The Cardinals will use Jaime Garcia as their fifth starter to begin the 2010 season, and the general belief among fans and many media members is that Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan are “finally” giving an opportunity to a young pitcher.
However, history would tell us that young pitchers have started a number of games for the Cardinals in LaRussa’s tenure. In 1996, Alan Benes started 32 games. In 1997, Matt Morris started an illustrious career with 33 starts for LaRussa and Duncan. In ’98, second year righthander Manny Aybar started fourteen. Jose Jiminez started 28 in 1999, Rick Ankiel started 30 in 2000, Bud Smith had sixteen in 2001 and Dan Haren started fourteen in 2003.
While the long-term commitment to those pitchers has been halting at best, the facts are these…kids have started games, and of the group, only Morris and Haren pitched well and stayed healthy for any appreciable amount of time. Anthony Reyes didn’t get much of an opportunity, and it appeared the Cardinals couldn’t wait to part with Smith and Haren.
It’s important for LaRussa and Duncan to commit to Garcia. If he has some struggles early on, they have to stick with him and allow him to endure and learn from those issues. But, Garcia beating out veteran Rich Hill is a start…and hopefully, with patience, he’ll succeed at a high level for a long time.