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Cards’ spotlight is directly on Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny made a very interesting comment on Wednesday. With regard to the three-way battle for the final rotation spot among Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal, the skipper said the following, as reported by B.J. Rains:

“We’re getting close,” Matheny said of needing to make a decision. “Yeah, we’re getting close.”

This was on March 6, with 21 spring games remaining. To most outside observers, the remark seemed premature. Time needed for any of them to adapt to a bullpen assignment should be quick and starting in Triple-A requires the same preparation as in the majors.

One reason cited by the manager was the decreasing availability of innings to pitch. However, with both Fernando Salas and Mitchell Boggs away at the WBC, it seems the full innings crunch may still be a couple of weeks away. Further, a number of non-competitive pitchers for an immediate spot with St. Louis remain in big league camp.

Perhaps Matheny’s timing was chosen to create additional urgency for the three – especially Thursday’s starter Kelly and Friday’s starter Miller.

To date, the two have had precious little time to strut their stuff in spring game action.

Kelly has made just one start, a two-inning scoreless outing against Houston on March 1. He allowed no hits and two walks, and struck out no one.

Initially slowed by shoulder soreness, Miller’s debut was a week later than planned. He threw two innings against Washington the day after Kelly. While Shelby fanned the side in his first inning, he yielded a solo home run in his second frame.

Rosenthal, on the other hand, has appeared three times, the last two in relief, and he has pitched a total of eight innings. He struggled in his initial outing, taking the loss in the opening spring game. Rosenthal went three innings on February 28, but just two on March 6. The right-hander has not been his typical dominating self, seemingly getting behind on the counts more frequently than usual.

Rosenthal was called into Matheny’s office following Wednesday’s outing, amid some speculation the decision was communicated that he is being moved into the bullpen.

Even if so, the final relief spot with St. Louis is not necessarily guaranteed him. Eduardo Sanchez is once again throwing strikes and has put his name back on the map. The right-hander has made four appearances, fanning six in 4 1/3 innings with no walks and one run allowed.

Could it be that the rotation leader had already been defined coming into camp, with the three-way competition declared to ensure the right decision was penciled in? It isn’t all that crazy. After all, Kelly made 16 starts in 2012 and his ERA was second to Kyle Lohse among rotation members. Also effective as a reliever, Kelly gives Matheny proven options.

Miller has the highest ceiling, and made an impressive start against Cincinnati in game 162 last season. Yet the club has several good reasons for Miller to spend a bit more time in Triple-A. His time in St. Louis’ rotation will come, whether in April or sometime later this season.

Based on Matheny’s Wednesday remark, Miller’s and Kelly’s performances these next two days may be the final tipping points for him to lock down his decision on his fifth starter.

(Note: Thursday’s game vs. the Yankees at Jupiter will be on KMOX, no television. Friday’s contest at Viera against Washington will be on MASN television, no radio. The full Cardinals spring training broadcast schedule is located here.)

Update: In Matheny’s Thursday morning remarks to the media, the manager confirmed the decision to move Rosenthal to the bullpen.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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21 Responses to “Cards’ spotlight is directly on Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller”

  1. crdswmn says:

    So Furcal is getting TJ surgery.

    I’m surprised they could find a surgeon to do it. 😛 😛 😛

  2. crdswmn says:

    Twitter is nuts, unsurprisingly.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to stay out of these Twitter brouhahas. Nobody likes my smashing of their hopes and dreams. Yeah, that’s what I am, a dreambasher. (Among other things which some folks are no doubt too polite to voice. )

    • Brian Walton says:

      My perception is that many on twitter are on the extremes – either unreasonably optimistic or ready to give up on the season before game one. Engaging anonymous people venting is not my cup of tea.

      • crdswmn says:

        Well, my feeling is this. I have my doubts as to Kozma as a long term ss solution. But, he deserves a shot at trying. It’s no secret I have no confidence in Cedeno, and the reluctance about Jackson is a mystery to me. Panic trading is just a bad idea all around. Better to wait until July to see what out of contention teams have to part with.

        I know I am in the minority these days when I say I believe SS to be a defensive and not an offensive priority. A light hitting ss is not the worst thing if he can field. That is why I am willing to bet on Kozma, as long as he does his job with the glove. He’s not my ideal, but he will suffice for now.

        I am anxious to see what Alex Mejia can do. He could be our long term solution at short.

        • Nutlaw says:

          I guess that I wasn’t ever really expecting Furcal to play much at all this season to begin with. He’s an old, injured guy trying to play an elite defensive position anyway, and he only managed a .671 OPS last year. Won’t change the course of the season.

  3. crdswmn says:

    So, according to Bernie Miklasz, Greg Garcia has now passed Ryan Jackson on the depth chart. Okay, now I really want to know whose wife Jackson slept with.

    The guy hasn’t even had a cup of coffee in the majors. More like a half shot of espresso. How can they possibly know he doesn’t cut it? His minor league numbers aren’t bad. It just smells like a personal thing to me.

  4. CariocaCardinal says:

    The legend of Alex Mejia. The guy was a 4th round draft pick and considered an overdraft for signing ease/costs by most observers. he gets less than 25 games/100 ab’s with an OPS < .600 before being injured. How does a player like that become the next great hope at SS? Not just on this board but on others as well.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Mejia did not make Baseball America’s top 500 amateurs list, but he hit well for a strong program, so might be a clever draft choice. But he had a serious injury, so its unclear he will ever reach AA.

      I guess there is confusion among fans about Komza and Jackson, and this cascades down into people looking for a new savior like Mejia.
      IMO, Kozma will be fine as a part-time SS. He showed enough last September.
      I further think Jackson is a very fine ML prospect, who will get a second full season at AAA, which is more of a compliment than many impatient fans assume. If Jackson improves 10 percent offensively, he would OPS 800 for Memphis and that would be really good preparation.

      • crdswmn says:

        According to Miklasz, Mo told him Greg Garcia was going to be the starting shortstop in Memphis. So if Jackson improves offensively, it won’t be playing shortstop.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          While Bernie can sometimes offer sensible comments, we should let things settle out and reveal themselves.
          Garcia has is sure handed. He has hit well during his 2.5 pro seasons. At AA, Ryan Jackson was 749 OPS, while Garcia was a nicely higher 828.
          I have assumed Garcia would play 3B for Memphis. Could Garcia takeover SS, while Jackson moves to 3B? We shall have to see what unfolds.
          I have assumed Garcia’s ceiling was sure handed backup middle infielder. If the Cards give him precedence at SS, this will be surprising.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Kozma played at 2B during 2012 at Memphis, SS with the Cards. This illustrates that a SS can play another position at AAA.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          It would seem strange that the MLB scouting bureau had Ryan Jackson as the highest rated amateur SS coming out of high schools in 2006 and the highest rated SS coming out of colleges in 2009, yet after one ML game at 2B last summer, Jackson is now not a good enough defender at SS, as implied by Bernie Hot Air?

  5. CariocaCardinal says:

    Maybe Mannes is the #5 starter (or at least should be).

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