If the fifth starter spot was a true competition, there’d be a clear leader these days.
Marco Gonzales actually had his worst outing of the spring yesterday. All that means is that the other team actually came around to score once, raising his spring ERA from 0.00. He was one out shy of five innings, making him (again) the starter that’s gone the longest in Jupiter. He’s done nothing to warrant a demotion to Memphis, save maybe a less-than-perfect K/BB ratio. As Bernie Miklasz said (and stole my intended post title in the process), he’s going gonzo this spring.
It’s interesting that he credits John Lackey‘s gruff instruction for a significant portion of his success in camp. As questioned as that trade was last July (perhaps questioned is the wrong word, because I think most understood it, they just didn’t want to give up what the Cards gave up), it’s paying more and more dividends. As we talked about yesterday in the countdown piece, Woody Williams‘ biggest impact on the Cardinals may have been his tutoring of Chris Carpenter. It’s possible Lackey’s legacy will be of a similar vein. (I’m also glad this story came out today because I’m scheduled to do an interview with a Red Sox podcast tonight about the pieces of that trade, so this is one more thing I can bring up.)
Again, though, it’s difficult to say this is a true competition. If it were him against Carlos Martinez only, I might be more willing to see St. Louis go with the lefty, even as much as they’ve openly said they want Martinez in the rotation. I’m not sure they would do it, but I’d be genuinely wondering how this was going to play out. With a strong Jaime Garcia in the mix, though, I can’t see them taking a guy with plenty of options and little minor league experience over both Martinez’s talent and Garcia’s contract. The roster calculus would be too much, I think. Not saying it won’t happen, and perhaps John Mozeliak could pull off some deal that would open a spot for him, but as it stands today, I expect it’s Memphis for Marco. The telling act may be coming soon. With Adam Wainwright scheduled to go Saturday and Lackey now back in the rotation, there aren’t many spots available to stick in extra starters in the major league games. They will have to decide pretty soon who gets that valuable slot. Lance Lynn‘s hip may let them postpone it a little longer than they though, but there’s still not going to be enough work for all three. We’ll see who starts coming out of the bullpen first. Lackey and Lynn have said they’d pitch in some B games, so that helps some, but still, the decision is going to have to be made soon.
Speaking of Lackey, he had a great start to his spring, throwing three scoreless innings on Monday. I think it’ll be interesting to see what he brings to this club in 2015. On the one hand, he’s got a little experience with the National League now, he knows his way around the block. On the other, he’s a year older. I think we’ll see good things out of him, but we probably have to brace for the fact it may be like last year, when the good starts and the bad starts were mixed in together in a ratio that wasn’t exactly dominated by the good. Hopefully he’ll be more like the pitcher he’s been in his career, but I think there will still be some holding of breath when it’s his day to go.
One person that won’t be in the roster decisions is the Patron Pitcher of the Blog, as Tyler Lyons‘s rough spring outings caught up to him and he was demoted to Memphis on Tuesday As I noted in Monday’s post, that wasn’t too surprising given how many bullpen folks there are, how many of them are left-handed and/or can do the long game, and had been much more successful in the spring. Lyons should get some looks in St. Louis this year, though. I kinda think we may see a lot of the Memphis Express for arms this year as there seem to be many more available than there are spots for them. We’ll have to keep an eye out on how he’s doing over with the Redbirds during the season.
Also demoted was Greg Garcia, which again wasn’t much of a surprise save maybe how early in camp it came. Pete Kozma has had a very strong spring and has shown he can be the versatile option that folks like Daniel Descalso have given Mike Matheny in the past. Since Kozma is out of options, he was going to be on this team and he’s done nothing this spring that would indicate differently. As starters start taking more and more at bats, there wouldn’t be much opportunity for Garcia to get playing time, so now he can play in the minor league games. He’s another that probably will wind up in St. Louis at some point during the season.
When you think of spring training, you often think of balls flying out of the yard with the warmer weather and the smaller ballparks. That might be true in Arizona, that might be true in other places in Florida, but not so true for those wearing red. The Cards have hit a grand total of nine home runs in 13 games. It’s not the worst home run total in spring training–that would belong to the Blue Jays, who just have five–but it’s not good. (It’s actually tied for 22nd out of the 30 teams, though to be fair most if not all the teams below them also train in Florida, so location could play a big role in this.) It’s not going to get any better with callups, either, as John Mozeliak admitted there’s not a ton of power in the minors either. The Cardinals have focused heavily on the pitching side of the equation and it’s paid off. Power hitters are rare in today’s game, though, and the idea that you can always go and trade for one with pitching chips might not be quite as accurate as it used to be. The good thing is that they’ll have some payroll flexibility to go out and get a guy on the free agent market, if such a guy exists, if they need to in the future.
Last month, I ran the annual Cardinal Approval Ratings but I’ve not had a chance to get into the results. So let’s look at the first three today, shall we?
Matt Carpenter makes his debut in the CAR this year, but he’ll likely be a fixture for years to come. Marp, unsurprisingly, pulled a lot of support from the 69 folks that cast a ballot this year. Overall, he wound up with an 88.1% mark, which puts him close to where Chris Carpenter was last year, if that gives you some frame of reference. Marp topped out at a 100 and his low was 10, but most of these lows come from those disgruntled with the whole Cardinal organization and taking it out on everyone, like this guy. (Actually, I think that actually was the guy!)
Derrick Goold is the first one up in the press section. Goold has always done well here, usually in the 86-87% range and this year’s not much different. He’s actually down a tick to 83.7%, his lowest since 2012. Still, many good comments about Goold, though maybe not as uniformly adoring as in the past. He also received at least one 100 and his low was a 0, though that came from a person who believed the St. Louis press was milquetoast and gave their strongest rating to Joe Strauss, so take that for what it’s worth.
Finally, in our catchall section, we look at Ballpark Village. Last year when we did this, BV hadn’t opened yet, though everyone had a good idea of what it looked like and what was going to be in it and so gave it a 72.1% after it being under 60% the year before. Now, with a full year of it being open under its belt, the Village does even better, getting a 83.1% tally. Having a chance to briefly see the Village last year during my trip for UCB Weekend, I can see why it gets the raves that it does and I have a feeling this mark is only going to grow in the coming years.
Off day for the Redbirds today. They have another next Tuesday and that’s it until the day before the season. It’s hard to believe we are just 18 days away from the games counting, isn’t it? I think we are all ready for that game against the Cubs!