Shouldering The Load

Saturday morning, I was watching my daughter cheer at her last Upward Basketball game when I saw a number of people had retweeted a Tweet from Jenifer Langosch.

To say I would be surprised would probably be fair. To say I was shocked would not.  After all, Jaime Garcia has been an enigma his whole time in St. Louis and to have him go through a season without any issues would have been unlikely.  Garcia has been ruled out of the starting rotation to start the year at a minimum, given that he won’t have enough time to get ready with this setback.

There are a number of repercussions from this news.  How long will Garcia be out?  We’ll know more about that this afternoon, probably, but the fact that the Cardinals added a number of pitchers to camp seems to be an indication they don’t expect positive news on that score.

If Garcia was only going to be out a month or so, as Joe Schwarz and I discussed last night on Gateway, you might go with Carlos Martinez in the rotation, with the idea he goes to Memphis when Garcia returns, gets some innings but not a lot (skipping starts here and there, similar to what Michael Wacha did last year), then returns late in the season.  However, there doesn’t seem to be any way that Martinez could be a starter all season long in St. Louis, given his history.  Ben Humphrey’s article at Viva El Birdos earlier last week really highlighted how little Martinez has pitched in his career.  He hit his career high in innings last year at just over 100.  There’s no way he’d be ready to go to 180-200 innings this season without serious repercussions.  Of course, if they move him to the bullpen, I fear he’ll never return.  Somewhere he’s got to build up that arm strength if he’s ever going to start, which is why I’d send him to Memphis this season.  That’s another story, however.

It seems that, with Garcia’s absence, Joe Kelly should be in the driver’s seat for that last spot in the rotation.  I’m not completely comfortable with Kelly in that spot–I do think some of his results outpaced his stuff last season and there’s a correction coming–but he does seem to be capable of doing the job, especially as a fifth starter.  Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons could possibly make a case for that role, given the fact he’s left-handed like Garcia.  I would expect that, no matter who gets the role, it’s not going to be a full-time gig.  There’s going to be some flux in the back end of the rotation during the year, because there almost always is.

Of course, the bullpen gets impacted no matter who takes over Garcia’s spot in the rotation.  It could create an opening for Sam Freeman or Pat Neshek to make a staff that’s already pretty full of talented pitchers.  The competition for that spot might be the fiercest of the camp.

The waiting may come to an end this afternoon with Garcia, but the waiting for Aledmys Diaz continues.  Momentum has shifted somewhat since the news of his workout with the Cardinals was first announced.  Joe did some looking into him over at Viva El Birdos and came away less impressed than he had been after talking with a scout that had seen Diaz play.  Keith Law also noted that Diaz might be more of a utility player than a starting shortstop.

Perhaps reading the same reports and seeing the same thing, last night reports were that the Yankees had decided not to offer Diaz a contract.  Obviously that’s not necessarily true, though it seems to have been confirmed in a couple of places, but if so that can be considered a good thing and a bad thing.

It’s bad, of course, because when there are people in baseball deciding not to go after a player like this, you wonder what they know that you don’t.  You wonder if a team like the Yankees, who has done more in the international market than the Cardinals have, might know something about evaluating those players that hasn’t been considered by the Redbirds.  You wonder if Diaz was all that people were thinking he might be why a team like New York, who will have an opening at shortstop next season, wouldn’t be pursuing him.

It’s good for the most basic of reasons–when the Yankees aren’t in play, costs come down considerably.  The Cardinals might not have to go to their top offer or consider an outlandish bid to land him now that the deep pockets of the Bronx Bombers isn’t on the table.  In fact, it was Tweeted last night that now the Cardinals and the Blue Jays are the top contenders for Diaz and, if that is the case, you’d like to think the Cards could win that battle.

I think it boils down to trusting this front office.  If they are this intrigued by Diaz, there must be something there that they like.  I know they are smarter than to just think because he hit .300 in Cuba that he can do so in the big leagues.  They know about translations and the level of play in Cuba.  There is something to Diaz that they really like and, apparently, are willing to pay for.  (To be honest, though, we heard that they planned to offer him a contract, not that they did.  I guess they could have been dissuaded by his workout, though that doesn’t seem to have been the case.)

Diaz had said he’d likely make a decision by this past weekend.  That didn’t happen, perhaps because of the Yankees not deciding on their move until yesterday.  Hopefully we’ll hear more definitive word in the next day or so and start figuring out just what the Cards have if he signs with them.

Other assorted news: Shelby Miller and Wacha won’t have obvious or expected limitations put on them this season.  If the pitchers start to look tired or lose their effectiveness, changes will be made but there’s no plan to take time off or try to keep them under a certain number of innings.  Which is nice to hear and hopefully both pitchers are up for that challenge.

Randy Choate, who Joe last night indicated was as old as the hills–he’s a month younger than me, so you can imagine how well I took THAT–says he may not pitch that often in games during spring training, preferring to do work on the back fields.  Given his veteran–some would say elderly–status, that doesn’t seem to be an issue.  The man should know what it takes to be ready and I’m all for him doing whatever works best for him.  I mean, you may have to speak up when you call him into a game, but he’ll be ready to go.

Matt Adams plans to continue wearing his brace this season, which I think is a pretty smart move.  Looking it up, he started wearing the brace last year on September 20.  It’s a small sample size, but from then until the end of the year, he hit .351/.385/.649 with three home runs.  He was successful against the Pirates as well in the NLDS (.907 OPS with a home run) before slumping against the Dodgers and Red Sox, but heck, the whole team did that.  The brace seemed to help him with his swing mechanics and, as such, it’s a good idea for him to keep wearing it.

Adam Wainwright is trying to get away from featuring his cut fastball so much, trying to reincorporate his sinker.  Man, hitters had it rough when they thought they could guess what Waino was going to throw them.  Imagine how they are going to feel now when all of his pitches are more balanced!

OK, let’s do our daily Cardinal Approval Ratings.  Today we look at Jon Jay from the player side.  Jay, who obviously has slid in the organization’s estimation since they brought in Peter Bourjos, has bounced around the last two years on the ballot.  Last year, he clocked in at just over 81%, which was pretty impressive.  Of course, then he went out last year and was the top overall Goat on this site, so would that have an impact?  You could say that.  Jay wound up with one perfect score, one zero and an overall mark of 65.4%, his lowest ever.  Things haven’t gone Jay’s way lately and it will be interesting to see if that changes in 2014.

Our media member is the aforementioned Jenifer Langosch.  I’ve not had the chance to meet Jenifer, who is now on her third year on the Cardinal beat for MLB.com.  She’s not quite as active on Twitter as some of her compatriots, though you’ll find her over there regularly enough.  Last year she checked in at 79.5% and this year she’s at a comparable 78.2%.  Three perfect scores as well, though her low was measured at 20%.

Our final rating is for the big man, owner Bill DeWitt.  It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when this ownership was getting a lot of grief in certain sections for not spending money and not putting together the best team possible.  It was a pretty spurious accusation even then, but it looks even stupider in hindsight.  DeWitt is usually in the B range on these things and this year he hits his record high with an even 90.0%.  Not only is that his personal high, but it’s the highest mark we’ve seen so far this season.  When you get nine perfect marks and your low is just 60%, you know you are doing something right.

Playing Pepper continues this afternoon with another trip to Chicago, this time for the White Sox.  Come back and check that out after lunch!

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