Cardinals Rotation Growing Pains

Cardinals Rotation Growing Pains

25-year-old St. Louis Cardinals starting pitchers Adam Wainwright and Anthony Reyes are scuffling. They aren't alone.

Growing pains.

Everyone goes through them - even those unfamiliar with the forgettable 80's television series of the same name.

Unfortunately for the St. Louis Cardinals, 2/5 of their 2007 starting rotation are in the throws of such a period - still near the start of their Major League careers – an adjustment phase full of ups and downs that is causing frustration on the part of many impatient fans.

These two youngsters, for now labeled as pitchers "A1" and "A2" below, are not alone. Along with their numbers are comparable stats from three other prominent Cardinals pitchers during their first two big-league years.

Pitcher

Age

Won-Loss

ERA

Games

Starts

Relief

"A1"

23-25

5-4

4.46

71

8

63

"A2"

23-25

6-15

4.84

28

25

3

"B"

23-24

6-11

4.55

40

21

19

"C"

22-23

15-14

5.21

45

37

8

"D"

22-23

6-10

4.85

28

19

9

In their still-brief Major League careers, just starting their third calendar years, but far less in terms of actual service, Adam Wainwright (pitcher "A1") and Anthony Reyes ("A2") are a combined 11-19 with a 4.66 ERA. The two have accrued 33 MLB starts between them, with Wainwright only logging eight.

You knew the identity of the pair before I named them. But how about the others?

Pitcher "B" is none other than the greatest Cardinals hurler of all time, Bob Gibson. Fresh up from Omaha, where he both called home and played Triple-A ball, Gibby joined the Cardinals in 1959. He was 23 at the time, the same age as when A1 and A2 debuted over 45 years later.

In those early days, Gibson started some and relieved some. He had streaks of brilliance and he struggled. In his fourth game and first-ever start, the future Hall of Famer spun a complete game shutout against the Cincinnati Reds. Five days later, he couldn't get out of the fifth inning, allowing six runs, five earned, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Gibson hit a batter and uncorked a wild pitch that day, too.

During his first two seasons, 1959 and 1960, number 45's National League opponents scored six or more runs six different times while he was on the mound. Yet, Gibson ended up doing just fine down the road, thank you.

How about Mr. "C"? Would you believe that is Chris Carpenter? At 22 years of age in 1997, he became a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. While Carp did manage to post a winning record (barely) his first two years, his ERA was well over five runs per nine innings, the worst of this small sample group.

Carpenter yielded 12 runs across his first two MLB starts, neither of which lasted beyond three innings. He was soon banished to the bullpen. Upon earning another shot in the rotation the following season, 1998, Carp's next two opponents again scored 12 times. You know the story from there.

Even closer to home, I almost hesitate to bring up the real identity of pitcher "D", but it provides an especially-appropriate reminder. 22-year-old Dan Haren came up to the Cardinals from Memphis in June, 2003.

Haren started some and was in the pen for awhile, too. He lasted just 1 2/3 innings in his second career start, as the Giants scored six times. While his St. Louis results in 2003 and 2004 were ordinary overall, better days were right around the corner when Haren left the club via a trade to Oakland prior to the 2005 season.

Without a lot of effort, I am quite confident that I could continue, coming up with examples of players "E", "F" and so on.

What's the point, you ask?

Well, I am not saying Wainwright or Reyes are yet in the class of Gibson or Carpenter, but who knows that they don't have that kind of potential?

Let's allow the Cardinals youngsters time to work through their early difficulties, just as Gibson, Carpenter, Haren and countless others have experienced before and since. Don't rush to conclusions or push to make moves that may be regretted later.

I am among those who were prepared in advance for the ups and downs of the 2007 season, though I must admit, I was hoping for higher highs and higher lows across the entire team, not just these two. Yet, I am ready to ride it out with Reyes and Wainwright.

There are plenty across the Cardinal Nation who are currently analyzing or creating a variety of theories about might be affecting the two young hurlers – pitch patterns and usage, velocity, strikeout-to-walk ratios, control, starting vs. relieving mindset, in-game hitter adjustments, umpire prejudice against youngsters, maybe even tipping pitches.

Some ask for one or both to be removed from the rotation and returned to the bullpen, either to save their arms or to be more effective or a combination thereof. Others suggest more time in Triple-A for additional seasoning might do the trick. The most extreme demand is for one or both to be shipped out, worrying their trade value is declining with each tough loss.

It may be a very boring position, but I am not into any of that, other than to let Dave Duncan do his job and for the two pitchers to continue to work on improving their games.

It is rough having to deal with growing pains sometimes, but these reruns simply go with the territory.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

© 2007 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.

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