St. Louis Cardinals: Jordan Walden expected to be ready for spring training

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Apr 29, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Jordan Walden (53) pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies in the eight inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Jordan Walden (53) pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies in the eight inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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St. Louis Cardinals’ reliever Jordan Walden is the remaining piece from the Jason Heyward trade. If healthy, he will further bolster the Cardinals’ bullpen.

It’s been a little while since we’ve heard much about St. Louis Cardinals’ reliever Jordan Walden. Remember that name?

Jenifer Langosch, Cardinals beat reporter for MLB.com, reported yesterday that all signs so far point to Walden being ready for spring training. Answering a fan’s inbox question about an update on the setup man, Langosch said “the reports the Cardinals have received on Walden have all been positive, and the expectation is that he’ll be on the same pitching program as all other relievers this spring.”

For those who don’t remember, Walden was the other piece in the Cardinals trade with the Atlanta Braves for Jason Heyward, and no small piece at that. Unfortunately, Cardinals fans saw very little of him last season after the reliever landed on the DL on April 30 with a biceps injury. The damage to Walden’s right shoulder kept the setup man out for the entire 2015 season. Rather than having surgery, he elected to rehab the injury.

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It’s hard to imagine a Cardinals bullpen that finished third in all of baseball with a 2.82 ERA getting better. But if Walden can stay healthy in 2016, the St. Louis bullpen will be even deadlier.

Walden pitched brilliantly for the Braves in 2014 recording 20 holds with a 2.79 FIP and 62 strikeouts in just 50 innings pitched. It’s those kind of numbers that got me excited to see him set up Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

Because Walden elected not to have surgery, it’s a big if that he will stay healthy, though. He will have to prove it on the mound come spring. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak hasn’t been shy about having a contingency plan in the event that Walden’s shoulder injury persists next season — hence the signings of former closer Jonathan Broxton and the KBO’s “Final Boss” Seung-hwan Oh.

Both of those signings are solid plan B’s, and I’m particularly excited to see what Oh can bring in his arrival to the Majors. But Walden, if healthy, should be the guy setting up Rosenthal in the eighth inning next season. Not to mention, all three of those guys can give Rosenthal a break every once in a while in the ninth, which is a plus.

Walden has experience as a closer as well, saving 32 games for the Los Angeles Angels in 2011. Including Walden and Rosenthal, the Cardinals have four relievers with legitimate closing experience, which should be fun to watch.

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Walden sports a career 3.00 ERA, 2.76 FIP, and 10.8 strikeouts per nine with a sizzling fastball that hovers around 96-98 mph. If the 28-year old, jump-step delivery setup man can produce similar numbers for the Cardinals in 2016, he will quickly become a fan favorite.

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