The St. Louis Cardinals need a Wednesday starter in Denver to take Jaime Garcia’s turn. While the club has a number of options, none provide a clear answer. They do not include Joe Kelly, who has yet to begin a rehab stint, let alone start a Major League game.
Let’s review the choices.
- Only minor league starter currently on 40-man roster.
- Has Major League starting experience.
- Last pitched on Thursday, June 19, so would be rested.
- Only two starts since coming off DL, averaging three innings with a 9.95 ERA.
Update: With the Cardinals having added Eric Fornataro and Pete Kozma on Monday to replace Garcia and Michael Wacha, Lyons would seem to be ruled out. The lefty was optioned to Memphis on June 19 and could not return to St. Louis within 10 days except to replace an injured player. Even if another player is sent down to make room on Wednesday, likely a position player, my understanding is that Lyons could not be the replacement unless that player was injured.
- Best pitching prospect at Memphis.
- Threw one-hitter on May 29.
- May not be ready for bigs.
- Torched for eight runs in four innings in last start on June 21.
- Not enough rest between starts to pitch on Wednesday.
- Not on 40-man roster.
- Has MLB starting experience.
- Removed from 40-man after severe shoulder injury in 2013.
- Has 6.39 ERA in three appearances with Memphis since activation.
- Still building up strength with just 12 2/3 innings across the three appearances.
- Allowed just four runs over last three starts (20 innings).
- Wednesday would be fifth day since last start on June 20.
- Non prospect.
- Was removed from 40-man after bad spring.
- Would likely be lost to organization if removed from 40-man a second time.
- Top 40 prospect in organization.
- Rested. Last pitched on June 18.
- Scheduled to pitch for Memphis Monday night, so if scratched, intention would be signaled.
- Allowed 16 runs over last five starts (25 1/3 IP, 5.68 ERA).
- No MLB experience
- Not on 40-man roster.
Bullpen game (Nick Greenwood)
- Least disruptive to rosters, roles.
- Swingman has made 10 spot starts for Memphis in 2013-2014.
- Cards could add two relievers to replace Wacha, Garcia.
- May not be putting best pitcher on the mound.
- Could require more innings from Cardinals pen to complete game.
- Short-term solution only.
Longshot (Marco Gonzales)
- Best pitching prospect in minor league system.
- Pitching very well at Double-A.
- Would have one week rest – last start was June 18.
- Colorado native.
- Martinez made same jump from Double-A (but was to the bullpen)
- Could move to Memphis rotation after Kelly is ready to return (as did Martinez).
- Could be pushing him too fast.
- Would have to be held out of Texas League All-Star Game Tuesday night.
- Would need to be added to 40-man roster.
As noted above, for any other option other than Lyons or a bullpen start, a 40-man roster spot would need to be freed up. Moving Kelly to the 60-day DL would be the best short-term fix as he has already been out since April 16. Another option would be the removal of a player, such as Memphis reliever Jorge Rondon or Springfield outfielders Mike O’Neill or Rafael Ortega. (Butler, out for the year with Tommy John surgery would also be an easy 60-day DL move.)
For the Wednesday start, the bold stroke would be to call on Gonzales, but the Cardinals have been conservative with prospects in other roster moves this season. The path of least resistance and disruption would be to add a second reliever (with Fornataro) and make Wednesday a bullpen game started by Greenwood, so that is my guess as to what will happen.