The Cardinals were reluctant to put too much weight on the shoulders of their top starting pitcher prospects earlier this season, giving Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez only halting opportunities at the big league level.
But that's going to have to change if the Redbirds are going to have a chance to win the National League Central Division race and then make a decent showing in the playoffs.
Jake Westbrook managed to do just enough to get by early in the season and put up a deceptively low earned run average. But he gives up more than one hit an inning and more walks than strikeouts. Those unfavorable ratios are a recipe for disaster. And reality eventually overcame luck, sending Westbrook on a death spiral before he was removed from the starting rotation by a sudden and mysterious injury.
And now Lance Lynn has performed an encore of his famous late season disappearing act, leaving the Cardinals with a completely ineffective 40 percent of their starting rotation.
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Michael Wacha pitched extremely well against a tough Cincinnati lineup earlier this week and didn't seemed awed to pitch in the major leagues in such an important game. That solves half the problem. So the Redbirds are going to have to hope he can keep doing the job while Westbrook is buried on the 40 man roster and in the bullpen.
But the Birds also need someone to take over in the rotation for Lynn. They can't keep sending someone who allows four runs for every five innings he pitches. Even if they could out-score the opposition on a consistent basis in the games in which Lynn pitches, his bouts of wildness, pouting and loss of composure are soul sucking for the rest of the team. They need to play behind someone in whom they have confidence.
Martinez pitched two very nice innings of relief in the marathon game against the Reds to take the third game of that four-game set, notching a save in the process. Maybe the Cardinals ought to give him a chance to take Lynn's spot. Even if he can't pitch too deep into games, I'd rather have three innings of one-run baseball before turning the game over to an 11-man bullpen than have the Cardinals be down 4-0 when Lance Lynn leaves the game.
If the young pitchers don't work out this year, let's face it, Westbrook and Lynn weren't going to work out either. At least if they give the young guys a chance the kids will have a notch of experience in their belt for 2014 and the club will have an idea of what they'll be able to offer the team next year.
I don't see a down side from giving them a chance.