Could it be Rick Ankiel all over again? All the writing is on the wall. A promising, young, lefthander expected to one day man the Cardinals rotation. It certainly looks as though Mark Mulder is bringing Cardinals fans a little déjà vu.
Coming into this season, Mulder was the leader in wins since 2001 among active pitchers. He was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for some other young talented arms, but it hasn’t panned out the way general manager Walt Jocketty thought it would. It didn’t start bad though; Mulder finished 16-8 last year for the Cardinals and started 5-1 this season. But somewhere along the lines, he developed a shoulder impingement and things haven’t been right since.
Mulder is 1-6 in his last eight starts. He was put on the disabled list and optioned to the minor leagues June 21, after giving up 10 hits and nine runs in 2.1 innings against the White Sox the night before. Mulder spent more than two months out of the majors before making another start Aug 23. Three rehab starts later, Mulder was back in the majors, this time against a powerful Mets lineup. New York tattooed just about every Mulder strike, pounding him for nine runs on nine hits in three innings. In his last 10 starts, Mulder has given up 51 earned runs in 46.2 innings for a 9.84 ERA.
He made another start Tuesday against the Marlins. It was his second appearance since returning from the disabled list. Nothing really changed. Florida punished Mulder much the same way Chicago and New York did previously. Mulder only lasted 1.2 innings – his shortest this season – giving up six hits, five earned runs and walking three batters. The Cardinals subsequently lost the game 9-1.
Manager Tony LaRussa was hoping Mulder could give the team another reliable arm going into the stretch run for the pennant, but has since rescinded those thoughts. LaRussa is now faced with the decision of who to add in Mulder’s place. Red Sox left hander David Wells has been thrown around as a possibility. Wells is 2-3 this season with a 4.98 ERA, so how much of an improvement that would be isn’t known. Rookie Anthony Reyes has been decent this year for the Redbirds. He doesn’t have any postseason experience, but you have to start somewhere. Dontrelle Willis and Josh Beckett didn’t have any World Series experience when they were crowned World Champions in 2003. Beckett was even named Series MVP.
The southpaw is expected to undergo a MRI today before taking whatever steps necessary to fix the problem. Mulder claims he isn’t in any pain; rather he just has difficulty keeping proper pitching mechanics. All LaRussa can hope for is that the injury is fixable and not mental like was the case with Ankiel.