With the loss of Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia from the rotation, the team is making the same bold strokes they made in 2013 and moves that are becoming signature Cardinal tactics. Lose two key young arms and General Manager John Mozeliak will call on 2013 first round draft pick Marco Gonzales to make the start on Wednesday in Colorado in the place of Garcia. A year after Garcia went down and young arms like Wacha and John Gast came up to help, Gonzales is called into duty this year. In similar fashion to Wacha, Gonzales is a pitcher of the future and someone the team thinks very highly of.
What can we expect? Without a major league blueprint to draw on, let’s look at his most recent minor league statistics. What makes the move by the team more noteworthy than usual is the fact that Gonzales is being pulled from Double-A Springfield. Here is what he has done.
In seven starts, he is 3-2 with a 2.33 ERA and held hitters to a .220 batting average. In 38.2 innings there, he has 46 strikeouts and 10 walks and only allowed 2 home runs. He doesn’t have a complete game or shutout but the Gonzaga product is a raw armed 22 years old and still learning the game.
Now, the wrong thing to do would be to expect Marco to come up to Colorado and power fastballs by Troy Tulowitzki. That’s not the kind of pitcher he is. Gonzales uses a changeup that baseball analysts think is the best in the minor league system. It’s nasty and works brilliantly when he is locating his fastball. Does this sound familiar? Marco is a lot like Jaime in that his changeup dictates his entire outing. That is the pitch to look for on Wednesday. The nasty changeup that will leave quite a few knees buckling and cause a lot of swings and misses. That’s the bread and butter of this kid.
This will be a brief look at Marco. He will get this start and maybe another before Joe Kelly gets enough arm strength to make a start. He is a young farm system and the latest example of the scouting expertise from Mozeliak and his crew of pros. If Garcia is indeed heading down a one way street with his shoulder injuries, Gonzales could be the lefthanded pitcher this team desires. It all starts on Wednesday and the kid will be tested. As the Cards lead 5-0 in the 5th, the Rockies have lost six in a row and are reeling. However, they have hitters in their lineup that can spot mistakes and hammer a pitcher without his best stuff. I am glad Marco isn’t facing a lesser team. I want him to be tested quickly. The Rockies will show the team what they have in this kid and where he is at.
I do imagine him going back down to Memphis and not Springfield when he does leave the team. It’s time for him to get accustomed to facing big league type hitters.
On Sunday at Busch Stadium, Mo talked about the team’s preferred method of drafting and developing pitchers instead of making big splashy blockbuster deals for a David Price type. He didn’t mention Price by name but look, the ideal path for this team is to deal internally before they have to sacrifice young cost controlled talent for an older far more expensive guy like Price. Now, having said that, I can say this. Carlos Martinez could be pitching here to not only replace a hurting arm like Wacha but to show other teams what he possibly offers in a trade. Every time a young pitcher takes the mound in this league, they are showcasing their skills to every other team.
Marco is another bullet in the chamber for Mozeliak, Mike Matheny and the Cardinals. Wednesday night, his journey begins.
Now, before I go, a few Nerve Center ramblings as I down another cup of coffee. I’d be lying if I said I would make this quick.
*Is there any question why the Cards drafted another plethora of young pitching in the 2014 draft? Sunday is exactly why you do it. You can’t have enough pitching, It’s not an old adage. It’s a fully furbished working method.
*How much does Garcia have left and what can he offer to the team? I am serious. The labrum in his left shoulder is damaged and seems to hate the stress of innings. A joint in your shoulder doesn’t get better unless you sit down and rest your arm for an extended period of time. Garcia has done that. He has had a couple rounds of surgery. He has went through Tommy John. I am not questioning Garcia’s fight or his will. The man tried to tough out a playoff against Washington in 2012. He wants to pitch and a theory behind his mental problems could be worrying about the fact that his next pitch could be his last for a while. Garcia is a talented guy with the results to back it up. He threw 194 innings in 2011 and won a combined 26 games in 2010-11 and offered a WAR of 2.5 in 2010. Since 2011, he has started 36 games and pitched 218.2 innings. Garcia could simply be damaged goods. A Mark Mulder kind of rehab project where the comeback is endless. How much longer do you go? He makes 9 million next season and has options for 2016-17 with a buyout of 1 million. I don’t expect him to be here next year.
*Matt Adams has 3 RBI and another HR tonight against the Rockies. The slugger is becoming that power source we expected him to be at the start of the season. He has 4 home runs and 11 RBI in the ten games since he returned from the disabled list. When the lineup follows his act and adds power to the usual run of singles, walks and scrappy play, the need for a bat lessens. Adams is leading that charge this season.
*Matt Holliday may be hitting .262 but he has 72 hits, 47 walks, and 38 RBI. His slugging percentage is down but then again, so is the overall slugging percentage of MLB hitters across the league. His home runs are down but that was never his label coming over here. Holliday is getting on base and has collected two key game changing RBI doubles the past three games. He is also hitting in the #2 hole, which is a proper place for his current talents. Lay off the Stillwater product. He is doing his job.
*I will take what Holliday is doing right now over Allen Craig, who seems to be caught in a series of false starts. Sure, their salaries are different, but for all the people saying Craig can’t be traded, they need to rethink that idea.
*I’ll write more about this later in the week but Lance Lynn is getting better because he is allowing his defense to work for him. He is transforming from a strikeout pitcher into a more democratic pitcher. A thrower into a pitcher. Comparing his flight to Shelby Miller isn’t entirely accurate. Lynn has been here since 2010. This is his third full year in the rotation and he has made 30+ starts two years in a row. He is more matured as a pitcher than Miller. Lynn is learning how to get groundball outs to go with his strikeouts and flyouts. Walks are a problem as of late, but tonight against the Rockies he has no ZERO walks. Lynn is learning and growing.
Before I leave, let me say Adams hit another home run, a three run blast. He now has 5 HR and 14 RBI since returning. He hit his 2nd home run of the night off a lefty in the 7th inning, the first of the year for the young slugger. He is getting better. He doesn’t need to sit on the bench. In a lineup starved for power, Adams is a player that must start every day.
Thanks for reading this latest Cardinal Nerve Center dispatch.