With the Cardinals’ regular season opener approaching April 5, the top question for the team is who’s going to round out a starting rotation that’s been the hallmark of a club with four straight National League Championship Series appearances.
We know the front four will contain staff ace Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, and John Lackey. The question is who, out of potentials Carlos Rodriguez, Marco Gonzalez, and Jaime Garcia, will round out the five.
Staying with the first four hurlers for a minute…Who gets the ball after Wainwright? Popular belief would point to Lynn, who’s found ways to win during recent seasons by being a staff workhorse with good run support when he wasn’t sharp. But what about young Mr. Wacha?
MLB Network analyst Greg Amsinger joined The Fast Lane recently to talk about the Cards’ rotation, saying he favors Wacha over Lynn for the second slot.
“Lance Lynn is a proven winner, and I get that.” Amsinger said. “I know you fall in love with the durability of a guy like Lance Lynn, but in terms of talent it’s Adam Wainwright at number one and Michael Wacha at number two.”
“To me Michael Wacha has to be good. He has to be a great pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals this year for them to win this division,” Amsinger added.
The real mystery of the rotation is who will fill the number five spot. Martinez and Gonzalez were the two top contenders at the end of 2014, with both taking starts when needed and having solid outings from the bullpen.
Garcia, who had elective thoracic outlet surgery in July 2014, has pitched well this Spring and is out of options on his contract, removing the possibility of being sent to the minors for a later return to St. Louis. This limits the options the team has for Garcia, and as 101ESPN insider Bernie Miklasz mentioned recently on The Kevin Wheeler Show, you may as well get what Garcia has left at the MLB level.
“You don’t have any choice,” Miklasz said. “Unless you just want to waive him or release him, which would be incredibly stupid and achieve nothing. And there’s really no trade market for him unless you just want to give him away and achieve nothing and what would be gained by doing that?”
“Someone in the organization pointed out to me, and it is a very good point, they don’t know how many pitches they’ve got left in Jaime Garcia,” Miklasz added. “It’s not like people are saying, ‘Pencil him in for 33 starts. He’s good to go.’ I think quite frankly that they envision that it will blow up again and they don’t when or how or why.
“Their attitude is, ‘look, however many pitches are left in that arm, we want to get them at the major league level.'”
Resolution will need to come prior to April 5, when the Cards meet the Cubs in the season opener at Wrigley Field.
Catch Greg Amsinger’s interview with The Fast Lane below.