It was only a few days ago that we took a look at the bullpen. If it was unsettled then, it’s completely up in the air now.
With Jordan Hicks making the right move for him and opting out (the first non-highly paid veteran and the first high-risk player to do so, I believe), things got a little thinner. Granted, Hicks might not have been able to go right out of the gate, but the expectation was that he wouldn’t be gone too long before making his debut. Instead, you’ll see as many innings from Hicks as you will from John Brebbia this season.
Then there’s the issue of Genesis Cabrera and Ricardo Sanchez getting their second positive COVID-19 test. Obviously they were going to be somewhat delayed even after the first one, but this stretches things out more. They aren’t showing symptoms now (and, let’s hope, they won’t) but that doesn’t mean they won’t have issues from having the disease. (Seems like Elehuris Montero also had a second positive.) At the very least, you are probably looking at mid-August, maybe a bit later for them to get cleared and then build up the strength and sharpness to be effective.
Giovanny Gallegos sits in Mexico, whether a victim of the disease or of travel issues still remains to be determined. Similar to the two above, it feels like it’s going to be a while before he takes the mound in a competitive game. Maybe we’ll get word he’s on his way tomorrow, but he’ll still need to do intake testing and probably it’s Saturday or Sunday at a minimum before he can start working with the team. That’s assuming we get that word and there’s no reason to think we will.
Alex Reyes is in St. Louis. That much we know. What we don’t know is why he isn’t with the team. Now, given the star-crossed nature of Alex Reyes’s career up to this point, it could be anything from COVID-19 to aliens abducting him and leaving an android replacement that wouldn’t fool anybody. I could easily see him struggling, balancing the idea of sitting out, given the fact that his young daughter has to be a high-risk candidate after dealing with cancer, with the fact that it would be his fourth straight lost season. Reyes threw 46 major league innings in 2016. He’s thrown seven since then. The shortened 2020 is already an issue for him (and don’t forget, the Cardinals optioned him to Memphis soon after the coronavirus stoppage began) but to miss it all would really seem to put his future in question. He should be arbitration eligible this winter, though that won’t happen due to the stoppage. Still, it’s starting to feel like Reyes is going to be the biggest “what if” in Cardinal history since Rick Ankiel.
Anyway, that’s what the Cardinals don’t have. We sorted through what they do have on Saturday, but let’s tally it up again. It would seem they have three lefties–Brett Cecil, Andrew Miller, and Tyler Webb. There’s always the possibility that they cut Webb given the new rules and the fact that they have three lefties, but I also am not sure they want to toss any arm overboard right now.
Assuming that they split the 30-man initial roster between hitting and pitching, that means after the five starters and those three lefties there are seven spots. Austin Gomber would seem to be one of those, even though he is a lefty, because he can piggy-back onto a starter that might not go five or more innings in the early going. Same with Daniel Ponce de Leon. John Gant gets some consideration in a similar manner, though I think in a normal year he might have been a strong candidate for a DFA. Not this year, though. That’s three, so there are four more needed.
While names like Zack Thompson and Rob Kaminsky have been added to the mix, they are lefties as well and most likely will wind up back in Springfield unless they really impress. There have to be some righties in the pen, right? Junior Fernandez has gotten some positive press as of late and I would think he’s a shoe-in. Kodi Whitley really would seem to be an obvious choice as well. You can put Brebbia on the 60-day DL to free up a spot. Does Hicks also go on that? There’s got to be some way to get him from taking up a 40-man spot. The Cards will probably need as many of those as they can get this year.
That’s two. Ryan Helsley probably got his ticket punched with the Hicks news. I’m not sure he did before that–with all the arms that could have been in the mix, Helsley has gotten more helium by the outside issues than maybe anyone else. Who do you cap it off with, though? Jake Woodford could make his debut out of the bullpen. He’s a guy that can handle some innings while perhaps getting a boost from the short bursts. Johan Oviedo might be another option, though he’d also have to be added to the 40-man.
If I were to guess, they’ll start with Woodford and have Oviedo ready if necessary. That is, assuming the bullpen doesn’t take another blow before it’s all said and done.