With two of the Cardinals five starters on the shelf -- Brad Penny with a back strain and Kyle Lohse with forearm trouble -- the Birds are going to have to dip into the minors or the bullpen for help.
P.J. Walters was called up to replace Penny on the roster. But will he replace the veteran starter in the rotation or free up someone in the 'pen to take the job? In three starts in Class AAA Memphis, Walters was a stellar 1-0 with an 0.48 ERA. He allowed only nine hits in 18 2/3 innings and walked three while striking out 23. He made an extended relief appearance Saturday and logged four innings. He pitched very well for the most part but had one snag where he was touched for two runs.
Mitchell Boggs was named as the other option to replace Penny in the rotation before Lohse was shelled Saturday and then blamed it on the same forearm troubles that ruined his 2009. Boggs is 0-1 with a 3.72 ERA this season working exclusively from the bullpen. He made nine starts in 2009 with a 2-3 record with a 4.29 ERA last year. But the Cardinals leadership feels that Boggs throws harder and is more effective pitching in short bursts as a reliever than he is when he tries to pace himself as a starter.
Kyle McClellan was a candidate for the rotation in spring training. In fact, he was the favorite to be the Birds' fifth starter. It wasn't that he pitched bad. But rookie Jaime Garcia clearly outdueled him and the Cardinals reasoned that McClellan could help the club more pitching late relief. If the team moved McClellan to starting, they'd be eliminating their best late inning righty from availability. He's 0-1 with a 1.86 ERA this season and has allowed 13 hits in 19 1/3 innings while striking out 20 and walking seven.
Another spring training rotation candidate was former major leaguer Rich Hill who continued to struggle with his control in spring training. Hill seems to have settled in -- at least a little bit -- in Memphis where he is 3-2 with a 4.41 ERA. He has only given up 28 hits in 34 1/3 innings, but Hill has walked 23 hitters over the same stretch. As evidence he still has major league stuff, Hill has struck out 33. The problem is that Hill has been working out of the Memphis bullpen and hasn't started since April 20.
Evan MacLane is 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in nine starts for Memphis. He's walked 33 while striking out only five. But MacLane has given up significantly more hits than innings pitched -- 64 in 57 innings. That might not be so bad if he can keep the ball on the ground and take advantage of the big league club's defense. But if he's getting hit hard in the minors, that doesn't translate well to facing tougher hitters.
Just barely 23, Lance Lynn is early in his Class AAA development. He's 3-2 with a 3.31 ERA and has only allowed 39 hits in 51 2/3 innings. Lynn has struck out 44 and walked 24. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals are willing to promote Lynn because of a need or if they will stick with their plan to keep him in Class AAA all season.
Adam Ottavino has been an up and down prospect for the Cardinals over the years. He's improved his stock in the last year or so and is 3-3 with a 4.50 ERA in seven starts. He's allowed 34 hits in 36 innings and has struck out 35 while walking seven. He's been bitten a little bit by the homer bug, giving up four in his first 12 innings pitched. Since then, he's settled down and allowed only one over his last four starts.