Redbird Rants had the opportunity to do a brief question and answer session with ESPN baseball analyst Rick Sutcliffe.
Rick, with all the young pitching for the Cardinals this season, what has been the thing that has surprises you the most?
Rick Sutcliffe: I would say the development in their farm system is what separates them from most other organizations. Because they are often in the playoffs, they don’t get one of the top 10 picks each year. They are drafting 27-28 but the Michael Wacha’s and Trevor Rosenthal’s keep coming up and having an impact. I give credit to their development staff and the one name that I think of – and I know what a quality person he is – is Ryan Franklin. He used to be a starter with the club, then a closer. I’m sure he’s having a huge impact on those kids getting to the big leagues and making that kind of an impact.
Without Dave Duncan as pitching coach, how would you grade the pitching staff?
It’s still the Tony La Russa system. There’s one thing that I learned from Dave that I wish would have happened in my career. Typically, one of the five starters has a side session every day. Dave is the first one that I ever saw who takes all five starters with them. It wasn’t just his opinion. If he has an opinion and those other starters can reinforce it, great – but more importantly, it’s their eyes and their opinions that help pitchers get better. They still do that with Derek.
Was it too early to have called up Michael Wacha and start the clock?
No. It was not. You have to get the clock started at some point. The situation called for it because of injuries. When I saw him in spring training – granted, I didn’t see every pitcher. But he was the best pitcher I saw in Florida. He would be in the rotation of 90% of major league clubs right now.
Is it fair to say that, outside of those that follow the Cardinals, Matt Carpenter is having an underrated season?
Yes – it is fair. Matt Carpenter should be an All-Star. What they are doing is what they did with Pujols when he first came up. His versatility gives the manager a chance to put together the best possible lineup against the opposing starting pitcher. I think he’ll find himself at Citi Field this summer as an All-Star. He’s always been a run producer; now he is becoming a run preventer.
You played for both the Cardinals and the Cubs so you have a unique perspective on the rivalry. When you decided to play for the Cardinals, did you expect a backlash from friends that were Cubs fans?
I didn’t – because I explained right away what I was doing. It was important for me to be home more because my daughter was getting older. I wanted to be around and the only way I would have played was for the Cardinals. I didn’t want to be without my family all summer. St. Louis was just far enough away that it worked for my family and for my career. I was really glad I did it. I will always have Cubbie Blue in my heart but I gained a lot of respect for what the fans mean to that city and that organization.