Mark Mulder had another rough outing last night in what was supposed to be his second-to-last rehab start at Memphis. He gave up 7 runs in 6 innings, this after getting tagged for 9 runs in 3.2 innings in his previous start.
This all begs the question – will he ever make it back? I’d like to believe so, but the results at AAA haven’t been exactly glowing.
Cards GM John Mozeliak and manager Tony LaRussa have both made it very clear they will not rush Mulder back to the big club as they have in past years, but at what point in time will they have to give him the sink or swim treatment? If he cannot make a good start in Memphis in the next few weeks, then what do you do with him?
He’s already staring a bullpen role right in the face, if and when he returns. Right now, despite some hiccups, everyone currently in the Cardinals’ starting rotation seems to be filling their role nicely. Adam Wainwright obviously isn’t going anywhere, nor will Kyle Lohse, or Joel Pineiro. That leaves Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer, both former relievers, as the candidates to move back to the pen. Looper has already stated his preference for starting, and to date has backed it up with pretty solid outings (albeit only the 6-inning type). That leaves Wellemeyer, who I could personally take or leave.
Mulder is going to have to literally pitch his way back onto this team, even if that’s only in the bullpen. Ron Villone has been a pleasant surprise and Randy Flores has done alright as well, basically filling the two left-handed specialist slots.
I think you almost have to leave Mulder in Memphis until he is mowing down the hitters to the tune of two or three shutout performances in a row. Let him find his mechanics back. Let him get comfortable actually throwing again. Let him re-learn how to throw strikes and actually pitch, instead of winging the ball at the plate.
Of course, none of this addresses the other elephant in the room, Chris Carpenter. If Carp makes his way back after the All-Star break like we’re being told, there will really be a jam.
Mozeliak should have some fun trying to sort this out via trade. I could see lots of teams ponying up for a low-risk contract guy like Lohse, or even Looper, in the last year of his contract. Enviable position to be in, especially compared to last season’s debacle of “pitching” from the Cards.