Pessimism and trade rumors about St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect Shelby Miller have evolved to major league reality for the 21-year-old with his Tuesday promotion to St. Louis.
Pessimism over injury to and recovery of Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter have evolved to public hopes that the 37-year-old can take the mound in September for the first time this season. In fact, the optimism extends to Carpenter not only pitching in game action, but to start one or more games down the final stretch.
On Monday, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak explained to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest that Carpenter would not return to active duty until he could throw 90 pitches. In a piggyback or tandem arrangement, he could be paired with “guys we have now in our bullpen,” offered by Mozeliak – without naming names.
With the Cardinals in the midst of a tight wild card race, the benefits of a successful Carpenter return seem many, especially for a club whose veteran core is struggling mightily with injuries.
Then, there is the recognition of past success. Somehow it seems completely unfair that the man who may have been most responsible for last season’s title has not been able to take the field even once sporting the World Champions patch on his sleeve.
Such a move would not come without risk to an inconsistent 2012 club whose every remaining game matters greatly, but the uncertainty can be reduced by having a proven starter ready to follow Carpenter. With the minor league seasons ending, the piggyback might be the next best thing to a rehab start or two. It is a common arrangement with pitchers in the lower levels of the minor league system, but unusual in the majors.
Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch takes a Miller perspective, quoting Mozeliak as not ruling out the possibility of Miller being given a start of his own later in the month. It is not clear what Miller’s chances of starting are hinged on – Carpenter not being ready, the team’s playoff status at the time or other factors.
Goold wonders aloud if the two – aging ace and young gun – could be paired up in a tandem arrangement with Miller being the one to follow Carpenter in a scripted pitching game plan.
Not mentioned, but seemingly among the other candidates, are two experienced starters recently moved to the bullpen.
With all the recent excitement about Miller, Trevor Rosenthal seems an almost-forgotten man. Not long ago, the 22-year-old rocketed up prospect lists and passed Miller in terms of MLB readiness earlier this summer. Rosenthal reached the majors in July, initially cast as a reliever, and is back for September. He also started 20 games in the minors this season, the most recent on August 22, and had a more consistent 2012 than Miller at the same level of play. Already up before September 1, Rosenthal would require no roster gyrations to be post-season eligible. Has he earned a major league start or tandem appearance more than Miller?
Then, there is the enigma called Lance Lynn. A National League All-Star in the first half as a starter is now a struggling reliever. Since moving back to the bullpen, Lynn has allowed five runs, four earned, in 3 1/3 innings for a 10.80 ERA. He has yielded eight hits and two walks and fanned just two. Would a return to a more fixed role fix Lynn’s problems?
If Carpenter was ready to start, how might the Cardinals make room for him?
Carp could either take the turn of a member of the current rotation or allow all five an extra day of rest. The latter would turn the rotation into a short-term six-man arrangement. In the former case, that “skipped” starter could be rested completely or be the one to relieve Carpenter, while still pitching on his regular starting day.
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