The Sporting News has named the Cardinals starting rotation the fifth best in the major leagues.
Despite the lack of a clear fifth starter, the baseball magazine gives the Birds high marks for having two or the top three placers in the NL Cy Young award chase. There are also high expectations for power pitcher Brad Penny who ought to benefit from the tweaking of pitching guru Dave Duncan.
Kyle Lohse, who was a disappointment in 2009 with stints on the disabled list and general uneffectiveness when he was able to get on the mound, ought to be able to get things back together with a fresh start according to The Sporting News' Chris Bahr.
The Cardinals could opt to fill their last rotation opening with a kid or they could still bring back future Hall of Famer John Smoltz. Bahr thinks the Cardinals could also bring back Joel Pineiro. But that seems to be extremely unlikely. Pineiro wants a long-term contract and I can't see the Birds giving him a four or five-year deal with his spotty track history and the fact that Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Lohse are already working under lengthy agreements.
The value of filling the fifth starter slot is low for The Sporting News because it's often skipped in turns through the rotation or if your other four guys do well, the bullpen should be ready to lend a hand on that fifth day. But the Cardinals would probably be wise to invest in some short term insurance because all four of their already penciled in starters have spent significant time in the last two years on the disabled list.
I like Smoltz for the fifth spot because the Birds can get him some extra rest by occasionally skipping his turn every once in a while. Or they could use him in the bullpen in a pinch.
Click here to read TSN's story and see who else was in the top five.