Even without the Roy Oswalt situation resolved, Bleacher Report ranks the Cardinals starting rotation as the eighth best in the majors.
In the National League Central, only the Brewers rank better at seventh.
The assessment mentions that the Redbirds might be higher on the list if not for some doubts about how quickly Adam Wainwright will be able to return to form after missing all of last season with a torn ligament in his elbow. Fortunately, Tommy John surgery has been perfected to the point that pitchers don't seem to have the year of recovery time followed by a season of feeling their way back to normal like they used to.
Case in point: Jaime Garcia. He had Tommy John surgery after the 2008 season and returned to Class AAA Memphis before the end of the 2009 season. In 2010, it was expected that Garcia would be eased into fulltime work by starting the season in Memphis. But he won a job as a starter with the parent club in spring training and never looked back with a 13-8 record and a 2.70 ERA.
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Wainwright, who has pitched for several years with a partially torn elbow ligament, said his arm feels stronger than he could ever remember. I worry more about Chris Carpenter who complained of a sore elbow in the playoffs after a Herculean effort during the 2011 campaign. He's pitched a ton of innings and he's 36 years old. I hope his arm bounces back.
Garcia and Kyle Lohse will anchor the middle of the rotation. And both are above average pitchers for the third and fourth starter roles.
Jake Westbrook was inconsistent and seemingly uninterested in 2012. If the Cardinals could have ditched him and replaced him with Oswalt at the same price, it would have been a steal. But, apparently, there were no takers when General Manager John Mozeliak put him on the trading block during the winter meetings. Now the talk is that Westbrook would likely end up being baseball's most expensive middle reliever if Oswalt is landed. It would likely be Kyle McClellan who is traded to clear salary space for Oswalt.
While the Cardinals have a lot of health-related question marks surrounding their rotation, with or without Oswalt, they have more depth than they have had in years. Bullpenners Marc Rzepczynski, Lance Lynn and Mitchell Boggs have all had experience as starters. And top prospect Shelby Miller is charging his way toward the big leagues.