On Sunday afternoon the St. Louis Cardinals put the finishing touches on their 2013 campaign that saw them finish with a 97-65 record, good for best in the National League. For a team that spent most of the first half of the season in that position before floundering through the midsummer, it was a happy ending.
The team, however, will enter postseason play for the tenth time in the last fourteen seasons with about as many questions as answers. Here are three important questions that the team will need to find answers to if the franchise’s 12th World Series title is in the cards.
Who will be the postseason closer?
After the preseason injury to closer Jason Motte who led the league with 42 saves in 2012, the team began looking for a new one this spring. Last year’s setup man Mitchell Boggs was unable to settle into the role which opened up the competition. Then last year’s trade deadline acquisition and seventh inning man, Edward Mujica stepped into the role and made it his own, posting a 1.72 ERA, a 0.78 WHIP, and 35 saves in 37 chances from when he took over the position until the end of August. He even got an All Star nod of his own for his work.
But some late season struggles that included being shut down for a week in September for elbow fatigue has opened the door to questions about his health and who will close for the team. Mujica struggled to the finish in 2013 with an 11.05 ERA in his 7 1/3 innings of work and the league hitting over .500 against him. Continue reading
Is it a Sports Illustrated cover jinx? Is it just plain bad luck? Once again the Cardinals feel more like a MASH unit than a baseball team as injuries mount. Jaime Garcia down for the year after labrum and rotator cuff surgery, Jake Westbrook is headed to visit Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion, and rookie starter John Gast (who replaced Westbrook in the rotation) left Saturday’s game in the second inning with shoulder tightness.
It appears now that Michael Wacha is being targeted as the potential call to replace Gast in the rotation, being pulled from his turn in the rotation tonight with Memphis. That’s given people plenty to talk about. But for now, Michael Blazek has received the call to be an extra arm in the Cardinals’ bullpen until the decision is made who should take Gast’s next turn in the rotation on Thursday against the Royals.
There are definite pros to bringing Wacha up. The 19th selection in last season’s MLB Draft, Wacha impressed in spring training. He has also been solid in Memphis posting a 2.05 ERA over 53 innings and 9 starts while allowing fewer than a baserunner per inning. Continue reading
The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have signed Jake Westbrook to a new deal. The deal is essentially a 1 year deal that gives Westbrook $250,000 more than he would have made on his 2013 option and gives both parties a mutual option worth $9.5 million for 2014.
Westbrook, 34, said earlier this month that he intended to exercise his half of his $8.5 million option for 2013 but admitted he wasn’t sure what the team was going to do. He got his answer.
He is certainly pitching worth it right now too. With a 12-9 record and a 3.50 ERA in 24 starts, he is enjoying the second best season of his career by ERA+. His best was 2004 where he got his only career All Star nod and finished at 14-9 with a 3.38 ERA. Continue reading
In addition to the 40 man roster, major league teams typically invite other players in their organization to participate in Spring Training as non-roster invites. The Cardinals have invited 19 additional players to Jupiter. The 2011 list includes 10 pitchers, 5 catchers, 4 infielders, and no outfielders.
This doesn’t mean that guys like 3B Zack Cox and OF Adron Chambers aren’t invited, they are already on the 40 man roster and therefore should already be there.
Teams also usually invite a large number of catchers from the organization because they have a lot of pitchers needing to get their work in.
The Cardinals have also invited RHP Carlos Martinez and OF Oscar Taveras along with OF Lance Jeffries, OF C.J. McElroy, OF Charlie Tilson, and IF Kenny Peoples-Wall to report early for major league camp.
Pitchers: LHP John Gast, LHP Nick Greenwood, RHP Tyrell Jenkins, RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Victor Marte, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, LHP Kevin Siegrist, RHP Jordan Swagerty, and LHP R.J. Swindle.
Catchers: Luis De La Cruz, Koyie Hill, Steven Hill, Cody Stanley, Robert Stock
Infielders: 1B Matt Adams, SS Ryan Jackson, 2B Eugenio Velez, 2B Kolten Wong