After a halting start to the 2015 season, the St. Louis Cardinals deep and talented pitching staff has the potential to separate the team from the pack in the National League Central during a stretch of nearly three weeks of back-to back games.
The Redbirds pitching, especially the starting rotation, has been spectacular. But the bullpen hasn't been able to get a lot of consistent work with four off days just two weeks into the schedule.
Closer Trevor Rosenthal has made five appearances so far in 2015. But there was a six-day break between his first time on the mound in a game and his second. Then he made back-to-back appearances April 11 and 12 before sitting until the 15th and again until the 18th.
How is a pitcher supposed to find any consistency when he isn't getting consistent work?
After getting regular work in spring training, he was aggressive and sharp at the beginning of the season, striking out five over 2 2/3 innings in his first two games with no walks. In his three appearances since then, Rosenthal has struck out three -- but walked four -- in three innings of work.
Matt Belisle, Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Villanueva have all struggled to find innings with strarters going deep and a bunch of days off in the schedule during the early going.
Villanueva has managed only one appearance in which he logged two innings of work. There, basically, was no reason to have a seventh pitcher on the roster except for a possible emergency, up to this point.
But I guess there wasn't much use for an extra hitter. Mark Reynolds, the Cardinals' top power threat off the bench, has managed only 13 plate appearances through 11 games. Randal Grichuk had 10 before he got hurt two games ago. Reserve outfielder Peter Bourjos and utility man Pete Kozma have had five apiece. Those four players have a total of four hits in 30 at-bats.
The bench players and the bullpenners will have a chance to work hand in glove when the games start to come more frequently. Pitching changes will offer the opportunity for double-switches. So, hopefully, the bullpen and the bench bats will all have a chance to get in a groove and allow the Cardinals to show off the depth that teams like the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers and even the Pittsburgh Pirates can't match.
Sure, St. Louis is off to a good start. But their odds to keep it going are much better than some of the other teams like the Cubs and Atlanta Braves who got out of the gate well.