I agree with the Cardinals’ decision on Friday to return Michael Wacha to Memphis so that Jake Westbrook could rejoin the roster and the rotation. The club simply can’t afford to get into the middle of August or September and worry about Wacha’s workload. He needs to spend more time in pro baseball, with this schedule, honing his craft. That’s best accomplished in the minors, not in the bigs. However, after Sunday’s 7-2 loss to the Marlins, in which Tyler Lyons gave up six runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings, I don’t think Lyons is the answer to fill the final spot in the rotation.
After a brilliant start to his career, in which he went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA, Lyons has gone 0-3 with a 7.41 ERA since. As alarming, Lyons has allowed 14 runs in just 17 innings in those three starts. He’s gone 6 1/3 against San Francisco, then 5 1/3 each vs. Cincinnati and Miami. In those 17 innings, Lyons has allowed 22 hits and six walks, allowing 1.65 baserunners per inning. Opposing hitters, after compiling a .125 average in his first two starts, have hit .319 against him since.
Lyons has a chance to be a serviceable major league pitcher, but when the expectation is that the Cardinals need to win every day, and the competition of the Reds and Pirates forces them to win, they can’t wait around hoping that a guy is going to find his groove again.
Joe Kelly has made one start this year for the Cardinals, under emergency conditions, and allowed one earned run in 5 2/3 innings. He’s appeared in just 19 of the Cardinals’ 69 games, and has had gaps between appearances of seven days, six days, seven again, six again, and eight between June 5 and Friday night in Miami.
With Lyons’ struggles and Kelly’s solid performance in his only start, plus his more-than-adequate season last year, Kelly should be the fifth starter. It would be smarter to have Lyons be the one getting so little action, pitching an average of every fourth or fifth day out of the bullpen and enduring the gaps between appearances.
This isn’t an affront to the way the Cardinals are doing things or the rookie’s ability. What this is about is the day-to-day desperation the Cardinals are dealing with. They are the best team with the best record in baseball, but the second- and third-best records in the league are in their division, too. The Reds (42-28, 2.5 games back) and the Pirates (41-28, 3 games back) don’t appear to be going anywhere soon. The Cardinals need to give themselves a legitimate chance to win every time out, and that 7.41 ERA in June for TyLy isn’t giving them enough of a chance.
Other quick notes from the weekend of sports:
*With the Dodgers working on a seven-year deal for at least $180 million for their ace, Clayton Kershaw, we see once again how smart it was for the Cardinals to keep Adam Wainwright out of free agency. Justin Verlander is already making the $25.7 million a year being bandied about (CBSSports.com’s John Heyman reports that Kershaw is seeking $225 million over seven), and Waino’s deal is for $19.5 mil per season. The Cardinals stepped up, and Wainwright, with the knowledge that he could have gotten more, put his money where his mouth was when he talked about loving St. Louis and the Cardinals. What a pleasure it is to have a leader as classy as Wainwright for the Redbird pitching staff.
*Through two games, this is my favorite Stanley Cup Finals ever. I don’t remember two teams being as evenly matched as Chicago and Boston are. The competition is amazing, and nobody should be surprised if every game is a one-goal game or an overtime game. It’s not just that the games are close, but the action is end to end. Both teams play an entertaining style of hockey. It’s a great watch for hockey fans.
*Anyone who watched Tiger Woods play in The Memorial a couple of weeks ago was forewarned that he wasn’t playing well enough to win the U.S. Open at Merion in Philadelphia. He’s lost his putting stroke of late, but he’ll get it back. I would be surprised if he could before the British Open.
*Enough of Woods. How cool was it to hear winner Justin Rose honor runner-up Phil Mickelson on Father’s Day for being at his daughter’s graduation during the week, and taking the red-eye to Philly late Wednesday night to play in the tournament? Total class on the part of Rose. I hope the Brit’s game is in shape for the British Open at Muirfield in July.
*Congrats to Hazelwood West’s Devin Williams, who was drafted by the Brewers last week and signed over the weekend. Good luck on a terrific major league career.