We’ve just a week left of spring training and I’m still woefully unprepared. Sure, we’ve been having the Playing Pepper series run but I’ve not gotten back into the habit of writing most every day. Let’s see if we can’t change that and have some sort of post at least the rest of this week. I’m not saying we’re going all Heroes and Goats, but it’ll at least start the routine.
After a rough stretch last week, the Cards kicked off their run to Opening Day with a 4-1 win over the Phillies. For some reason, the Cards have matched up well against the Phillies this spring. After all, it was against Philadelphia that Jack Flaherty struck out nine, Jordan Hicks struck out four, and overall the Cardinal pitching strength was on display a week or so ago. This time, it may have solved one of the lingering questions in camp, the one about the fifth starter.
I should really learn to reserve judgement. Two years ago, Flaherty came up late in the season and struggled, making me wonder how good he’d really be at the big leagues. We found out last year the answer was very. Last season, Dakota Hudson came up and I again wondered about his major league future. To be fair, part of that concern came from his minor league track record as well, most notably his lack of strikeouts. If you are getting strikeouts at Memphis, it seemed to me that major league hitters would put even more contact on him and, when major league hitters hit the ball, bad things can happen.
Instead, Hudson has come into camp this spring and been a force. After yesterday, he has a 1.72 ERA and in 15.2 innings he’s walked just four and struck out 17, which is second to Flaherty on the staff in Jupiter. Against the Phillies, he went five innings and allowed four hits while striking out eight. While some of the regular Phillies weren’t in the lineup, it still was a strong performance that very well may have tipped the scales in his direction when it comes to the rotation.
Not that John Gant, his competition in this matter, has been bad. Gant’s put up a 3.46 ERA this spring and has looked quite solid at times. When the question has come up on various podcasts and the like, I’ve tended to go with Gant. After all, if the Cardinals are going to go with 12 pitchers, and they plan to keep Gant and Mike Mayers who are out of options, the path of least resistance is to put Gant in the rotation and let Hudson start at Memphis. However, when you look at what Hudson has done so far, it’s hard to stick with that choice. If it was only going to be a couple of weeks before Carlos Martinez came back, maybe you still do it that way, but since Martinez still hasn’t thrown a pitch, it seems clear this is going to be a longer-term scenario and, as such, it feels like Hudson is probably the right call here.
It was also announced yesterday that Brett Cecil would start the season on the Injured List. That’s not a huge surprise, given how many obstacles Cecil has dealt with this spring. Some–perhaps most–would rather see him not on the IL but in the unemployment office, but that seems unnecessary when you do have the option for putting him on the IL. If he was healthy and this miserable, maybe you go that route, but it’s not crazy for the Cardinals to see that 2017 wasn’t great, but wasn’t terrible and to give him a pass for all the various issues that he ran into in 2018. When a man has no feeling in two of his fingers, that seems less than ideal for getting things done, yet this spring Cecil’s issue wasn’t being pounded around the yard–in two official innings, his spring ERA is 0.00–but more of command.
There’s still a chance that Cecil can be effective and I appreciate that the Cardinals are giving him every opportunity. That said, numb fingers seem to never work out well. Matt Bowman had those last year and it feels like Chris Carpenter might have talked about that before he had his thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. If that’s what it comes down to, Cecil having surgery, the Cards will move him to the 60 day DL and basically forget about him, giving him a chance in 2020 to finally make good on the contract but realizing if he can’t, he’s gone. I am not a medical person by ANY means, so that’s just speculating, and maybe they’ll get Cecil back in health and shape before too long and we can see if he has anything left on the big stage.
Jedd Gyorko still thinks he can be ready by Opening Day, but he’s sounding a little hesitant. Gyorko is dealing with a calf issue and won’t play again in the official games this spring, though he might do get into some minor league games this weekend. While I understand that hitters need a lot less time to get sharp than pitchers do, it feels to me that if Gyorko can’t play until this weekend, the team would be better off with him starting the season on the IL and getting a little rehab work in. We’ve seen before players come back from injury, play like two rehab games, and then struggle when they are back on the major league roster. Gyorko has been working in the cage and feels like if he can get a number of ABs in those minor league games (which have flexible rules, like allowing him to bat every inning) he could be OK. He’d know better than I, of course, but I don’t think I’d be real confident with him active for the Milwaukee series at this rate.
Matt Carpenter is dealing with back issues, which it feels like tend to come up with him from time to time. He won’t play again until this weekend as a precaution and I don’t think anyone is too concerned with him not being ready for Opening Day. Carpenter is only hitting .179 on the spring, but given the way everyone else is hitting, that’s right in line, plus he has three homers which is second on the team. Most likely Carpenter will be fine. The Cardinals need him to be. We’ve talked about questions around all the outfielders and occasionally even Paul DeJong, but Carpenter has been one of those “givens” in the lineup. If he struggles at all, this becomes a problem.
Also, just to note, Official Prospect of the Blog Dylan Carlson is still in camp, even after yesterday’s moves sent a couple of pitchers over to minor league camp. At this rate, you wonder if he’ll get to stay with the club the entire spring and go to Memphis for that exhibition before heading to Springfield. It’s been fun to see him stick around and obviously the Cardinals really like having him there!
All right, that’ll get us a little warmed up. Today’s an off day, so tomorrow’s post might be shorter. Then again, it’s me and shorter isn’t really what I ever wind up doing!