Cheap Seats

Don't fret Cardinals fans. Relief is on the way

It's amazing how quickly things can fall apart in big league baseball. And it's equally amazing how losing a piece of the puzzle in one area can impact all the rest.

To put it short, I don't believe the Cardinals -- who were so dominant in the first month of the season -- are suddenly not a very good baseball team. The parts and pieces to be an excellent club are all still there. Some of them are just on the shelf right now.

When the ingredients are all back in the mix, I think the Redbirds are going to be just fine.

How can if affect the starting pitching and the bullpen to lose Jon Jay, Allen Craig and Lance Berkman to injury? Well, if you ask me, the St. Louis pitchers have changed their approach with much of their offense out of action.

Perhaps best seen in the work of Jake Westbrook, but part of the picture for all five starters, is the fact that they seem to be pitching tight right now. Westbrook last season nibbled himself to death. He was afraid to challenge hitters -- and if he did it was with a secondary pitch, not his sinking fastball.

In 2012 he went back to the aggressive form that worked so well after he arrive in St. Louis via trade in 2010.

The Cardinals' improved defense ate up the ground balls he served up. And, if Westbrook messed up here and there and gave up a line drive or even a homer, well... so be it. Just limit the damage to one run and the high octane St. Louis offense would going to get it right back. 

By nibbling, Westbrook, Lynn, Lohse and Garcia have instead been allowing the opposition to put up crooked numbers when they make a mistake.

This also hurts the bullpen because Redbirds pitchers are throwing so many more pitches by fooling around. They're burning themselves out by the fifth or sixth inning and thereby exposing a tattered bullpen. Throw strikes, make efficient outs and pitch into the seventh or eighth. Problem solved.

Hopefully that swagger will come back in the next week or so when Craig and Jay return to the line-up. Berkman is a longer way off. But the Birds have only had him in the order for a few games this year. So it seems the club can make it without him for a while.

The Birds also got good news on Saturday when the team said that Chris Carpenter has started to ramp up his rehab with plans to get back into the rotation in July.

It will be a huge plus for the bullpen to add Scott Linebrink, who could return in a week or two. And it will be even bigger when Carpenter returns and bumps a starter into the bullpen. Lance Lynn could be a horse in that role -- just as he was starting at about this time last season. Or the team could send Adam Wainwright to the bullpen in the second half to limit his innings in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. The way that Jason Motte has pitched lately, a guy with experience as a closer might be invaluable.