Can I Wacha You Home?

Another day, more moves that clarify the picture for the 2014 Cardinals.  Given that we now have less than a week until Opening Day (everyone party!), this clarity should be coming fast and furious over the next few days.

The biggest news of the day was that Michael Wacha would be starting the home opener against the Reds a week from Monday.  That means the rotation to start the year is Adam Wainwright, Wacha, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, and Joe Kelly.  That’s a bit of interesting placement, given that for all of Wacha’s success, this will be his first time to experience a St. Louis Opening Day.  The club obviously feels that he can build on last year and there’s no reason to expect any differently.

What is a bit ironic is that this rotation means that the first start of the season for Miller is against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  You know, that team that handled him so well that the Cards wouldn’t let him pitch against them in the NLDS?  I guess it’s a quick way to see if Miller has progressed since last year and if things are going to be different in 2014.  It’s possible that, with a better spring, Miller might have gotten the nod as the second starter, but there’s no guarantee of that either.

And it’s a moot point because Miller’s spring has been….erratic, shall we say?  He put up a 5.93 ERA in Jupiter, but that’s a bit misleading because of the limited innings.  A couple of times, the only blemish on him was a home run, including a two-run blast by Miguel Cabrera.  If he could go six or seven and just give up two, he’d been in better shape.

However, it was just yesterday that he got through the fifth for the first time and had a mental lapse that led to a big Mets inning.  In shades of last year, he’ll be left behind to pitch against some minor leaguers this weekend before heading up to Cincinnati.  Not that it was specific to him–whomever had that fourth spot in the rotation was going to have to do that to stay fresh–but it just seems harsher in some ways given his postseason treatment.

What’s positive is that he identified the mechanical issues troubling him mid-game and finished on a stronger note.  If he can take that into his first start against Pittsburgh, things will be all right.  Obviously you don’t pay a huge amount of attention to spring results–ask Mike Matheny about how they play into his decisions–and Miller says he learned and improved after each one.  I’m still of the opinion this is going to be a big year for him and I look forward to seeing him out on the mound.

The Cardinals also demoted Randal Grichuk to Memphis, as we noted in an aside yesterday afternoon.  Again, nothing surprising here, but Grichuk did have a pretty solid spring and should be someone to keep an eye on in Memphis.  There’s a lot of outfield talent right now, so it might be September before he makes it to the bigs, but it seems fairly likely he’d be there when the rosters expand, assuming a good season in AAA.

Speaking of outfield talent, it looks like Oscar Taveras is going to be rested again, though hopefully not for an extended period this time around.  Taveras slipped in a minor league game and seemed to be limping a bit, so they’ll hold him out for a day or two to make sure he doesn’t re-aggravate something.  You have to hope that this season isn’t going to be whittled away with nicks and slips and nagging injuries for Taveras, because everyone–most especially Taveras–wants to see him in St. Louis.

It seems more and more likely that Jorge Rondon will get the seatwarming bullpen spot after Keith Butler had another rough outing against New York yesterday.  I know the club was intrigued enough with Scott McGregor to bring him back up from minor league camp, but I just don’t know that they’d put him in the ‘pen.  Granted, whoever gets it might only get a couple of appearances before Jason Motte is ready, so it may not matter just a whole lot.  The club really seems to like Rondon, though, and it would probably take a serious push to unseat him from favored status.

The Cardinals released their first update on their Hall of Fame voting and it’s no surprise that Willie McGee is running away with the first spot.  Jim Edmonds is pretty solidly in the second spot, which may also give some insight to how this Favorite Living Cardinal Tournament is going to play out.  Both Edmonds and McGee are handily winning their Sweet 16 matchups there as well.  Remember, voting closes at noon in all regions: the Arch, BPV, Champions and Diamond.

Quieter day here at the blog, as we don’t have those various tournament posts going up.  Still have the next installment of the UCB predictions at 11 and Playing Pepper with the Rangers at 1, so there will be new stuff for you to read throughout the day!

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