Cardinals add Aardsma to bullpen mix

The St. Louis Cardinals have added reliever David Aardsma to the bullpen competition with just days left in spring training. Aardsma spent the rest of the spring with the Cleveland Indians, but after being told he wasn’t going to win a roster spot, opted for his release so he could pursue other options. One of those was with the Cardinals.

He arrived in Florida today and already has a jersey with the #53 hanging in his locker. The team has said he is likely to get two pitching appearances to make his case for the bullpen. He is signed on a minor league contract.

Aardsma, 32, spent last season with the New York Mets where he had a 4.31 ERA over 39.2 innings. He spent 2009 and 2010 as the closer for the Seattle Mariners, accumulating 69 saves.

The addition of Aardsma creates some interesting scenarios for the Cardinals going forward.

The first thing it does is tell the guys who have currently been in the competition for the final bullpen spot that they haven’t been good enough. Those candidates were Keith Butler, Scott McGregor, and Jorge Rondon.

Butler holds an 8.68 ERA and 2.25 WHIP over 9.1 innings. McGregor has a 5.06 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 5.1 innings. Rondon may have a 0.00 ERA over his 9.1 innings, but he has a 1.50 WHIP (helped out by 5 walks, only Butler has more among bullpen pitchers).

Aardsma, on the other hand, had a 0.83 WHIP and a 3.00 ERA in 6 innings for the Indians this spring. If he can show that skill in Cardinals camp, I have to think he’s a lock to make the Opening Day roster.

However, once Jason Motte returns from the DL, that’s where the plays become interesting. Will Aardsma or fellow non-roster invitee Pat Neshek get cut to make room or will the Cardinals consider moving Carlos Martinez back to Memphis to stretch back out into a starter’s role to assume a rotation spot later in the season?

I think the latter option, depending on how Aardsma and Neshek are pitching at the time, is the most likely to happen. The organization has stated how good of a starting pitcher they think Martinez is. They also used the “for now” tag when designating Martinez as the setup guy, a position that Motte is expected to fill upon his return.

With innings watches being the name of the game last season for Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller, it needs to be said that both Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez likely have their own headed into 2014.

Martinez pitched 121 innings last season. Kelly pitched 146 innings.

That opens the door for Martinez to start because Kelly isn’t likely to last the whole season as a starer.

So the likely target for Kelly is 170 innings and maybe 150 innings for Martinez this year, including playoffs. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see Martinez head down to Memphis in late-April to start stretching back out into starter’s form for a summer return in the rotation for the stretch run.

It will be interesting to see just how Aardsma fits in and what kind of moves will need to be made going forward to make it work if he does make the team. But those things do have a way of sorting themselves out.

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