With the news that starter Joe Kelly has been placed on the 15-day DL, fans of the St. Louis Cardinals are anxiously awaiting the club’s next move. The moves today shed some light on management intentions. First, they have optioned pitcher Keith Butler back to AAA Memphis. Butler did not seem comfortable in his middle-relief role, and the Cardinals would like to see him get more seasoning.
The Cardinals called up two pitchers, minor league veterans Jorge Rondon and Eric Fornataro. Fornataro, 26, is not a power pitcher, and the primary consideration with both of these call-ups is they are both relievers, surprising some as it had been widely expected either Tyler Lyons or Tim Cooney would soon get the call. Taken together, this seems to indicate that manager Mike Matheny will take the plunge and give potential future Cy Young contender Carlos Martinez a shot in the rotation.
Martinez, 22, is a scout’s dream. Possessing a slider that recalls Bugs Bunny cartoons, he has so far in his limited time in the Majors made even veteran mashers look foolish. Couple that with a fastball that moves near 99 m.p.h., and an easy, repeatable delivery, Martinez has the makings of being the next big thing in all of baseball. The idea of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, and Martinez in the same rotation is downright mind boggling.
This rotation, if it sticks together, has the ability to match or exceed some of the 1990′s Atlanta Braves set and indeed, may rank among the best of all time in the game when all is said and done. The bullpen, however, must replace Martinez if the club goes this route, and that will not be easy as neither Rondon or Fornataro have shown anywhere near the dominance of Martinez. When “Baby Pedro” enters the rotation, it should be a done deal, so one of these two is going to have to find comfort as a set-up man in all likelihood.
The Cardinals are 9-6, supremely talented, and may be adding the near-equivalent of a 22 year-old Pedro Martinez to the rotation. Cardinals fans, keep your calendars free for October. That whole month looks like it will be booked.