Open Rotation Spot

(Busch Stadium) Following the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 loss to Cincinnati last night, manager Mike Shildt acknowledged his starting rotation could see another change in the near future. After today’s optioning of Genesis Cabrera to Memphis, he confirmed it.

“It creates an open spot for the Sunday start,” Shildt said. “We’ll look over the next couple of days, evaluate a few things on a couple of different fronts, see where the dust settles, and name the starter.”

Pitcher Ryan Helsley, who was recalled today as the corresponding move to Cabrera being optioned, will pitch out of the bullpen.

In his second big league appearance, Cabrera threw 4.2 innings while allowing 3 earned runs last night. Of particular note, Cabrera did not record a strikeout–or even a swing and a miss in the 95 pitches he threw.

“I think it was pretty apparent that (Cincinnati) had something on Genesis,” Shildt shared. “He’s got too good of stuff not to have a swing and a miss or a strikeout. It’s something that we knew. We tried to cleanup in real time here. To that point, it was pretty impressive being able to get through, as good a job as he did maybe volunteering some pitches.”

The Reds hitters were believed to be reading Cabrera’s off-speed pitches, which allowed them to either adjust or lay off.

“He’s got to clean that up,” Shildt continued. “He’s got a plus fastball that’s got some life to it. He’s got a plus changeup and a plus breaking ball. Just a matter of repeating what those are and putting them together more consistently. He does that and–this guy’s going to help us moving forward. I believe it will be this year. He’s got to go to Memphis and still evolve his craft.”

Conversely, Michael Wacha–who’s spot in the rotation Cabrera took over, was strong out of the bullpen allowing two hits and strking out three batters in 2.1 scoreless innings. He is among those in the mix for Sunday’s start.

“I think it’s something we’ve got to consider,” said Shildt last night and confirmed again today. “That was the Michael Wacha that we expect to see and he expects to see. Velocity was there, plane was there, everything was crisp tonight.”

Besides Wacha returning to the rotation, the Cardinals could also reach down to Triple-A Memphis for a different arm.

Right-hander Alex Reyes appeared to be on track to take over the spot, but allowed 7 earned runs in 4.2 innings in his last start with the Redbirds on Sunday.

Jake Woodford has had a strong season in Memphis, returning to form in his last two starts with 13 strikeouts in 14.0 innings. However, he is not currently on the filled 40-man roster for St. Louis.

Slated to start in Memphis on Thursday, Daniel Ponce de Leon is on the 40-man roster, has big league experience, and offers the additional option of starting tomorrow with the Cardinals and allowing the rotation to be pushed back a day for additional rest and a matchup of Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, and Adam Wainwright to pitch this weekend at Wrigley Field.

As of late this afternoon, Ponce de Leon was still scheduled as tomorrow’s starter in Memphis with the rest of the Redbirds rotation listed as TBA through the weekend. Will that remain the plan?

“We’ll identify that tomorrow in Memphis,” Shildt replied.

photo credit: Scott Rovak, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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