View from the Cheap Seats: Cardinals have their share of flaws

News-DemocratJune 25, 2013 

As we near July 1, the Cardinals are holding on to not only the top spot in the National League Central -- but also the best overall record in Major League Baseball.

That doesn't mean the club is without flaws.

The Redbirds have lost four out of their last six games and seven of their last 12. In those last dozen games, St. Louis has scored five runs or more three times while giving up five runs or more five times.

The offense has gone flat at just the same time that the young pitching is starting to get over-exposed.

While the Cardinals have a deep and dynamic offense, it remains to be seen how it will hold up under the heat of the summer when its second and third hitters -- Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran -- are in their mid-30s and catcher Yadier Molina and third baseman David Freese aren't far behind.

The Cardinals seemed to be poised to add slugging outfield prospect Oscar Taveras to the offensive mix around the middle point of the season. But Taveras, who missed several games after turning his ankle in early June, has had lingering pain from the injury and may have to go back on the shelf.

St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak has been content, to this point, to let his club's fresh young arms cool their heels in the minor leagues. Michael Wacha, who had a three-start cameo in the big leagues thanks to injuries to starting pitchers, is currently skipping a couple of starts to keep him below the limit of 150 innings the Cardinals have placed upon him.

If he comes back to the majors as a starter this season, it is likely going to be an emergency situation. Otherwise, he could be a late call-up to help out in the bullpen.

The Cardinals may have a tough time trading for pitching help because every club in the majors has heard about their stockpile of young power arms. So teams may be tempted to hold out for the big names, forcing Mozeliak to make a go of the 2013 stretch run with what he already has.

However, Mo could go dumpster diving.

The Chicago Cubs have cut loose former closer Carlos Marmol whom outfielder Alfonso Soriano pegged last week as being a formerly good pitcher.

Marmol, has an earned run average pushing six because he walks too darned many batters. He has allowed 1.7 base runners via hit or walk in 27 2/3 innings of work. But he has allowed only a respectable 26 hits during that time.

The problem is that when the hits come they are at inopportune times and of the particularly long variety.

Marmol has allowed an average of two homers per nine innings. But the final straw came last week when he blew a three-run lead in the ninth by allowing two homers in the same frame.

I'm not sure if the Cardinals are in the salvaging pitchers off the scrap heap business anymore. That was sort of a Dave Duncan thing. And while Duncan's successor as pitching coach, Derek Lilliquist, has done a great job of keeping the several rookies who have toed the rubber for the Redbirds this year in tune, he has had less success helping out veterans who seem to have lost their touch. (See: Mitchell Boggs. Victor Marte and Marc Rzepczynski.)

Still, Marmol is only 30 years old and he appears to be healthy. If a team could iron out the flaws in his mechanics, he could be a cheap and valuable piece of a major league bullpen. The Cardinals could use a little bit of bullpen depth. But what they don't need is another problem in the bullpen.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at 239-2661 or swuerz@bnd.com. You can read the fan blog "View From the Cheap Seats" daily at www.bnd.com/cheapseats. Follow @scottwuerz on Twitter.

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