Clay Zavada (Memphis) Would Add Lefty Relief

By Craig Phelps

St. Louis, Mo – It is becoming increasingly evident that the St. Louis Cardinals are in desperate need of a true, quality left handed specialist with one of the best mustaches in the fine country of ours.  Now this is not to take away from the supreme talents of Mr. Marc Rzepczynski, who posted up an opponent batting average of just .163 against fellow lefties last season and .188 this year, but is rather a statement that speaks towards the overall lack of southpaws that the Cardinal’s currently possess.

Enter Clay Zavada; the facial hair successor to the one and only, Mr. Rollie Fingers.

The 2009 Goulet Award Winner for best representing the American mustached community was signed by the Cardinals on May 18th.

This left handed specialist has taken a rather interesting path in regards to his route to the Major Leagues.

A native of Streator, Illinois, which is just under two hours southwest of Chicago, Zavada attended Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville where he played ball for the Cougars.  The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted the now 27 year old pitcher in the 30th round of the 2006 amateur draft.

Zavada spent the 2006 season playing rookie ball for the Missoula Osprey, Arizona’s rookie-level Pioneer League affiliate.  He posted up a 3.1 ERA in 49.1 innings with two wins and two saves while striking out 51 batters.  Tragically, Zavada’s father passed away in 2006; Clay decided to bow out of the professional game so he could spend more time with his remaining family.

In 2008, Zavada decided to play one last season of ball.  He signed with the Frontier League’s Southern Illinois Miners for an entire 12 games and a total of just 15.2 innings.  Arizona took note of his 2-1 record, 1.72 ERA, four saves, and 22 strikeouts; they quickly signed Clay to a single-A deal.

After going through the struggles of his father passing away, taking a year off from the game, and working his way through the Minor League system of Diamondbacks, Zavada made his Major League debut on May 21st, 2009.  He faced three batters, striking out two of them, threw 13 pitches, and recorded his first MLB win.

Overall, Zavada made 49 appearances while pitching 51 innings.  He recorded a strikeout per nine innings ration of 9.2 having struck out 52 batters in those 51 innings.  Of the 221 batters he faced, he allowed just 19 Earned Runs with an ERA of 3.35.

Of these batters, 91 of them were left handed with whom he appeared to struggle against in comparison to his dominance against righties.  Southpaws batted .284 against Zavada and his strikeout to walk ratio dropped from an even 3.00 against right handed hitters to 1.46 against lefties.

Zavada proceeded to spend 2010 and 2011 in Arizona’s minor league system.

While he may not be the most dominating pitcher in the Cardinal’s organization, he is a much needed left handed pitcher that already has big league experience under his belt.

It simply comes down to an issue of man power.  Bringing Zavada up to the big league would relieve pressure off of a young, developing Rzepczynski as the team’s only left-handed option out of the bullpen.  “Scrabble,” who is most certainly a higher-caliber pitcher than the man with the incredible mustache, would be pitching in fewer consecutive games with a fellow leftie in the bullpen.  This would allow him to be used for the truly important situations when the game is on the line.

The Cardinals have tried the veteran journeyman approach to fill their left handed need with little success over the past few seasons.  Trevor Miller and J.C. Romero both proved to be more of a liability than a legitimate option out of the bullpen and upon proving their worth, or lack thereof, were subsequently traded or released.

Zavada appears to be the Cardinal’s only legitimate option as a second left-handed reliever.  It appears that the time is quickly approaching for him to receive his second shot at the Major Leagues.  He has most certainly proved that he is mentally tough enough to make it in the Majors.

Quick Hitters

Brooms and Dustpans – After being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers, splitting a two-game series with both the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs, and being swept by the Atlanta Braves for a record of 2-8 in ten games, the St. Louis Cardinals finally got back to their winning ways with a sweep of the San Diego Padres.  The Cardinals outscored the Padres 14-6 in these games.

Holliday Heating Up – Holliday, who is traditionally slow in the early months of the season, is hitting .318 with a double, homerun, and three RBI’s in the past six games.  His on-base percentage has bumped up to .375 over these games compared to .346 over the last 14 days.

Berkman Under Knife Tomorrow – Lance Berkman was scheduled to go under the knife today for work on his right knee after facing a meniscus tear but, due to a schedule conflict with his doctor’s flight, will have to hold off until tomorrow afternoon.

Cardinals vs Phillies – The St. Louis Cardinals start a four game home series against the Philadelphia Phillies tonight.  The series will feature Jake Westbrook (4-3, 2.41 ERA), Kyle Lohse (5-1, 2.91), Jamie Garcia (3-2, 3.55), and Adam Wainwright (3-5, 4.78) for the Cardinals and Joe Blanton (4-4, 3.74), Cliff Lee (0-2, 2.66), Kyle Kendrick (0-4, 5.23), and Roy Halladay (4-4, 3.58) for the Phillies respectively.  Tonight’s game starts at 7:15pm Central.  It can be found locally on Fox Sports Midwest and 1120 KMOX.

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