again.

His spring performance does not look that great either, having thrown just over eight innings and surrendering eight runs.  His five walks this spring may raise a flag concerning control.  His minor league stats from 2013 do not seem to suggest it is a long term problem, as he only walked 11 hitters over 41 innings.

Rondon is another in the long line of power arms the Cardinals seem to be able to produce from their farm system.  The difference with him is that he may not have full control over the lively stuff he pushes across the plate.  He has only walked three hitters this spring while striking out seven.

Perhaps most telling is the fact that Rondon has yet to surrender a run.  Rondon did pitch in Memphis last season and did well despite the control issues he faced.  In just under 68 innings, he walked 37 hitters while striking out 42.  He may need a little more time in the minors to prove he has his control settled before making the team.

Manager Mike Matheny shared his thoughts on Rondon with Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

With Rondon, you’re looking at stuff and someone who has improved.  We gave him a task of pounding the strike zone and simplifying his approach. He’s done well and seen some results.

The long shot of the group is McGregor, who is a non-roster invitee to camp.  His four innings over three games this spring have yielded three runs, two walks and a pair of strikeouts.  McGregor spent 2013 as a starter in the Cardinals’ minor leagues and is seemingly being looked at as a long relief option.

While he struggles for consistency as well as playing time, his placement on the team would also require a subsequent roster move to make room on the 40-man.

Rondon and McGregor may have taken advantage of the situation to get their names in the minds of those in charge.  Unfortunately, it may come down to experience and the product Matheny already knows.

The final relief position likely belongs to Butler unless something goes horribly wrong.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.

Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season.

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St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff roulette about to mercifully end

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.

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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.

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St. Louis Cardinals will go as far as young players take them

The St. Louis Cardinals called up their latest, greatest prospect Friday when they brought second baseman Kolten Wong to the major leagues. That move, combined with another poor outing from 35-year-old starting pitching Jake Westbrook, signaled just how important the young Cardinals will be in the final six weeks of the 2013 regular season.

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Young players have been a vital part of the Cardinals success that had them in a wild-card position as of Friday. First-year players from Matt Adams to Carlos Martinez to Seth Maness to Michael Wacha to Kevin Siegrist and even Tyler Lyons have kept the Cardinals afloat during both good and bad times this season.

When Westbrook and fellow starter Jaime Garcia went on the disabled list in May, rookies Lyons and John Gast came up to fill their spots, and they performed admirably. Lyons won his first two starts before faltering in June. Gast also won his first two starts but injured his left shoulder in his third start and recently underwent surgery for repairs.

The Cardinals bullpen got off to a horrendous start with projected closer Jason Motte out for the season with an elbow injury, Mitchell Boggs struggling to a 12.66 earned-run average through May 2 as he tried to be the closer and lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski pitching only slightly better with a 7.88 ERA, although he was demoted to Triple-A Memphis at the end of April.

With the bullpen in disarray, Martinez, Maness, Siegrist, Keith Butler and Michael Blazek all came to the big leagues and provided stability. Some were terrific (Maness has allowed just 11 runs in 45.2 innings and Siegrist has allowed two in 23 innings pitched) but more importantly, none got torched. Blazek has the worst ERA of the group, at 8.13, but he held opponents scoreless in six of his first eight appearances.

Offensively, Adams has provided ample support at first base when right fielder Carlos Beltran needs a rest and regular first baseman Allen Craig has to play the outfield. Adams has hit nine home runs with a .277 batting average.

But all of those young players, and now others such as left-handed rookie reliever Sam Freeman who was called up Aug. 8, will have to keep playing at that same level, if not higher, if the Cardinals are going to maintain a playoff spot or more optimistically compete for the National League Central Division crown.

By and large, the Cardinals established veterans have been consistent throughout the season. Catcher Yadier Molina has been rock solid behind the plate and is among the league leaders with a .325 batting average. Second baseman Matt Carpenter isn’t far behind with a .315 average, Beltran leads the team with 20 home runs and left fielder Matt Holliday is hitting his typical .291 with 15 homers.

Those players will likely continue to produce as they have through the first three-quarters of the season. Third baseman David Freese and center fielder Jon Jay will still hit about .270 with rare flashes of power, and shortstop Pete Kozma will struggle to raise his average above .230.

So, that leaves any variables to young players such as Wong and the rookie pitchers. The Cardinals still have enough time to blast away from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds in the division race if the new major leaguers play superbly, or they could fall into another tight race just to make the playoffs if those same players falter in what’s left of August and September.

Molina, Beltran and starting pitcher Adam Wainwright might be some of the well-known faces of the organization, but it will likely be the newcomers who determine how long the Cardinals’ 2013 season lasts.

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The Shelby Miller Conundrum In St. Louis

The St. Louis Cardinals should seriously consider whether they should ever host another “Star Wars Night” at the ballpark after the results on August 7th.

ShelbyMillerHurt

They lost the game.  They almost lost another pitcher.  Another pitcher stepped in on short notice and the rotation is now in shambles.  The Force was not strong with this one.

Read more about Star Wars Night and which Cardinals match up with Star Wars characters over at CardsConclave.

The conundrum now comes due to the fact that the Cardinals dodged a bullet.  It now appears that Shelby Miller, after taking a line drive off his pitching elbow on the second pitch of the game, will not be headed to the disabled list and may not even miss a scheduled start.  That’s good news.

But it leaves the team in a pinch.

The Cardinals promoted Carlos Martinez to make the start tonight in place of Jake Westbrook, who admirably took over the game from Miller yesterday.  They have also promoted Sam Freeman while sending Brock Peterson and Keith Butler.  The potential problems break down with the following scenarios:

Scenario 1 – Miller heads to the disabled list

Should the Cardinals decide that Shelby would benefit from a 15-day disabled list visit, the team is in pretty good shape.  Martinez would stay and assume Miller’s rotation spot and Peterson could be recalled immediately without having to wait for the 10-game window of time to pass.  Players sent to the minor leagues have to remain there for 10 days unless they are promoted to assume the roster spot of a player going to the disabled list.

In this scenario, the team would only work with a short bench for a day or two and not be concerned with the need for the extra arm in the bullpen.

Scenario 2 – Miller is fine, does not miss a start

It is strange to say that this may be the hardest scenario for the team.  Due to the lack of a long-reliever on the team, they effectively burnt two starters, Miller and Westbrook, in last night’s game.  Martinez will make the start tonight but then be unavailable for five days.  The team would, most likely, send Martinez back to the minors for a relief pitcher after his start in this scenario.  The problem is, since no one is going on the disabled list, the options for relievers become a bit more limited.  A short bench is one thing but a short bench and a short bullpen is another.

The Cardinals are starting to test their depth in pitching this season, which I covered in today’s piece for Yahoo! Sports.

It may be time for John Mozeliak to see what is available on the trade market and be willing to deal a prospect or two.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
He is a freelance writer that publishes work for InsideStl and Yahoo Contributor Network as well.
Follow him on Twitter.

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St. Louis Cardinals maintain long-term focus with limited deadline deals

The St. Louis Cardinals moved two pitchers during this season’s non-waiver trading period, but neither were one of the team’s vast supply of pitching prospects that could be the foundation of the team for much of the next decade.

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General manager John Mozeliak traded relievers Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski for international signing money and a minor league position player, but he kept everybody else.

Sure, the Cardinals could have improved at shortstop, rumors leading up to the July 31 deadline had them linked to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim shortstop Erick Aybar, or they could have got a starting pitcher such as Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox or Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies. They even could’ve gone after a catcher with Yadier Molina on the disabled list.

But all of those options would have been short-term fixes that could have helped the team win the World Series this season since the Cardinals will likely enter the playoffs with an extremely young team, particularly on the pitching side, but those moves would have also mortgaged the team’s equally as bright future.

The Cardinals have a treasure trove full of young pitchers that includes Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Michael Blazek, Keith Butler, Kevin Siegrist, Tyler Lyons, Seth Maness and John Gast, not to mention injured closer Jason Motte, who closed out the 2011 World Series but is just 26 years old.

That group could be an entire big-league pitching staff in itself if everyone stays healthy and continues to progress as they have thus far through the minor leagues, and for many, their first season in the majors.

Those 12 pitchers, excluding Motte, had made a combined 209 appearances up until the trading deadline and were a large part of a staff that has the fourth-best earned-run average at 3.42. The Cardinals have possibly never had that kind of young talent in their system at one time.

But, that youth also leaves a distinct possibility for problems in the immediate future. Yes, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook are veterans with great leadership skills who are vital to the development of the young pitchers, but mentorship only goes so far in terms of wins and losses in October.

Most of this young pitching corps has never experienced postseason play and just recently got a taste of high-leverage games on the current road trip through Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Unfortunately, they went 1-7 in the first two stops before they won two of three over Cincinnati.

Maybe those intense games will give the young players experience that will benefit them in the playoffs, but then again, postseason games are yet another notch higher on the intensity and pressure dials.

Still, Mozeliak made the correct decisions at the trade deadline even if the Cardinals lose in the wild card game or are knocked out in the first playoff series. Trading some of the team’s young talent might have helped this season, but keeping it has greatly enhanced the chances the Cardinals will go deep in the playoffs for the next several years.

Yes, it might hurt if one of the young pitchers gives up a back-breaking home run or young position players Pete Kozma, Matt Carpenter or Matt Adams make a crucial error that ends the team’s 2013 season, but sometimes wisdom isn’t revealed until years later.

Mozeliak might have just set the Cardinals up as a potential powerhouse team for years to come by saying, “No,” to trade offers and setting down the phone.

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Fernando Salas could be St. Louis Cardinals most important reliever in late-July

St. Louis Cardinals right-handed reliever Fernando Salas returned to the team Friday to start the second half of the regular season after a 56-day stint on the disabled list.  The results of his first outing weren’t pretty but the Cardinals need Salas to pitch well possibly more than any pitcher in their bullpen.

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Salas allowed a run on two hits and a walk in the eighth inning Friday in a 9-6 win over the San Diego Padres in his first appearance since he went on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation May 22 after the Cardinals finished a three-game series against the Padres in San Diego.

Up to that point, Salas had plenty of less-than-stellar performances. He took a 3.86 earned-run average to the disabled list with him, and that was his lowest ERA of the season. He allowed runs in three of his first four outings but then settled down to become positive part of the bullpen.

He needs to pitch to that form to help the Cardinals in the second half of the season, but he could also be a valuable trade chip if he pitches well in the next two weeks.

The Cardinals had the best record in the Major League Baseball at 58-36 heading into play Saturday but still have room to make some improvements. They could use another starter or a shortstop, but any team on the other end of the deal is almost certainly going to ask the Cardinals to part with one of their dominant, young pitchers.

Whether it’s Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, Michael Blazek, Michael Wacha or Keith Butler, the Cardinals have an incredible stockpile of pitching talent in their organization that could keep the team competitive for years to come, or the Cardinals could use it for short-term gains that could be the difference in a run toward the 2013 World Series championship.

The Cardinals would likely have to part with at least one of those afore-mentioned pitchers to complete a trade for a top-tier player such as Philadelphia Phillies left-handed starter Cliff Lee or Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubel Cabrera, but Salas might provide enough value to lessen the load of young pitchers the Cardinals would have to give up in a trade.

Although Salas has been a valuable part of the Cardinals bullpen for the past three seasons, he does not have the potential of nearly all of the Cardinals rookies who could be the core of one of baseball’s best pitching staffs since the Phillies loaded their rotation with Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

And the Cardinals group would have youth on their side. None of the six rookie pitchers are older than 24 years old. Right-handed starter Shelby Miller is just 22 years old, but he and 23-year-old right-handed reliever Trevor Rosenthal have made so much of a positive impact already the Cardinals would be very unlikely to make either available in a trade.

Salas is 28 years old and hasn’t ever shown the dominant stuff many of his younger teammates bring into a game on a regular basis, but he has been a solid reliever for the Cardinals throughout his career and even saved 24 games in the 2011 season that ended with a World Series title.

But it was Jason Motte who closed out games in the World Series, the postseason and much of the final month of the season when the Cardinals made their remarkable comeback from 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the wild-card spot with about six weeks to play.

What was true then is true now. Salas pitches well more often than not, but the Cardinals have more talented pitchers around him. And that makes him expendable.

The big question is if any team would find Salas to be a quality piece to a trade. He almost certainly isn’t valuable enough to warrant a one-for-one trade. The Cardinals would probably have to add him into a trade with one of the other young pitchers.

Whether or not they decide to make that type of move will be one of the most intriguing storylines of the next 10 days.

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St. Louis Cardinals give nod to future by sending Michael Wacha back to minors

Major League Baseball teams typically generate significant interest in which minor-league player they are about to bring up to the big leagues, but the St. Louis Cardinals had similar intrigue related to which player they sent down to the minor leagues Friday.

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So goes life as the best team in the game.

Right-handed starter Jake Westbrook returned from the disabled list Friday to go five innings while allowing three earned runs to the Miami Marlins in a 5-4 loss, but his return forced the Cardinals to send one of their rookie starters back to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.

Left-handed starter Tyler Lyons and right-handed starter Michael Wacha were the two pitchers on the bubble, along with right-handed reliever Keith Butler, and the Cardinals decided to send the Wacha back to Memphis while the Lyons remained with the team and will start Sunday against the Marlins.

The move was somewhat surprising since Cardinals management had previously said the 21-year-old phenom would not be a player they wanted to shuffle between Memphis and St. Louis and that he would be in the big leagues for good once he first came up.

Wacha even proclaimed, “I’m here to stay,” when he first arrived at Busch Stadium after the Cardinals called him up to start May 30 against the Kansas City Royals.

But reality intersected everybody’s dreams. The Cardinals brought Wacha to the majors before they really wanted to after starters Westbrook, Jaime Garcia and John Gast all suffered injuries in May, and he then didn’t excel as much as people expected/hoped.

Wacha pitched great in his first start, striking out six while allowing one run on two hits in seven innings against the Royals, but in every other start he looked more similar to a 21-year-old rookie who was barely a full year removed from college.

He gave up six runs on 10 hits in 4.2 innings June 4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks and allowed two runs in the first inning Wednesday against the New York Mets before settling in for six innings to get his first career victory as the Cardinals won 9-2.

Lyons, meanwhile, won his first two career starts, giving up one run in each, and then lost his next two as he allowed four runs each to two 2012 playoff teams, the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds.

However, Lyons doesn’t career the immense Wacha-type expectations with him. Lyons throws in the low-90s rather than Wacha’s 97 mph fastball, and he doesn’t have Wacha’s devastating change-up. Lyons was drafted in the ninth round of the 2010 MLB draft while the Cardinals took Wacha 19th overall in the 2012 draft.

All of that means Wacha is a prized prospect, and Lyons is just another pitcher the team hopes will contribute solid innings for years, rather than a top-of-the-rotation ace.

So the top-rated prospect went back to the minors to continue to develop. The Cardinals have a lot of pitching depth, but no team can afford to mess up the development of its first-round picks, and Wacha ran into some obstacles in two of his three starts.

Perhaps those experiences will benefit him in the long run. He now knows what to expect at the big-league level, but the Cardinals have also seen the ugly side of rushing prospects to the majors as much as any team when Rick Ankiel exploded with five wild pitches against the Atlanta Braves in the 2000 playoffs as a 20-year-old.

Ankiel, of course, ran into numerous other issues that ultimately derailed his pitching career, but he remains the prime example of what can happen when rushing a player to the big leagues goes bad.

The Cardinals also have plenty of cushion right now. They have the best record in baseball and plenty of other lesser prospects that can fill temporary voids.

Lyons could certainly develop into a solid pitcher who has a long career with the Cardinals, but the team has pinned its long-term hopes to Wacha.

Although Wacha wasn’t “here to stay,” he will be soon enough.

The restraint the Cardinals show in pushing Wacha now will pay off in the future, and that’s why he was the correct choice to send to the minors to open a spot for Westbrook.

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Jake Westbrook’s return should end rapid changes to St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff

The St. Louis Cardinals have established the best record in Major League Baseball through nearly one-third of the regular season and have thrived despite a series of injury obstacles that forced the team to mix and match its pitching staff together.

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But the steady stream of players headed back and forth to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds should soon subside when right-handed starter Jake Westbrook makes his return to the team Friday against the Miami Marlins.

Westbrook was one of the players who helped start a wild month of roster movement when he went on the disabled list May 12 with right elbow inflammation. He was 2-1 with a 1.62 earned-run average at the time and part of the best starting rotation in the game.

His injury created an opening for rookie left-handed pitcher John Gast to make his big-league debut, and the left-handed starter Jaime Garcia suffered a shoulder injury later that week, which created a spot for another left-handed rookie, Tyler Lyons.

Gast and Lyons were part of a large group of minor-league pitchers the Cardinals called up in May and early June as the team tried to fill in a bunch of spots just to have a full set of pitchers on its roster.

The Cardinals sent Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski to the minors at the end of April because they pitched terribly, and Fernando Salas went down with an injury May 22. Those moves created opportunities for Seth Maness and Carlos Martinez to work out of the bullpen.

After various other issues, including an injury to Gast and another failed outing from Boggs, Keith Butler, Michael Wacha, Victor Marte, Mikael Cleto and Kevin Siegrist all found themselves on the Cardinals’ active roster. Michael Blazek even spent a few days in the bullpen but never entered a game before the team sent him back to Memphis.

That’s quite a bit of movement. The Cardinals have already had 21 different pitchers make an appearance this season, including nine rookies. Both numbers are the most in baseball.

The Cardinals have gotten great production from the young pitchers they’ve called up this season, but the team has still been at least one good pitcher short the whole time.

Marte and Cleto combined for a 12.65 ERA in their five appearances, but they had to fill innings because the team didn’t have any other options. Joe Kelly, who has spent the season in the bullpen, also had to make a start June 5 against the Arizona Diamondbacks because the team was out of starters after rain created a doubleheader June 1 against the San Francisco Giants.

So now Westbrook, the man who helped start all of that movement, will return, and that should slow the incredible turnover the pitcher staff has experienced in the first two-and-a-half months of the season.

Westbrook pitched well Sunday for the Single-A Peoria Chiefs. He allowed one run on four hits while inducing 14 groundballs through seven innings.

Now, although there is pressure involved in returning to his spot in the rotation, Westbrook doesn’t have to worry about coming back and trying to lift a team that faltered in his absence. More than anything, he just needs to pitch as he had to begin the season and in Sunday’s rehab start. The other parts of the team will likely take care of the rest.

With the best-hitting lineup in the National League and a defense that has committed the fewest errors in the game, a more complete starting rotation should keep the Cardinals on the incredible pace they’ve set while dealing with all of the pitching issues.

The best team in baseball might soon be even better.

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Springfield Cardinals Named Team of the Year

Springfield Cardinals Named Team of the Year
Baseball America Tabs Springfield as Top Minor League Team in 2012

November 30th, 2012

Springfield, MO – The Springfield Cardinals have been named by Baseball America as the Minor League Team of the Year in 2012.

Springfield captured their first Texas League Crown by defeating the Tulsa Drillers in the North Division Finals in five games before besting the Frisco RoughRiders in four games.

The St. Louis Cardinals Double-A Affiliate was littered with talent including seven of the Top 30 prospects according Baseball America and Texas League Player of the Year, Oscar Taveras. The 20-year-old outfielder was the first Springfield player to lead the league in batting average (.321), doubles (37), extra-base hits (67) and total bases (273) while finishing in the top five in home runs (23), RBI (93), runs scored (83), triples (7) and slugging percentage (.572).

The Cardinals boasted five Post-Season All-Stars including Taveras, second baseman Kolten Wong, and pitchers Trevor Rosenthal, Keith Butler and Seth Maness.

“We are honored to be named the 2012 Team of the Year by Baseball America,” Vice President and General Manager Matt Gifford said. “This is a tremendous honor for arguably one of the best teams in Springfield Cardinals history. It’s a tribute to player development and the coaching staff for putting together a great club and to the players for their hard work throughout a long season.”

First year Double-A Manager Mike Shildt guided the Cardinals to a 35-35 record in the first half before the team hit their stride in the second half, winning the North Division Second Half crown with a 42-26 record. Overall, Springfield finished a franchise best 77-61, the best record in the North and third best record in the league. For Shildt, the 2012 title was his third straight after capturing back to back Appalachian League titles in 2010 and 2011 with Johnson City.

Springfield will open up the 2013 season on the road in Corpus Christi April 4th before returning home to Hammons Field April 11th for a six-game homestand against the Hooks and San Antonio Missions.  Season Ticket Packages are on sale now. Please call (417) 863-0395 or visit www.springfieldcardinals.com for more details on how you can become a season ticket holder.

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