It’s a problem every MLB manager would like to have. Five spots in the starting rotation. Eight pitchers all willing and capable of filling the role as starter. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny will begin the process of finding those five to fill out the rotation when spring training games begin on the 28th.
22-year old Carlos Martinez will start the first game of the spring, followed by 25-year old lefty Tyler Lyons. Both will be battling for a starting job. What amazes me is there are no aging veterans in this camp. With the exception of their ace Adam Wainwright, who at 31 is really just hitting his prime, the other seven candidates are between the ages of 22 and 27.
A breakdown of the eight candidates.
Adam Wainwright–Since 2009, Wainwright has averaged 33 starts and 18 wins in four of those five seasons. He missed all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery rehab. He’s finished runner-up twice in the Cy Young Award voting.
Lance Lynn–In his last two seasons, he’s gone 18-7 and 15-10 as a starter. He has started quickly in each of those two season, before stumbling a bit in the second half. He figures to be in the rotation. He’d have to pitch his way out of the rotation this spring.
Jaime Garcia–Garcia is looking to regain his health that led him to back-to-back 13 win seasons in ’10 and ’11, but over the last two seasons has managed just 12 wins as he has dealt with shoulder and elbow issues. All signs say Garcia is healthy coming into camp and with at least two more years on his contract that will pay him $17 million over the next two years, the Cardinals will be forced to push Garcia in that rotation.
Michael Wacha–Wacha went 8-2 over the regular and post season. I still think he needs to refine his changeup a little bit more and a third pitch will continue his dominance. Mix in those pitches with a lively fastball that he can spot, there is no reason to believe he shouldn’t be one of the starting pitchers this season. Early spring struggles could place Wacha at Triple-A, but that’s a long shot.
Shelby Miller–Miller was never given a reason why the 15 game winner, who made 33 starts during the regular season, was used once in a mop up role during the playoffs? During the Cardinals Winter Warm Up he was unable to offer up an explanation as to why he didn’t pitch. With a year under his belt, unless he’s in Matheny’s doghouse, he should be in the rotation.
Others to consider. Joe Kelly has started 31 games while making 61 appearances over his last two seasons. This is a kid I see starting in the bullpen in middle relief and an arm that Matheny can go to in emergency situations for spot starts. Tyler Lyons is another pitcher who wants a shot to start. What helps is that he’s left-handed. If Garcia struggles or has health issues, a good spring could leave Lyons at Matheny’s first choice for a long stint in the rotation. Carlos Martinez is the most interesting pitcher out of the group. He’s got the physical tools…a high blazing fastball and good slider that can get hitters out. He struck out 24 in 28.1 innings last season. He’s got the mental makeup, coming out of the pen in the eighth inning during the postseason. Is there room in the rotation this season? That’s the big question. The 22-year old’s time will come, it just may not be this season.