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Just the other day, a season preview of The Bird’s Eye View was sent — including the preview below I wrote on the bullpen. (Researching the spring numbers on the bullpen before writing was what led to this, and we can probably answer “no” to that question now. Right?)
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One of the strengths of the Cardinals last September and October was the bullpen, those talented young arms that ultimately helped led the team to the National League pennant. We remember well the success of Carlos Martinez in the eighth inning, Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth and the double plays Seth Maness was able to get seemingly on command. Of course we want that same success in 2014, even though a few of those bullpen components may be a little different.
As we are all aware, spring training games don’t count, but the spring performances determine the final roster who will be in Cincinnati for Opening Day. And some of the spring bullpen performances have been unpleasant at times, which has led to an overall bullpen ERA of 7.66 on March 18, dead last in the majors. The numbers, like the games themselves, don’t count. And some of the performances creating that total ERA are from guys who won’t be near the big leagues this year anyway. (Sorry, Boone Whiting.) So hopefully that high ERA is long forgotten once April arrives.
We know there will be 12 pitchers on the Opening Day roster and, with five starters, that means seven relievers. We also know who some of those seven will be. Beginning at the end, Trevor Rosenthal and his 100 mph fastball will return as the closer. This spring he was slowed by a strained groin in late February and didn’t appear in a spring game until March 8, but he’s done just fine so far.
Doing equally as well, with nearly identical spring numbers to Rosenthal, is lefty Kevin Siegrist. Lefty veteran Randy Choate is doing extremely well too. Count on both of them to be joining Rosenthal in the pen.
Also in the mix will be either Joe Kelly or Carlos Martinez, whoever doesn’t win the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Martinez, who owned the eighth inning last fall, has excelled as a starter this spring. Through four spring starts and 15 ⅓ innings, he has a 1.76 ERA. Though Kelly’s numbers aren’t as impressive so far, he has the starting experience.
The Seth Maness double-play magic hasn’t been around much in spring and he’s been hit hard, but his latest performance on March 19 was a step forward — especially since he induced his second double play of the spring and struck out one in a scoreless inning of work. Count on him for a bullpen slot too, which brings us to five relievers.
It would seem righty side-armer Pat Neshek has earned one of those two remaining spots, as he’s done very well: 2 earned runs in 7 total innings with 9 strikeouts. He also earned a save on March 19.
Which means that one spot remains for the following candidates: lefty Sam Freeman or righties Keith Butler, Jorge Rondon or Scott McGregor. Another candidate, Tyler Lyons, was sent down to Memphison Wednesday.
Jason Motte is making progress as he comes back from Tommy John surgery, though he won’t be ready for the beginning of the season. When he returns, he could be an option for his pre-closing spot in the eighth inning.
One thing we as Cardinals fans have learned in the past couple seasons, though, is that bullpen makeup is often very fluid — especially with the number of pitching options the Cardinals have. Just in case you need further proof, remember back to who was in the bullpen on Opening Day 2013.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates and like AMF on Facebook if you don’t already.