The Cardinals’ Fifth Rotation Spot

by on March 25, 2010 · 0 comments

[by PH8 reader Ryan Dell - @KingRD3]

[Ed. note - I want to take a second to make clear that Ryan submitted this story over the weekend, prior to yesterday's news, I just haven't had a chance to get around to posting it. Thanks Ryan.]

It has been highly publicized on this site and by many other fans, the want for long time prospect Jaime Garcia to be named the fifth starter in the Cardinals rotation.

After nearly a year off due to Tommy-John surgery, Garcia responded late last year by posting a 3.86 ERA in four starts for Memphis. Garcia, considered by many to be the top Cardinals prospect remaining after most of the farm was dealt for Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa last season, is competing with veterans Kyle McClellan and Rich Hill for the final spot in the rotation.

Early in Spring, many considered former bullpen arm McClellan to win the job out of Jupiter. But the recent success of Garcia has put that entire plan on hold. Garcia has thrown 8.1 innings (as of 3/22/2010) and has an ERA of 1.04, while striking out 12. Meanwhile, McClellan has a 2.57 ERA in 7 innings, striking out 6.

Another pitcher who could steal the show is former Chicago Cub, Rich Hill. The big lefty is coming off a couple disappointing seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, and September arm surgery. Hill has had a respectable 6.43 ERA over three spring appearances (7 innings).

As the calendar begins to wind down, and roster moves are shaping the final 25 man team, the choice to fill the back end of the rotation seems to be leaning more and more toward the 23 year old rookie from Mexico, Jaime Garcia.
If Garcia wins the final rotation spot, it may shape the future of another rookie, former first-round pick Adam Ottavino. Ottavino is a dark horse for the final spot in the Cardinals pen, and is relying on the outcome of the Garcia-McClellan bout to learn his 2010 fate.

If McClellan wins the final spot, it will free up the 7th and final bullpen spot, a spot that seems destined for Ottavino. But if Garcia wins, McClellan will again be in the bullpen, and take that final roster spot. Ottavino has impressed major league brass this March, posting a 1.08 ERA in four appearances.

Ottavino was originally drafted as a starter out of Northeast University, and has varying levels of success. Now, like many other Cardinal farmhands, Mitchell Boggs and Blake Hawksworth come to mind, to find success in a MLB pen. If Ottavino makes the club, look for him to follow Duncan to more success in his pro career.

I anticipate LaRussa to “Honk for Jaime” along with the rest of Cardinals Nation, and force McClellan back into his set-up role. This move would send Ottavino back to AAA where he will continue to work on an improved delivery and more consistent pitching.

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