By Josh Mosley
It’s Final Four weekend, which means the start to baseball season is not too far in the future. Actually, it’s tomorrow. Sue me if I wasn’t exact on times, dates and other particulars that humans have grown accustomed to. Anyway, the prognosis on the Cardinals coming out of spring training has been fair with a twinge of hopeful. Depending on who you talk to, this team is just as likely to make a run for the division as they are to finish in the middle of the pack, thus prompting the yearly question of whether or not “Tonic” Tony is on his way out and just why Mozeliak refuses to pony up the dough for a significant move that doesn’t involve rook takes bishop two.
In light of that, let’s give a preview of the 2009 Cardinals starting with that mercurial crew of flunkies known as the pitching staff.
Chris Carpenter: From 2004 to 2006, Chris Carpenter was the equivalent of friend with benefits. Whenever he got the call in the rotation, he was there to stop by and do whatever you needed. Need a complete game? You got it from him. Need just seven scoreless? Call up Carp. A rub and tug? God, I hope not but you got the idea. The guy was 51-18 in those seasons with an ERA of 3.12. Since then, he hasn’t won any of his four starts in an injury plagued 2007/2008. This spring, he has a 1.52 ERA in six starts and have all eyes on him, as well as his reconstructed elbow, for much of 2009.
Kyle Lohse: If Carp was the Cards version of a friend with benefits, I’d like to refer to Lohse as St. Louis’ own little unplanned pregnancy. He was unexpected but a pleasant surprise nonetheless. He split 2007 between the Phillies and the Reds, going 9-12 with a 4.63 ERA. So you can count me among the many who asked why in the blue fuck Mozeliak even went after this guy. 15 wins and six losses later, I’m okay with him. Can he follow it up and be the calming force from the two spot in the rotation? Well we’ll have to see now won’t we?
Joel Piniero: Piniero is your opening day starter, most likely by default. He wasn’t bad in 2008, if you go by the San Diego Chargers method of making the playoffs. He, like the Chargers, was right at .500 with a robust ERA of 5.15. But that was with most of the quality innings falling on the shoulders of he, Lohse and Adam Wainwright. Piniero can’t be the number one option for this staff this year, so maybe better results can happen if he can slip into a complimentary role in the rotation.
Adam Wainwright: Not sure how I went this long and didn’t mention this guy but you live and you learn. After showing some Bill Rafferty-esque onion in the ’06 playoffs as he closed out the NLCS and the World Series, Wainwright made the transition to the starting rotation out of necessity with Carpenter and Mark Mulder taking up permanent residence on the trainers table. He finished ’08 at 11-3 and probably would have racked up more stats if he hadn’t gone on the DL in early June. Wherever Waino (not a fan of that nickname) may end up on the rotation, give him another full season and a little more knowledge and it’ll be interesting to see where his development ends up. Hopefully not Arrested. Haha…I do love the Bluth family.
Kyle McClellan/Todd Wellemayer/Esteban D. Jabroni: Esteban doesn’t exist but it’s to show you how up in the air the fifth starting spot is. McClellan had the inside track as recently as the middle of last week but La Russa and Dave Duncan are having mixed emotions about it. Wellemayer has an ERA of over seven in five starts this spring but, as we have seen, the spring is not much to get about. Glad I’m not a pitching coach for that team. It’s like being pulled between living in downtown St. Louis and downtown Detroit- you could get shot either way.
Jason Motte: Let’s call Motte, and subsequent relievers, reasons to make me forget Jason Isringhausen (who was known as “reason I drink heavily” from 2005-2008). Motte appeared in 12 games last year, racking up one save and four holds. It was between him and Chris Perez for the closers spot this spring and the knee jerk reaction was to go with Motte. It could change, though. No scratch that, it probably WILL change just a matter of when and why. This is La Russa we’re talking about.
Chris Perez: Three wins and seven saves last year had Perez in the discussion to replace the aforementioned Isringhausen. I guess it came down to who screwed up last between him and Motte, so Perez will most likely serve as a set up man/part-time starter until La Russa gets bored and messes with the lineup rather than get a new haircut and enter the 21st century.
Dennys Reyes: After spending the past three seasons in Minnesota, Reyes signed with the Cardinals in the winter to bolster bullpen. He hasn’t racked up saves at the pace of a K Rod so Reyes, in his 13th season, will likely be another set up option for the Cardinals in the late innings. More times than not the Cardinals didn’t have a problem getting to the 9th with a lead, but rather keeping that lead. So for all intents and purposes, Reyes isn’t your save guy but if he is on a roll in the eighth and into the ninth, leave the rock in his hand.
Aside from these guys, the pen is really in free-for-all mode as arms will band together on a nightly basis in an attempt to not let the division get out of hand. Here’s hoping these guys can keep me off the hooch. Check back later for the position players.