Cards Look for 5th Starter, McClellan Could Be Answer


As the steady and dependable Joel Pineiro heads for Anaheim, the Cardinals are still looking to find an apt replacement. Pineiro was consistent in his short time for St. Louis. He threw strikes, rolled ground balls with his sinker, and kept the Cards in every game. Pineiro has an impressive year in 2009 for St. Louis, highlighted by 15 victories. His departure leaves a noticeable void in the rotation as the Cards continue to search for a 5th guy.

John Smoltz, who gave the Cards great value in 2009, remains one option. But the veteran seems to have little gas left, and an entire season would be grueling.

Vicente Padilla is another name floating around. But Padilla may command too much money for an inconsistent pitcher. Like I said, the Redbirds are looking for consistency, and Padilla is far from it. The pitcher is known as a head case in baseball circles. While he does have talent, the headaches will certainly come with him. One day he’s an all-star and the next he can’t find the plate.

So, that leaves the Cards with one option: fill the final spot with one of the young guns in the organization. Jaime Garcia, Mitchell Boggs, Blake Hawksworth, and Kyle McClellan are all possibilities. Garcia has injury problems, and must build up strength and experience before he toes the rubber at Busch.

The hot name of the group heading into Spring Training is Kyle McClellan. McClellan has four pitches, a key to becoming a great starting pitcher in the MLB. Ask Cole Hamels how the two-pitch plan is working out. Hamels has a decent fastball and a great, but overused change (Hamels does add in a pathetic curve that was last scene blasted ten rows up by Yorvit Torrealba. It seemed to freeze and ask Yorvit to send it out). Anyway, Hamels took some steps back this past season, but that’s a story for another day. The point is that McClellan already has four decent pitches, and with time he could evolve into a good starting pitcher.

McClellan has the right mindset and work ethic to break into the rotation. He has reportedly asked perennial Cy Young contender, Adam Wainwright for advice along with pitching guru Dave Duncan. Duncan is hailed as a pitching genius that has worked wonders with nearly all of his protégés. He has groomed Wainwright into the ace workhorse, helped keep Chris Carpenter on top despite frustrating injuries, and turned Pineiro into a 15-game winner. For a young guy like McClellan, you couldn’t ask for a better situation.

He is putting the time in the weight room too, and Wainwright sees some similarities between the two. If McClellan can continue to develop his pitches and understanding of the game, the Cards could have a diamond in the rough heading into the future. Remember, Wainwright came up as a bullpen guy, closing games in his rookie season in route to the Cardinals 2006 World Series title. The Redbird faithful can only hope that this young reliever makes the seamless transition to the rotation like his teammate did.

For now, the Cards would settle for a consistent cog in the rotation, keeping St. Louis in the game every 5th day and serving as a bridge to the top-line guys. McClellan thinks he can be that guy and is working hard every day for the chance.