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Cardinals say Walden is ready to go

The St. Louis Cardinals say that long-lost reliever Jordan Walden is healthy and on track for a regular spring, according to mlb.com.

I almost fell out of my chair.

“The reports on Walden have all been positive, and the expectation is that he’ll be on the same pitching program as other relievers,” mlb.com’s Jenifer Langosh reports.

St. Louis is certainly counting on several guys with questionable medical charts to be big factors in 2016. But Walden still doesn’t seem to be one of them.

If he’s healthy, it would fall into the category of being a pleasant surprise.

“But there remains an element of uncertainty about whether his shoulder can remain sound for a full season,” Langosh continued. “The Cardinals have acknowledged as much, and that’s what led them to sign a pair of veteran relievers -- Jonathon Broxton and Seung Hwan Oh. -- this winter.”

So Walden will join the list of Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia who will make Redbirds fans hold their breath every time they take the field.

In an unrelated report, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports lists the Cardinals as having the second-best rotation in the major leagues going into the 2016 season.

With little done to improve a weak offense over the winter, St. Louis will rely on trying to pin down the opposition with their hurlers.

The first five starters are entirely capable of dominating games. But they have to stay healthy for that plan to work. It’s going to be dicey to ride Wainwright too far after only pitching a handful of innings in 2015 or to push Carlos Martinez after a shoulder injury shut him down at the end of the season. Martinez said at the Winter Warm-Up, after three plus months of rest, that his shoulder is 90 percent.

A deep, strong bullpen would potentially allow the Birds to keep stress on their starters to a minimum. Let them make their turn in the rotation. But get them out of there when the pitch count gets up. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to see starters go six and then use a mix of four relievers as set up men to closer Trevor Rosenthal.

I really liked what I saw from Walden last year -- right up to the point where his arm fell off.

He’s a guy with closer experience who can be a quality set-up man or be brought in during a sixth or seventh inning jam to shut down a rally.

Walden, Broxton, Kevin Siegrist and Oh are all, potentially, guys who could be a quality set-up man or give Rosenthal a day off when he needs one.

Of course, Seth Maness is another guy who can douse a rally with his knack for coming in and getting key double plays.

Hopefully, after missing all but the first month of the season last year, Walden will be able to be close to the guy that put up an 0.87 earned run average in April, striking out 12 in 10 1/3 innings of work.

After all, we all know there is no such thing as too much pitching.

But I’ll believe Walden is healthy when I see it because, after he refused surgery, speculation was that the injury he suffered last year was likely a career ender.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the other guy in the ill-fated Shelby Miller trade rebounded to strike out Jason Heyward in a key game in 2016?

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