As the St. Louis Cardinals winged their way to Miami following the series in New York, both of the pitchers in contention for Sunday’s start were on the flight. Despite that, it still seems likely that either Michael Wacha or Tyler Lyons will soon continue west to join up with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds in Albuquerque. The Pacific Coast League club lists “TBA” as its Sunday pitcher.
Expectations were reasonably low when Lyons stepped into the rotation on May 22 as Jaime Garcia’s shoulder could take no more. However, after four solid starts, Lyons holds a good 3.51 ERA and 14:5 strikeout to walk ratio over his first 25 2/3 innings as a major leaguer.
Many seem convinced that Wacha will remain in the rotation because of who he is, but Lyons has quietly made a strong case of his own. While Wacha has the higher ceiling, he also has ERA over a run higher than Lyons through three starts.
In my opinion, Lyons has been a more consistent major league pitcher to date and for that reason, it is possible that he may stay around awhile. With just nine Triple-A starts under Wacha’s belt, more seasoning there could benefit the organization over the long haul more than returning Lyons. Either way, the Cardinals want to have a “sixth” starter ready just a phone call away.
I spoke with the 25-year-old Lyons about his three-year journey as a professional. It began when he signed as an injured pitcher from Oklahoma State University in 2010, to being a reliever at Palm Beach the next spring. Soon, Lyons moved into the rotation and threw a no-hitter, and finally pitched in the Arizona Fall League in the fall of 2011.
Last season, Lyons continued to rise quickly, splitting the season between Springfield (12 starts) and Memphis (15 starts). He made 13 quality starts, led the Pacific Coast League with three complete games and finished in the top three in the Cardinals system in starts, innings and strikeouts.
In other words, Lyons demonstrated his readiness for his current assignment.
The Texas native talked about all of that and much more in this audio interview, exclusively for subscribers to The Cardinal Nation.
Listen to Audio (7:50)
Update: On Friday afternoon, the Cardinals officially announced that Wacha was being optioned to Memphis.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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