Fifth Starter Still Fluid

(Busch Stadium) As the St. Louis Cardinals continue to examine how they will fill the fifth spot in their rotation, Daniel Ponce de Leon gave them a reminder to keep his name in the mix.

The 27-year old threw 7.0 scoreless innings for Memphis last night and allowed only two hits while striking out a season-high 11 batters.

“It just means that Ponce is throwing the ball well,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “He needs to be consistent with it–that’s the key.”

In his first four starts with the Cardinals this season, Ponce de Leon had a 2.66 ERA in 20.1 innings. In five July starts, he had a 6.32 ERA in 15.2 innings.

“Right now, what do we do with Ponce?” continued Shildt. “Ponce pitched last night. That’s just the reality. He pitched well. So he’s going to get the chance to pitch again and get a chance to pitch well again. Then we’ll evaluate what we have, evaluate what he’s doing and see who’s available, then we’ll make our best determination of how we can outs in certain starts.”

Yesterday, Jack Flaherty was listed as the starter for Tuesday, but that is now TBA along with Wednesday’s starter. The announcement of who will take the start opposite of Flaherty could come as early as after today’s game, based on who may be needed behind Adam Wainwright’s start.

“We want to be intentional about giving the other guys the rest that they need this time of year to be fresh for the remainder of August, September, and beyond,” Shildt said. “We also recognize we want to compete. That’s why we’ve looked and talked about being not overly creative, but being as smart as we can when that fifth start comes up to be as efficient as we can to get outs.”

Besides Daniel Ponce de Leon, the Cardinals could again call on Michael Wacha. It’s believed that Ryan Helsley would be comfortable throwing up to around 60 pitches. Or they could use the off-days on the schedule to continue with a four-man rotation.

“Would it benefit a Dakota or a Jack for an extra day?” Shildt posed. “Dakota, first full season. Jack, second full season. It was a longer season for some guys last year, so just being smart about what that looks like physically and mentally for guys.”

One name that is not under consideration is Carlos Martinez.

Physically, the right-hander believes he could throw upwards of 50 pitches if needed and stretch out from there, however, his performance as the team’s closer will keep him in that role.

“I never understand the logic of taking away from a spot that has strength to put in another spot because all you’re doing is transferring and creating a weakness,” Shildt said.

“So let’s keep a strength a strength. Again, you do that it may feel good in that moment but what’s he reasonably expecting to get? Efficiently three innings? And then you’ve got to hold him back for two days prior to that and then he’s off for two days after that–for three innings of work when he can get five innings of work that helps you win two or three ballgames? Yeah, I don’t see that trade-off being favorable for us.”

O’NEILL UPDATE

–Out since August 1st, outfielder Tyler O’Neill received an injection today for his left wrist strain.

“Forty eight to seventy two hours to feel like that’s kind of taken it’s projection,” Shildt said. “He’s itching to get back. We’re going to be on the outside of his 10 days for him to get back and get some swings it looks like.”

O’Neill is expected to head out on a rehab assignment to get those swings once medically cleared.

photo credit: David Kohl, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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