Redbird Torture Chamber Notes

Being a Cardinals fan is like being a fan of Evel Knievel.   Every time they go to work, something bad could happen.   A chaotic horse race.  A traffic jam on a broken highway.  Loud noises in a grocery store.  Baseball will snap your heart 10 ways from Sunday and there’s no stopping it.  The season is so damn long you wonder how your body and mind adapt and survive every year.  This is why I admire and respect the casual fans.  They watch, put one foot into the door and escape before devotion and addiction settle in.  Believe me, if you can do it, I am all for it. The problem is when I was 5 years old I was hooked and haven’t let go since.  Baseball owns me.  I own myself partially.  Life goes on.   

 
Let’s talk about a few things and I will try not to bore you, waste your time or lose your attention to the point of you playing a cellphone game while you read this latest dose.  
 
Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook Hit The DL
 
It was announced an hour ago that Tyler Lyons would take Garcia’s spot in SD this week.   An unfortunate development in Cardinal nation that compounds when you add it to the loss of Jake Westbrook(elbow inflammation) last week.   The St. Louis Cardinals attract doom like Oklahoma lures in tornadoes and this latest storm may rock the pitching surplus filled ocean shores of Busch Stadium.  The Cardinals  will have to go back into the vault to fill a spot and Lyons doesn’t intrigue me.  He has a 4.30 ERA over 2 seasons at Memphis and is a lefty who doesn’t throw too hard.   He doesn’t walk a lot of guys but what does he bring with him?  Questionable intrigue.   Let’s back up and complain about the Garcia injury before I forget because this is classic Cards medical staff foolery.  
 
*Last year around this time, Garcia went down with a shoulder strain.   It was later discovered that he had a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.  Rest was prescribed.   He didn’t return until September.   After starting against the Nationals in Game 2 of the NLCS and sucking, Garcia gave in once again and left the series and playoffs with the same injury.  He saw a number of specialists in the offseason, including the increasingly popular Dr. Andrews.  Out of four surgeons, Andrews was the only one to tell him rest could heal the torn piece in his shoulder.  More rest.  Rest hasn’t done this team good the past 6 months.  Let’s review.
 
*Rafael Furcal hurt his elbow in August last year.  The doctors found a torn ligament in his elbow in the offseason but no surgery was required or so the experts told us.  Rest was prescribed all the way up until spring training in February when Furcal hit another wall and Tommy John Surgery was authorized and the shortstop’s season was lost.  
*Jason Motte felt a pop in his elbow in March and was prescribed REST.  When it was found that he had a partially torn ligament in his elbow, the same condition as Furcal, he was still prescribed rest and given a shot of cortisone. Weeks later, he tried to make a last ditch attempt to return by playing catch from 60 feet before the arm said something like this, “HEY JASON, GUESS WHAT, I’M TORN AND NEED REPAIR, SOFT TOSS WON’T HELP HERE, THANKS…YOUR ELBOW”.  
 
Jaime Garcia is a talented young pitcher.  When right, he can dominate and his record in 2013 backs that up.   5-2 record with a couple wins taken away by a man called Boggs who coincidentally replaces him on the roster this weekend.   The young lefty has a 4 year deal that is in progress that pays him 7 million per season.   With shoulder surgery on the horizon, I just ask one thing.  Could this have been done last November?  When it flared up again, why was rest given AGAIN?  Post Dispatch writer Derrick Goold told me that teams and players never want to rush to surgery.  I understand that but also push this forward.  What if there are no other viable options and you are hurting your team’s chances this year and next by delaying the inevitable?  Motte resting and making the one pitiful effort may cost him next April as well.   Garcia could be gone for the rest of the season.  Was rest the best option and when did players become doctors? They are hired to pitch and not have the final say on their health right?  If my back was preventing me from doing a good job at my warehouse gig but I told my bosses(who have a business to run) that I could work through it, I would hope they would stop me and tell me to rest up and heal properly or get a procedure done so 100% Buffa returns sooner.  It’s just logic.  I understand when the paid writers have to think about the team they are covering when breaking this issue down.  I just fire off what I think and know from a team that I have followed, studied and loved for 26 years.
 
Thunderstorms strike this team in doubles often.  As Garcia goes down, Westbrook hit a setback in his recovery and needed another shot of cortisone(that magical serum currently on back order at Busch Stadium) and will miss another start.  Who knows when the fire in his elbow will go out and he can resume throwing?  John Gast will get a 2nd start today after pitching decently against the Mets on Tuesday.   Lyons starts in San Diego this week and may just be a temporary fix until Seth Maness and/or Carlos Martinez can get prepped for starting duty.  I would prefer Maness and Martinez stay in their current roles because the bullpen has benefited from their precise abilities.  The depth in this organization’s pitching arsenal will be tested all season and this is the biggest strike.  Don’t forget about a guy named Chris Carpenter who is rehabbing as we speak.  Sports Illustrated just visited the team this past week to do a feature on their stellar rotation.  Is this the SI curse in full force or is that too much?  The cover hasn’t ran yet so maybe it’s not a viable complaint.  At this point, I’m looking for anything.    
 
That’s the biggest news for this team right now.  They are 27-15 and doing very well.   Having a great homestand that is only limited by their ability to not beat lefthanded starters and shoot themselves in the foot.  After losing the final game to Jonathon Niese and the Mets on Thursday, the Cards took Friday’s game 7-6 but blew a 2-0 lead and lost in 10 innings yesterday to the Brewers 6-4.   Joe Kelly made his first appearance in weeks and didn’t look good.  Maybe he needs a trip to Memphis to get reworked as a starter.   He isn’t being used correctly or barely at all here at the moment so why not.   
 
Let’s break down the options for the future of repairing this leaking rotation.
 
  1. Carlos Martinez.  Fire ball tossing mini Pedro Martinez has been with team for 3 weeks and would need to be sent back to Memphis to retool as a starter again.  I like him as the fireman in this bullpen, the strikeout artist who can pitch a full inning.  Leave him be for now unless setbacks occur.
  2. Seth Maness.  He is a strike throwing machine and gets more double plays than Cardinals Care can keep up with but would also need to be sent back to Memphis to retool to be a 5-6 inning arm again.   He is so effective in his role, like Martinez, that I don’t want to move him right now.  Future wise he is a starting prospect.  Right now he is a plumber who fixed a leak in the bullpen first, taking over Edward Mujica’s role when he left for the closer spot.
  3. Joe Kelly.  Once again, he was used in relief yesterday and has been playing more catch with the right fielder between innings than pitching in games.   I am not sure if he bought Mike Matheny a knife for a gift this year or was he simply forgotten.  He needs a Memphis trip to be retooled as a starter so he can help this team in June and onward.
  4. Michael Wacha.  The most intriguing choice was passed over for Lyons even though his next start would fall in turn with Garcia’s missing appearance.   The Cards may not want to start Wacha’s clock too early but I say if the kid has the goods to pitch here, then start the ticker and get him here.  Why waste a start with Lyons when you have Wacha dominating Memphis bats?  He stays in AAA for now.  Excuses to follow in the papers.
  5. Chris Carpenter.  A month away at least but the big guy is progressing with a starter workload in his rehab.   He is throwing close to 100 pitches and getting closer to a rehab assignment in Memphis.  If all goes well there, he will step into either Garcia or Westbrook’s role, especially with the rotation on fire.  John Cast and Tyler Lyons are intriguing young arms but if you have a guy named Carpenter lurking in your corner, you put the gloves on him and send him into combat.   Chris Carpenter at 75% is better than most pitchers at full blast because of his tenacity, intensity and pure volatility on a pitching mound.  Hanley Rameriz still can’t get the shit stain out of his pants from the time Carpenter screamed at him up the first base line at Busch in 2011.  Chris Carpenter is brass balls fury and will make it to Busch sometime in June.  
  6. Tyler Lyons.  I don’t know a thing about this kid and neither does any scribe on twitter yet so we will have to wait and see when he takes the mound in Ron Burgundy Country this week.
  7. John Gast.  If he pitches well over 2-4 starts and Westbrook comes back and Carpenter isn’t ready, you move the young crafty lefthander into Garcia’s spot.  For now, he faces a big task today in taking the rubber game against the Brewers.  
Other Cards Bits-Reading Time, 1 cup of slightly cooled off coffee
  • Anybody else hear the boulder fall off David Freese’s shoulders on Friday when he launched that grand slam to center field in a home run reminiscent of his 2011 World Series bomb from Game 6?  It was one hit but a meaningful one for the native.  He is a good hitter and will bust out of the funk.  Friday’s bomb helped.
  • I like resting Carlos Beltran 2 times a week.  It will keep him fresh and ready to roll in the late season high stakes action.  
  • Edward Mujica’s work is truly remarkable and isn’t getting enough attention, which could be a good thing.  He is 12-12 in save opportunities in the month since taking over in mid April.  He has retired 40 of the 46 hitters he has faced since that time.  He is making it look easy.  He is also a cool dude and a father of a young girl.  Just icing on the cake.  Chief is getting the job done in a big way. If it continues, this will be the most shocking and smooth recovery in the Cards bullpen in years.
  • No one hits a ball harder than Matt Holliday and sports science backs it up.  According to studies, the ball comes off Holliday’s bat at near 100 mph.   The only player who stings the ball harder is Giancarlo Stanton in Miami.   Holliday hits into so many double plays because he hits a missile to the middle infielder on a hop and its an easy turn.  Holliday sprints down the base line every time.  Something to think about to go with Holliday’s effectiveness in 2 out/RISP situations in 2013.
  • The Cards only like to score a lot of runs with 2 outs.  Kind of their thing so far.  I expect this to change.
  • CORRECTION-Joe Kelly has pitched 4 times in the past 6 days.  This guy was wrong.  He still doesn’t have a role and deserves better.  With Gast, Lyons, Maness and Martinez up here, it would be good to send Kelly back down to retool as a starter.  I think he helps the team the most in that role.
That’s it. I am sure I forgot a few things but that is why I always come back to rant a little more.  Non sports notes of the day.  Listen to Alabama Shakes tune “Always Alright” and watch Broken City on DVD/Blu Ray.  Quality picks.
 
Have a good day and thanks for reading,
 
Buffa
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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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