Sometimes the calendar gifts you days such as today that require paying extra attention. The Cardinals can claim later that they planned it all along, but Matthew Liberatore deserves extra attention and with good reason. He isn’t the youngest St. Louis pitcher starting today (Ludwin Jimenez has that honor) although each of the four potential aces has one thing in common on May 12th. The new design of Minor League play puts extra emphasis on the rotation and especially lining up potential replacements as call-ups start happening this summer. With each affiliate having the same schedule, let’s take a look at how the Cards can make this work.
First up is 19-year old Jimenez, currently getting some early offense in the opening game of the day. Palm Beach will shuffle a number of hurlers back and forth especially the first month but keep an eye on how Jimenez is used. If he can continue to limit home runs and stretch out, he is a prime candidate to join Peoria soon. That pipeline continues to amaze after the missing year of action and without having any help from the draft until at least the end of July. It is truly anyone’s best guess on how free agents or the Extended Spring Training roster will help as injuries or promotions are taken into account.
One of those free agents and the beginning of the scheduled lefties has not let 2020 stop his dream. Mac Lardner continues the Gonzaga to St. Louis frequent flyer program and with a few more solid starts in Peoria, he will be passing the Arch in a hurry. Aggressive promotions must be a big part of 2021 as Springfield can rely on having arms one state over and a quick phone call away. Lardner only allowed one hit in his first start for the Chiefs so limiting walks and getting into the late stages of the contest tonight will be a main target. That will enhance his goal of joining or replacing Connor Thomas as a southpaw in the Double A rotation.
Thomas has all the tools to be the one that takes over for Liberatore or puts his name on the radar at Memphis along with other top arms. The 2019 draftee from Georgia Tech did see some action two summers ago and already has five innings under his belt this season. That solid outing has been one of the few for the SCards who are still in search of their second win. With pretty much all the eyes on Nashville (and Milwaukee) tonight, don’t forget that the Cardinals have depth across the board. It remains to be seen how all the moving pieces fall into place while balancing the production value of keeping a rotation together.
Make no mistake about it, however, as St. Louis continues to keep winning. How the pitching holds up at the big league level certainly keeps things interesting especially on those rare days where all the starters allow you to dream just a little more.