Trevor Rosenthal’s inconsistencies continue into Spring Training


When several baseball fans stumbled across Will Ferrell’s adventurous single-day baseball career on Thursday, one of the actor’s best highlights involved holding a sign as the Chicago Cubs’ third base coach that read “Remember These Games Don’t Count.”

The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping this Cactus League philosophy carries over for some of their struggling players in Grapefruit League action. Particularly for relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal, who already has one loss and an ERA of 9.00 in his first three games of 2015 Spring Training. 

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Coming off of a productive season in which he became only the fifth Cardinal in franchise history with a 40+ save season, Rosenthal is expected to take on the Cardinals’ ninth-inning responsibilities for the second consecutive year. However, it’s not often that a relief pitcher with six blown saves in the previous season is the favorite to win a closer’s job for the next, which is why Rosenthal still has some obstacles to overcome before Opening Day.

One major reason that Rosenthal’s slow start provokes concern is largely based around his inefficiency on the mound. The 24 year-old often showed sporadic control in 2014, saving only 10 games without surrendering a hit or walk in last year’s workload. Rosenthal also provided too many opportunities for hitters to threaten in later innings, as he finished the season with a mediocre 1.41 WHIP and .223 BAA in addition to his six regular season losses.

Entering his fourth year in the Major Leagues, Rosenthal’s specialty pitches are starting to gradually lose significance. According to FanGraphs, Rosenthal’s maximum fastball velocity of 100.5 mph was lower than any of his previous three seasons, while his infrequently used changeup only averaged 86.3 mph. If hitters begin to figure out the right-hander’s predominant pitching options, it won’t certainly be easy for him to develop pure secondary pitches like a slider or curveball. 

It’s not often that a relief pitcher with six blown saves in the previous season is the favorite to win a closer’s job for the next, which is why Rosenthal still has obstacles to overcome before Opening Day.

Rosenthal also struggled when receiving strenuous action last season, as he posted a 3.74 ERA, allowed 17 walks and lost four contests when pitching on back-to-back occasions. This aspect will need to improve when St. Louis is trying to grind close victories against tough opponents, as the bullpen will be used extensively and trusted to keep the game close.

The Cardinals will likely intend to balance Rosenthal’s workload in 2015, as former Angels’ closer Jordan Walden was acquired in the offseason to assist in arduous situations. However, the Gateway City is also familiar to change in the closer’s role, as six pitchers have recorded double-digit saves wearing a Cardinals uniform in the last decade.

Since Rosenthal debuted with the Cardinals in 2012, Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman are the only National League closers to finish with 30 or more saves in three consecutive seasons. The closer ultimately tends to be one of the most interchangeable roles in baseball, and as a result Rosenthal must make proper adjustments in Spring Training if he wants to remain a major force for in the Cardinals’ near future.