Spring Training 2013 was not supposed to be an exciting one for the St. Louis Cardinals. A team that had made very few offseason moves was primarily set for the upcoming season. Then, an injury to a veteran starter opened up a door.
The injury to Chris Carpenter might have opened up a door but the depth within the organization has kicked it wide open. The arms in camp are plentiful and it will result in someone finding themselves in Memphis waiting for their time to arrive.
Thursday was the showcase of that talent at a very real level. The day started with all of the focus on the starting rotation and young hurlers Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller bidding to be the fifth starter for the club. They both reached their pitch counts and there was more baseball to be played, so manager Mike Matheny opened the doors to the trophy case and gave the world a glimpse of the future in St. Louis.
The first arm behind Kelly and Miller was that of flame thrower Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal recently was removed from the three horse race for the final rotation spot but has found himself strongly entrenched in the major league bullpen. Matheny has been noted as saying that he can see using Rosenthal to help get closer Jason Motte some down time with full confidence. The young man has wowed the crowds in Florida this Spring with pitches over 100 miles per hour and great control. His breaking ball is sharp, his changeup is keeping guys off balance, and the heat is definitely there.
Once Rosenthal was done, however, there were two more innings left to play. The surprise of the Spring has been the emergence of young Michael Wacha as another power arm that is close to ready for prime time. Wacha would enter the game to pitch the final two innings and secure the win. The young man proved his continued worth and helped showcase the future of the Cardinals with two solid innings of relief.
The showcase of talent led to some clarity after the game, however. The Cardinals continued to trim their roster on Thursday with the official announcement coming Friday morning. Wacha, as expected, was sent to minor league camp and placed on the Triple-A roster. Joining him in Memphis will be reliever Eduardo Sanchez.
That adds yet another wrinkle to the competition in camp.
The question has remained the same: what happens to the starter that does not make the rotation? Generally speaking, my opinion has stood that if Kelly is the starter, Miller will be in Memphis to start the year. On the opposite side of the coin, if Miller was chosen to start, Kelly would most likely find himself in the St. Louis bullpen. The challenge to all of this is the emergence of a solid Spring showing for Fernando Salas. His four appearances this spring, which produced four innings, have been solid and have him laying claim to a bullpen spot this year.
As we enter the last few weeks of Spring Training, there are now three arms – Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Fernando Salas – for two spots. One will be the fifth starter. One will be in the bullpen. One will be in Memphis. The 2013 roster is shaping up with some interesting decisions.
The future beyond 2013 looks very, very bright.