Cardinals rotation: Eight pitchers could compete for rotation

Dilip Vishwanat

The Cards will hold an open competition to fill out the rotation this spring.

This spring, the St. Louis Cardinals could have as many as eight starters competing for five rotation spots, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The team will have an open competition to fill out their rotation when players report for spring training on Feb. 12.

Read more from Viva El Birdos

Adam Wainwright: The only "lock" of the club's plurality of potential starters, and for good reason. He finished second in NL Cy Young voting to Clayton Kershaw last season after dominating hitters through 241⅔ innings. He also posted a sub-3.00 ERA for the third time in the last four seasons, and finished the season walking less than two batters per nine innings.

Shelby Miller: His 2013 season began brilliantly. He cruised through his first full major league season, posting a 3.06 ERA in 31 starts, and finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year balloting. However, when the postseason rolled around -- as it usually does in St. Louis -- Miller found himself spectating the teams World Series run from the bullpen. Despite pitching only one inning in the team's 17 postseason games, he's content to move on.

"I was a little upset I didn’t pitch. I kind of just put in the past. Let it be a mystery ... unsolved."

Michael Wacha: His rise to fame had a lot more to do with his on-field contributions than the fact that his name sounds like puppet's catch phrase. He should get a long look this spring after bewildering hitters through the late regular season, and more importantly, in the postseason. The former first-round draft pick had a 2.64 ERA in just over 30 innings in the playoffs.

Lance Lynn: Lynn exists in the spot where "versatile" and "variable" overlap. He can start or relieve; he can be dominant or disastrous. He struggled through June, July and August, only to come back with a 2.12 ERA in September. Arb-eligible for the first time after the coming season and with theoretically more consistent pitchers coming up behind him, this could be his last campaign in red.

Jaime Garcia: Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak described some of the candidates as better "maximized" for roles in the rotation. Some of the club's pitchers, like Martinez, Kelly, and Lynn have pitched out of the bullpen due to repertoires that serve them well in short work.

On the other hand, a finesse pitcher like Jaime Garcia might be less effective in relief. Garica's return from a season-ending shoulder injury could be a major factor for Mozeliak in determining the team's pitching roles.

The biggest question mark entering the season is Jaime Garcia's surgically repaired shoulder. If it's healthy, one of Lynn or Kelly will be pushed to the bullpen. -Ben Humphrey, Viva El Birdos

Joe Kelly: He throws 95, but lacks a strikeout pitch so the results are all balls in play. It doesn't matter how good your stuff is, if you don't whiff anyone eventually you're going to come to a bad end. The recency effect -- he had a 1.97 ERA from June on -- will probably overstate his potential versus that of his competitors.

Carlos Martinez: After boring through the upper minors in 2012 and 2013, Martinez made his major league debut last season. His upper-90s fastball carried him through the high minors, but he struggled to some extent after getting the call. However, ERA predictors suggest that Martinez was more effective than his 5.08 ERA would indicate.

Tyler Lyons: He started eight games for St. Louis last season, posting a 5.56 ERA in 43⅔ innings in the rotation. He could serve as a useful spot starter for the Cards, and his left handedness should earn him a long look in Jupiter. The former ninth-rounder has shown exemplary control in the minors, walking just 1.7 batters per nine innings in 32 Triple-A games.

Depth was one of the Cardinals' biggest strengths in 2013, and it took them all the way to October. Having too many starters is a problem any team in baseball would certainly love to have. St. Louis can use promising starters like Martinez, Kelly, and Lyons in the bullpen to start the season, but if Garcia -- or another starter -- hits the disabled list, the Cards will have several options anxiously awaiting an opportunity to return to the rotation.

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