With Rick Ankiel looking on, the Cardinals on Friday will send 24-year-old hurler P.J. Walters to the mound at Wrigley Field to make his first major league start.
It's not quite the spotlight that Ankiel faced when he famously melted down in the 2000 playoffs at Shea Stadium against the Mets. But facing a hostile crowd in Cub land in the place of a Cy Young Award winner can't be easy either. And Walters will get the first shot to fill in for injured Chris Carpenter while the Cardinals ace recovers from a pulled rib cage muscle expected to shelve him for a month or two.
Walters was the Cardinals 2007 Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2007 but his stock fell last year, according to Scout.com and he is now ranked the St. Louis organization's 23rd best prospect.
With a fastball topping out in the high 80 MPH range, Walters' best pitch is his change up. He is 1-0 after one start this season in Memphis in which he tossed seven innings and allowed only two hits. He struck out six and walked one.
Last season Walters compiled a nice 9-4 record but struggled with a 4.87 ERA and 123 hits allowed in 122 innings. But, while he relies on control and changing speeds to get hitters out, that doesn't mean he can't cause bats to swing and miss. He struck out exactly one per inning - 122 hitters -- in Memphis in 2008.