I may have accidentally previewed this last week, but Jaime Garcia has been shut down with shoulder soreness. He is going to get an MRI on the shoulder and the Cardinals are going to share the results with us this afternoon. What those results will look like, nobody knows, but there is one thing that we do know: no matter what they show, it looks like Garcia will miss the start of the season.
So that takes one guy out of the rotation competition. I still think that the only guys with locks on rotation spots are Miller, Wainwright, and Wacha, but the prevailing opinion is that Lynn has a spot as well. I think that’s probably the case now that Garcia is down, but that still only leaves 4 in the rotation. The Cardinals can go a few different directions with the spot, and I think part of it depends on what the MRI results say.
If Garcia is going to miss significant time, or out for the majority of the season, then I think Kelly gets the spot. He is the one pitcher in the competition that could handle the innings load of going a full season. I would personally like him to get it, because I’d like to see what he could do with a full season. At least then, the Cardinals would know what they have with him. I’d project Lyons to maybe take his spot as the long reliever, and Martinez starting in Memphis.
A lot of the opinion on Twitter, at least from the other bloggers that I follow is to let Martinez take the spot. Martinez is going to pitch the opening game and get starter’s innings in Spring Training. That’s not a huge surprise, but most people assumed that would be to put him in Memphis and groom him for the late season or next season to be in the rotation.
I think that Martinez may get the spot only if Garcia is out for only a month or so. Martinez hasn’t pitched more than 104 innings in a season, and so I don’t think he’d be able to pitch more than about 140 before needing to be shut down. If Garcia is going to miss only a handful of starts to begin the season, I could see Martinez taking that spot and then moving down to Memphis once Jaime is back.
The other option is to just have him pitch part of the season. My personal opinion is that if the Cardinals want to do that, then they should pitch Kelly for most of the season, and then move Martinez into Kelly’s spot, taking a spot due to injury (God forbid), or even maybe still trading away Lynn (which I still think is a possibility) somewhere at the end of July or so. That’s essentially what they did last year with Wacha, and it worked really well having that fresh arm for the postseason run.
Dan Buffa would rather have him burn through all those innings early and then shut him down, saying that if he logged those innings in the early part of the season, the leverage would be lower and it would be easier for him. Although that may be true, my personal opinion is that wasting his arm early may come back to bite them when they could possibly need him to start in August or September and then move his arm to the bullpen for the postseason, where he’s been awesome.
The other person who has an outside shot at taking Garcia’s spot is Tyler Lyons. That really depends on how much the Cardinals value having a southpaw in the rotation. I don’t think that’s much of a concern, as the Cardinals had a completely right-handed rotation for the last few months of 2013 and didn’t have any issues there. So, unless he just blows away Spring Training, similar to Wacha did in 2013, I don’t see him getting that spot.
There are going to be a ton of different scenarios which we could run through, but all of it depends on what the MRI results say and how long he’ll be out. I think that unless it’s a sure thing that Garcia will be back quickly, the Cardinals should prepare as if they won’t have him for the entire season. Then, if he comes back, it’s a bonus, and if he doesn’t make it back, they won’t be in a bad position for the remainder of the season. When Mozeliak was going through this offseason and we were wondering if he was going to trade a young arm or two for a shortstop, Mo knew what he was doing keeping all the depth. Too much depth is a GREAT problem to have.