Cards' Kyle McClellan Winning No. 5 Job

Well, there's a clear favorite in the battle to replace Adam Wainwright in the Cardinals' rotation. Derrick Goold (via stltoday.com):

After another strong start from rotation favorite Kyle McClellan on Tuesday, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa refused to call off the contest and yield to the box scores.

He did acknowledge the gap between McClellan and other contenders.

Okay, so that's pretty interesting and I'll get to McClellan in a moment. But here's the most amusing thing you will read today ...

La Russa hesitated on awarding McClellan the role Tuesday because there are still starts to make and he mentioned other factors are in play. If the Cardinals fail to find a suitable replacement for McClellan's role in the bullpen or an injury happens, the righty could be needed to stabilize. Pitching coach Dave Duncan's preference is to fill the rotation first, which partly explains why he has McClellan already on turn to start the fifth game of the regular season.

Uh, isn't everyone's preference to fill the rotation before worrying about who's going to pitch the eighth inning?

Granted, La Russa's somewhat fanatical about the bullpen, probably since he basically invented the modern bullpen. But I have a hard time imagining even La Russa holding a guy out of the rotation because he can't find someone who can come in and throw hard strikes for one inning, two or three times per week.

Anyway, I admire management's creativity. McClellan has never started a game in the major leagues, but it goes beyond that. He hasn't been a full-time starting pitcher since 2004, when he was 20 ... and posted a 5.34 ERA in the Midwest League. The Cardinals are asking him to do something he's never remotely done before.

Which doesn't mean it won't work. Between Duncan and La Russa, there's enough baseball intellect to turn the '62 Mets into a first-division club. But it won't necessarily work, and you have to figure the Cardinals will be looking for another starter at some point this summer.

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