On Your Mark, Get Set….

For lack of a better term, the Cardinals finally get started on the second “half” of the season this evening.  Of course, St. Louis has already played 93 games, but hopefully that means they really are about at the halfway point of the baseball that they are going to play.  After all, if they do it right they could win the World Series with 12 extra games!

The All-Star Break is necessary for the players and I understand why a couple of years ago they stopped scheduling games on the Thursday after the ASG, but the last two days especially (and, to some degree, the last four) have given us a preview of the long winter ahead, without the side benefits of colder weather and holidays to distract us.

It’s been like the offseason in another fashion as well–there’s not a lot of news made when the players are scattered.  Sure, we had Chris Carpenter‘s first rehab start, which helped.  Carpenter will be in Memphis tomorrow night and will be looking for better results, even though his time in Springfield was overall positive.  Carp’s pitch count should be higher and hopefully he can get through four or five innings with relative ease.  The results aren’t what people are focusing on right now, of course, but they’ve got to come sooner or later.

No matter what happens, though, John Mozeliak says that he won’t affect the trade deadline calculus.  Which is really not what I was expecting to hear, honestly.  I mean, if you go out and get a starter, you aren’t replacing that new guy in the rotation with Carpenter but, on the other hand, if Carp proves that he can be a starter, you have to get him in there.  You wonder if the Cards did get a starting pitcher, something that folks are saying they should do, if that would allow Carpenter to come in and let the young guys rest.  Maybe a tag team effort or a modified six man rotation.  If Carpenter can go, he’s going to go.  That’s a given.  How he’ll go is still up in the air.

Who that veteran arm might be is still unclear.  While I never thought the Cards were going to be in the Matt Garza race, latest word is that he’s almost a Texas Ranger.  (You’d think they’d be a little cautious, given how last year’s deal with the Cubs worked out.)  There’s no doubt that Mo has pulled trades out of thin air before–nobody saw the big 2011 deal coming–and I think he’s going to have to do the same this year.  What’s on the actual market seems underwhelming at just about every place St. Louis has a need.

In other rotation news, Shelby Miller is going to get some rest down the stretch–no more complete games from him–but he’ll be in the rotation.  That’s not too surprising, I don’t think.  Shifting people from the rotation to the bullpen and back can cause some confusion or mess with developing players.

Of course, that’s exactly the situation Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez are in, so it’s not like it’s one that the Redbirds won’t do.  According to Mike Matheny, they’ll figure out by this weekend what they want to do with Martinez, whether to start him here or Memphis or give him a defined bullpen role.  I half-expect that they’ll use him in the bullpen for a week, then let him get the start in one of the Pittsburgh doubleheader games.  Could easily just send him down soon and pull up Michael Wacha for that game, though.

Or it’s possible that Kelly won’t be around much longer.  As much as we love him, his versatility and rotation experience has to be one of Mo’s trading chips.  There are just too many arms in the organization.  I mean, without trades (and assuming you resign Carp for a one-year deal after this year), almost two full rotations could be ready for next year.

Rotation A: Adam Wainwright, Miller, Carpenter, Lance Lynn, Martinez
Rotation B: Wacha, Kelly, Jaime Garcia, Tyler Lyons

Granted, you don’t know when Garcia will be ready and some of those arms are more tenuous for a full-season rotation slot than others (and that’s assuming you don’t try to move Trevor Rosenthal back to his normal starting gig, which would be reasonable, as he’s more likely to move to closer instead), but there are a number of arms there and that’s not counting people that could make an impact like Boone Whiting or Zach Petrick or Marco Gonzales in a year or two.  Mozeliak is going to be busy this winter, but he could use Kelly as a part of any deal now without dipping too far into the Cardinal depth.

Mo’s publicly saying any deal would be a minor one.  That makes sense and is probably what will happen.  I’m about 75% sure there won’t be any deal at all, that they’ll ride with what they have and the depth they have, but something could fall in their laps in the next couple of weeks.

What they won’t be needing, apparently, is someone to cover left field for an extended period of time.  Matt Holliday very well may be in the lineup tonight, depending on the results of him running full-speed this afternoon are.  Holliday, who spent the All-Star Break resting up and getting treatment, likely won’t be out more than another game or two if he doesn’t get to play this evening.  Hopefully the week-plus of rest not only has healed up the hamstring but also given him a second wind.  A Holliday on the upside of one of his famous streaks would do a lot to get the Cardinals some breathing room in the NL Central.

For once, the Cardinals are leading the race instead of chasing an elusive wild-card slot down.  They hope to continuing pacing the NL Central (as well as baseball) and that begins tonight with the Padres in town.  I assume that Matheny has plotted out the rotation for an extended period of time (if not the rest of the year) and there’s a reason he’s not using a fully rested Wainwright until Sunday.  It would seem that starting him tonight would be your best chance to get an extra start out of him down the line, but it may be that it puts Wainwright in a position to be available late in the season.  I’ve gotta figure there’s something to that, because I noticed other aces like Felix Hernandez (who, unlike Waino, pitched in the ASG) are going Sunday as well.

Instead, the Cards turn to Jake Westbrook to start their drive.  I remember seeing Westbrook against the Padres in September of 2010 with my now-Conclave partners Nick and Mike, soon after he had come over from Cleveland.  He pitched a great game that night and hopefully he can do the same this evening.  He missed facing the Padres out in San Diego earlier this season.

Mark Kotsay 34 27 9 1 0 2 9 5 2 .333 .424 .593 1.017 1 1 1 0
Carlos Quentin 17 14 2 1 0 0 2 0 2 .143 .235 .214 .450 0 1 0 2
Chase Headley 6 6 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0
Will Venable 6 5 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 .400 .500 .400 .900 0 0 0 0
Nick Hundley 2 2 2 0 1 0 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0
Tim Stauffer 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Edinson Volquez 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 69 58 18 2 1 2 15 6 9 .310 .382 .483 .865 1 2 1 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/19/2013.

The Pads have been able to get to Westbrook, but he’s been pretty dominant at home this season.  San Diego has been scuffling and maybe that will continue tonight.

On the flip side, Jason Marquis, the former Cardinal, goes for the visitors.  Marquis did a pretty good number on the Cards out in San Diego, going six inning and allowing just two runs (only one earned).  It wasn’t a perfect outing by any means–he walked more than he struck out–but he got a lot of ground balls, which he does when he’s on.  Whether he’ll be on tonight is what we’ll have to worry about.

Carlos Beltran 30 27 7 1 0 1 3 3 6 .259 .333 .407 .741 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 25 23 5 0 0 2 3 1 5 .217 .280 .478 .758 0 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 17 16 4 1 0 1 2 1 1 .250 .294 .500 .794 0 0 0 0
Rob Johnson 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0
Shelby Miller 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 88 80 17 2 0 4 8 7 16 .213 .284 .388 .672 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/19/2013.

Not much in that chart to be excited about, is there?  I’d say that Holliday might just want to take another day of rest, but he’s the one with the most long balls against Marquis.

It’s one of those games where you hope the grounds crew has cleared out all the worms, because there’s a good chance it’d be a slaughter of them otherwise.  No matter what, baseball is back and we’re ready for the ride!

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