We’ve said all spring long that the fifth spot in the rotation isn’t really a competition. It’s possible Jaime Garcia could force some discussions but the club really wants to give Carlos Martinez that role. Competition is a term to be taken lightly.
Someone forgot to tell Marco Gonzales that.
Gonzales was impressively economical with his pitches against the Braves yesterday, going four scoreless and becoming the first starter this spring to go that deep. Gonzales allowed just a hit and a walk and had three strikeouts in his time on the mound. Couple his outing with Martinez’s outing on Tuesday, when the frontrunner couldn’t get through the third with his 50 pitches, even though he only allowed one run, and the gap between the two pitchers should have narrowed a bit over the past 48 hours.
Now, even if that’s the case, that doesn’t mean that the gap is particularly close. We’ve seen in the past–just last year, in fact–that even if the underdog outpitches the favorite in the spring, that doesn’t mean they’ll get the start when the season rolls around. Martinez was on the opposite side of this chasm last year with Joe Kelly, so perhaps turnabout is fair play. Gonzales still could use some time in AAA and it’s not a major calamity if he is eating ribs and listening to the blues some this summer.
Still, it does make for an interesting spring. Given the slow program for Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn‘s hip-related pause in the action, there may be opportunities to let Gonzales get another start, even if that wasn’t the plan. If he could go out there and be efficient like this again, maybe some contingency or alternate plans might be made. It’s still a long shot, but only because of how much the club likes Martinez’s potential. In a competition without a thumb on the scale, Gonzales well might be in the lead.
On that topic, there’s an article by Derrick Goold talking about Martinez and Gonzales trying to learn the efficiency that eluded Shelby Miller. Miller started to get it at the end of last season, which may pay some big dividends for the Braves this year, though Miller struggled in his first outing with Atlanta yesterday. While the Cardinal bullpen isn’t going to be a weakness, I don’t think, the deeper these guys can get into games, the better the chances of a big red W. Gonzales is proving that he is learning the lessons. If Martinez can learn it as well, then that’s going to be huge. My biggest hesitation with joining the Martinez bandwagon has been that inability to throw strikes at times. There’s no doubt that, with his stuff, if he can harness that, he’ll be outstanding.
Not a bad day from the offense yesterday as there were a number of two-out RBI, something we got spoiled with in 2013 and then missed desperately last year. It was nice to see Stephen Piscotty have a good day. Piscotty has struggled some in camp, it seems to my (admittedly spotty) look at the recaps, but went 2 for 3 with one of those RBI and a stolen base as the leader of a double steal. Perhaps we’ll see him warm up now that he’s gotten a week under his belt, but he was pretty much ticketed for Memphis anyway and this slow start hasn’t changed anyone’s mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes his debut in St. Louis at some time this season, but it’ll probably be a while, as Tommy Pham (another two-out RBI guy yesterday) would likely get the first call should an outfielder go down.
Kolten Wong got his first hit of the spring, breaking an 0-9 with a single to left. You go 0-9 in the regular season, that’s like two hitless days in a row. You go 0-9 to start the spring, that’s a week’s worth of games. In other words, it’s not likely a big deal at all. As noted in the article, Wong started slow last year as well and then was on fire by the end of camp, if I recall correctly. There’s nothing to really worry about here.
Peter Bourjos, on the other hand, might not get the same consideration, at least from certain folks. Bourjos is now 0-12 in the spring, which is a little more concerning given his weaker offensive profile last year and the fact that he’s coming off of hip surgery. He’s still trying to find a rhythm, something we said last year a lot as he seems to be one that has to play regularly to get much going offensively. However, it can be tough to continue to let someone find that rhythm if they can’t do it quickly, so Bourjos really needs to figure it out soon. He’s had a wide opportunity here with Jon Jay out to make his case for more playing time and so far he’s not been able to do much with it. Jay won’t be out forever, so whatever Bourjos needs to do to get comfortable and start hitting, he might want to do. Assuming it doesn’t involve sacrificing a live chicken in the clubhouse. Maybe KFC will work….
Speaking of folks that can get the fanbase riled up, Trevor Rosenthal allowed a game-losing home run against the Astros on Tuesday, which is absolutely not what you wanted to see out of the closer after his palpitation-inducing 2014. He did almost get out of things….hang on, I’m having flashbacks….but allowed that two-out blast to send the team home on the down side. Rosenthal had a clean inning his first time out and you can’t completely panic yet, but I think it’d take almost a perfect spring for folks to have confidence in him trotting out there on a regular basis. We’ll see if this is his only hiccup or if it’s a sign of things to come. I sure hope it’s the former.
The Cards got a look at former Redbird Colby Rasmus in that game on Tuesday and, of course, that means interviews when you come back and face that old team of yours. Rick Hummel had a pretty interesting article about the centerfielder. Rasmus does admit he could have done things differently in St. Louis, though he’s not taking all the blame (and it’s unlikely he should). What I found personally interesting was that he’d become a Christian recently and credited Lance Berkman‘s witness, as well as the day-to-day attitudes of Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Wainwright, for his conversion. We know that the clubhouse was a collection of pretty religious folks over the last few years (if you are interested on the subject, Rob Rains’s Intentional Walk is a good one to check out) and from a Christian point-of-view it’s nice to see that that inspired Rasmus to evaluate his life and the road he was on.
Cards are on FOX Sports Midwest today for the first time this season. Garcia gets the start and we’ll see if he can improve on his last outing and how deep he’ll be able to go into the game. If he could get his efficiency going strong and have his stuff be effective, this fifth starter competition may get some legs. It’ll be good to hear Dan McLaughlin back on the airwaves this afternoon!