COMMENTARY | Prior to the 2013 season, the St. Louis Cardinals were a common choice among experts naming the top farm systems in baseball.
Due in large part to the pitching prospects that they were cultivating, the Cardinals were ready to prove the accolades were true over the next few seasons. Due to some bumps along the road, the future came a lot quicker than anyone anticipated.
It may be the oldest cliche in the book of baseball, but it really is a long season. The 162-game schedule will test the wits and fitness of almost any player. The Cardinals are not immune to the grinding effects of the long schedule and have continued to succumb to the aches and pains of a strained roster.
Jake Westbrook Staggers
The Cardinals were the talk of the league through the first month of the season, keeping their rotation healthy and in place. Early on in May, that all changed very quickly. Westbrook would need a trip to the disabled list to overcome elbow inflammation, and the team had to turn to the youth in the organization to fill a need for a short time.
Jaime Garcia Went Down
Compounding Westbrook's trip to the disabled list, Jaime Garcia surrendered in his battle with shoulder issues less than a week later. The Cardinals would now turn to their treasure trove of prospects to fill two rotation spots. Surgery would soon follow, and the Cardinals would scramble to fill the spot in the rotation. Garcia is set to begin a throwing program in a few weeks, though he does not project to pitch again in 2013.
Garcia's Replacement Falls
John Gast was tapped to take over as the left-hander in the Cardinals' rotation. Three starts later, he was heading to the disabled list and eventual season-ending surgery of his own.
Pushing The Bullpen Model
Through all the adversity, the Cardinals stuck to their guns when it came to their bullpen. Trevor Rosenthal is a reliever for the team this year and there is no desire to change that. Joe Kelly stayed in the bullpen far longer than was necessary as the team tried to fill the rotation with prospects. Carlos Martinez was promoted to the big league roster but sent back to the minors after receiving very little work as a relief pitcher. The team was methodical in its approach and stuck to its guns, promoting Michael Wacha, Tyler Lyons and John Gast before handing the spot to Joe Kelly.
Shelby Miller Gets Hit By A Line Drive
In the most recent development and challenge to the team's adversity, Shelby Miller was struck in his right elbow by a line drive on the second pitch of the game on August 7. Westbrook came into the game to pitch, leaving the team short-handed for the remainder of the week. The team has announced the return of Carlos Martinez, this time as a starter, to start the final game of a four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The team has also added an extra bullpen arm and decided to go with fewer bench position players until the situation becomes clearer. It appears that Miller may not end up on the disabled list and may not miss a start, but the team has to be cautious until that decision is made.
The Cardinals have been able to fill the void with multiple prospects and internal options to this point in the season. The success has been moderate. The luxury is slipping away as they continue to chase the Pittsburgh Pirates in the standings. It may be time for general manager John Mozeliak to consider trading a young arm or two for a known commodity.
The future arrived a little sooner than expected in St. Louis.
Bill Ivie is a freelance writer covering the St. Louis Cardinals here on Yahoo! You can find more of his baseball musings on his own site, i70baseball.
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