Rookie Redbirds

Because 2020 has been like nothing we have ever seen, it makes perfect sense that baseball has returned almost as an afterthought. With jobs, schools, and real life impacted on a daily basis, thoughts about a game would not normally take center stage. That all changed yesterday, however, and the sprint towards October while beating a virus has officially begun!

For the Cardinals in particular, tonight’s Opening Day will be missing plenty but not the sounds that I have taken for granted for 30+ years. Baseball kept me going thru boot camp, multiple deployments and even a World Series while stuck on a train. None of that can compare to getting St. Louis back in action against the Pirates in what surely will be a season that no one forgets.

Among the initial roster for the Birds on the Bat are plenty of interesting stories including one late draft pick who might have a dream come true when the Tigers come to town. Since my focus over the past decade or so has mainly been on the Minor Leagues, this summer has been hard to come to grips with on a personal level. I know why there isn’t going to be games played in Memphis or Palm Beach but what hurts the most has got to be the uncertainty for all of the Minors moving forward.

Thankfully we will still get updates from Springfield where a number of rookies are waiting for their shot to make an impact under the Arch or maybe even out of the corn? Kodi Whitley becomes the initial answer to which rookie joins the Cardinals first, although his role and length of stay are definitely up for debate. What is not though happens to be his place in the bullpen not just for this campaign but for the possible future seasons to come.

Whitley fully added his name to the radar by zooming past all expectations in 2019. The exclamation point for the 27th round pick from Clayton, North Carolina had to be at the Arizona Fall League where he absolutely dominated. Whitley will get his first taste of National League Central action at some point this weekend against Pittsburgh although he might be eyeing a certain slugger for the Tigers.

As a freshman for the Mount Olive Trojans, Kodi gave a very interesting answer when asked who he wanted to pitch against in the Majors. Whitley could have mentioned any number of players but picked Miguel Cabrera which makes seeing Detroit on the early schedule even more exciting for the newest member of the St. Louis staff. Whitley certainly earned his spot for the Cards but truthfully, when might the fairy tale hit a speed bump?

The easy answer might not be the right one in this particular equation. It very well could be all hands on deck early and even once the 30-man roster starts to be narrowed down next month. Mike Shildt already went with fewer pitchers than expected so Whitley will get the chance to stick even as others in Springfield pay close attention. Never count out a D2 hurler who vaulted his name into the discussion by smashing every level last summer.

Not even Miggy can crush his dream, something I look forward to watching as Whitley adds his name to the list of prospects ready to help bring another title back to the Lou.

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