Cardinal's inconsistent season getting 'curiouser'

Progress Sports WriterJuly 10, 2014 

Steve Oliver is the Back Court sports columnist.

FILE PHOTO

With the All-Star game and trading deadlines rapidly approaching, things in Camp Cardinal—to paraphrase Alice in Wonderland—are getting "curiouser and curiouser."

St. Louis has been falling through their own rabbit hole of injuries and inconsistent play since the start of the season and, like Alice, don’t appear to know how to get out of it. Keeping players on a yo-yo between Memphis and St. Louis has not rectified the problems the Redbirds have experienced.

Most of the moves by the front office in the off-season still have not reaped many rewards and the club seems more in need of a medical staff than coaches.

The current four-game face-off against the Pittsburgh Pirates might offer a little insight into just how much of an adjustment the Cardinals will have to make if they want to contend for a play-off spot as the campaign heads into the dog days of summer.

Roster moves may be an intriguing area to watch over the next several weeks with players shuttling on and off the disabled list.

Some bright spots have emerged in an, overall, frustrating first half of the season. Matt Adams’ surge at the plate and the emergence of Pat Neshek as a solid relief pitcher have headed the list of positives.

The recent mound work of Sam Freeman, a bit more consistency in the effort of Lance Lynn and the outstanding performances of Adam Wainwright to anchor a pitching staff that has been riddled with injuries have allowed St. Louis to remain within shouting distance of the front-running Milwaukee Brewers.

The offense could use a boost. The back end of the pitching rotation must be more consistent. The fielding could improve. Roles in the relief corps must be more well-defined and productive. The Cardinals may not need a tourniquet to get well, but they do need more than just a Band-Aid.

Players up from AAA or AA have not supplied the spark that other teams have received from their young prospects. Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco is an example.

Since his much-heralded arrival, the Pirates have been on a tear, winning 10 of 13 games before arriving in St. Louis. Oscar Taveras has been unable to duplicate that kind of excitement for Cardinal fans.

Minor league phenoms like Tyler Lyons and Marco Gonzalez have not adequately filled roles of fallen pitchers, and time tables for a return of any of the Redbirds "walking wounded" have been vague at best with no guarantee as to how long they will be able to withstand the rigors of the pennant race of the real world. Cardinal fans are still hopeful that their Redbirds will find their way back to reality with some hard work, clutch hitting, consistent defensive play and, perhaps, a little bit of luck.

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