11 Quick Hits from Cards’ First Series…(New and Improved Bullpen Strategy, Huh?)

Okay, before I get going I want to make sure one thing is very clear. In fact, I want it to be so clear that I’m going to write the sentence in all caps.


Thank you.

Now we can proceed…

– I’m not worried about the strikeouts by the Cardinals’ hitters. Not even a little bit. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom are going to do that to a lot of teams over the course of the season and the Cards’ real misfortune was getting them right out of the gate when pitchers are fresh, hitters are behind and the weather is cool. Nothing to worry about here, in my opinion.

– Jose Martinez can hit. That is all.

– I don’t think we’ve learned anything about Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha yet. Carlos had several blow ups like that last year and followed them with long stretches of being dominant. Wacha was up and down all last year. I have the same questions about them now that I did in Spring Training – can they become more consistent. BTW, Martinez was waaaaaaaaayyyy more consistent than Wacha last year. It wasn’t even close. This weekend Carlos was wilder but Wacha gave up two bombs. Their performances were equally bad in my book.

– Jordan Hicks. Oh my. That kid is something to behold. Can’t want to see more. 100 MPH of pure, unadulterated heat.

– Luke Weaver showed us how a talented pitcher should be able to compete when he’s not at his best. I thought he was a little too fine, thought he nibbled too much early on against the Mets but he found a way to make pitches when he needed to and got his team in position to win a game. Good job. Weaver is legit.

– (sarcasm on) You mean something has been wrong with Brett Cecil’s shoulder? Really? I mean, you couldn’t tell at all. He seemed fine. (sarcasm off)

– I don’t understand why the Cardinals had Matt Carpenter at 2B and Jedd Gyorko at 3B on Sunday. Makes no sense. Gyorko has almost twice as many Major League innings at 2B than Carpenter does and Carpenter has nearly twice as many Major League innings at 3B as Gyorko does. Gyorko has more range too…which is more important with all the ground a 2B has to cover. Did you notice that Carpenter barely made it to 1B to cover on a bunt play? Gyorko gets there way quicker. Seems odd to me – when Kolten Wong isn’t at 2B I think Gyorko is the better choice there. Carpenter has played 3B pretty much his entire adult life. Gyorko has been a middle infielder most of his adult life. Can we just go with that?

– Speaking of things I don’t understand…the Cardinals bullpen strategy is weird again. I don’t know if this belongs to Mike Matheny, Mike Maddux or the two of them but I will say since the first two games looked a lot like the last couple of years I’m gonna go with the manager being behind the moves.

Okay, it’s Opening Day. Everyone is rested. There is a day off tomorrow. We can really treat this one almost like a playoff game, can’t we?

Hadn’t we heard all Spring about the Cardinals ability to be flexible in the bullpen? Didn’t we hear them say that they had multiple guys who could close? Didn’t we hear about how aggressive they could be because they have 8 relievers around? I’m not crazy, am I? Because I felt crazy watching how the 5th inning unfolded on Opening Day in New York.

So…1 out in the 5th, Cardinals are down 4-3 and there’s a runner on 2B. Again…it’s a 1-run game when you’re facing Syndergaard and with a man on second you’d think the Cardinals would have wanted a strikeout guy in there, someone who can miss bats, so you can kept the game at 1-run.

We heard all Spring about Mike Mayers throwing in the upper 90’s, we heard from Yadier Molina about how Sam Tuivailala has the ability to close, we heard about how effective Bud Norris was as a closer before he injured his knee last year, we heard about Dominic Leone’s dominant repertoire and his ability to elevate to get strikeouts, we heard that Tyler Lyons is a guy who could finish games and we just spent two days talking about the kid, Hicks, who skipped over Double-A and Triple-A because of his filthy 100 MPH fastball that moves.

And we get Matt Bowman? In that spot? What in the world? I would have taken ANY of the guys I mentioned above in that scenario over the pitch-to-contact guy who didn’t look great in Spring Training. Look, I like Bowman. He’s a competitor but he’s also been used far too much the last couple of seasons and there’s mounting evidence that he might be the next Seth Maness or Kevin Siegrist, the guy who breaks down due to overuse. I hope that doesn’t happen to Bowman – he pitched well on Sunday – but he’s either the last or the second-to-last guy in the bullpen that I would have gone to in that spot.

And then after that blows up they go to the LAST guy I’d want out there in Cecil????????????

C’mon man!

At this point I’m not going to believe in some “new way” of running the bullpen until I see it.

– I like the arms back there in the bullpen and I absolutely LOVE the addition of Greg Holland. If Matheny can’t handle creativity or flexibility then give him paint-by-numbers. It’s the best way to go because it’s Year 7 for the skipper and we’re not seeing much, if any, growth in this area.

– Did you guys notice that the Cubs stunk this weekend too? Yeah, they’re 2-2 but they split a series with a Triple-A team (the Marlins) and three of their starting pitchers got knocked around big-time by an incredibly weak lineup. Jon Lester allowed 3 ER and 10 hits in 3 1/3 IP. Jose Quintana allowed 6 ER in 6 IP. Yu Darvish allowed 5 ER in 4 1/3 IP.

That doesn’t make the Cardinals struggles in the first two games any better but it does show you that weird stuff happens early and we can’t make too much out of it. Jose Urena, Odrisamer Despaigne, Dillon Peters and Caleb Smith started for the Marlins against the Cubs and they split the series 2-2. Soak that in.

– Hey, no matter how much we complain about Matheny at least the Cardinals don’t have Gabe Kapler running the show. The Phillies rookie skipper made 21 pitching changes over 28 innings in the Marlins opening series against the Braves AND he went to the bullpen to bring in a reliever who HAD NOT THROWN A WARM UP PITCH in the bullpen. What in the world? This is Little League stuff, man.

The umpire, Jerry Layne, didn’t penalize the Phillies for the mistake because he didn’t want the pitcher to get hurt by coming into the game cold but the next day MLB scolded Kapler and said next time it would be handled differently.

Yeah, Philly is gonna love Kapler. Hahahahaha.

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