St. Louis Cardinals: Answering Five Questions the Team Will Address Between Now and Opening Day
By Nathan Grime
Question: Who will be the team’s fifth starter?
Since Alex Reyes went under the knife last week, many assume that the fifth spot in the starting rotation is now Michael Wacha‘s to lose. He’s been a member of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Opening Day rotation the past three years, earning an All-Star appearance in 2015. In 2014 and 2016, he struggled to stay healthy with chronic shoulder problems.
Wacha will need to exhibit health and the ability to shoulder (no pun intended) the workload of a major-league starting pitcher as he builds up stamina this Spring. He’ll get ample opportunity to pitch, and Mike Matheny and his staff will be watching intently to see how he performs and responds. His first Spring start will be Monday against the Boston Red Sox.
Also in the mix is former closer Trevor Rosenthal. The team announced soon after last season ended that Rosenthal would be stretched out this Spring, for either a multi-inning role in the bullpen, or an opportunity like this.
Rosenthal is an intriguing possibility. He was a starter in college and the minor leagues, but has always been a bullpen pitcher with the Cardinals. A former All-Star closer, his stuff went awry last year, prompting the reworking of his role.
Spring games will provide Rosenthal with an opportunity to solidify his place on the team, either as a darkhorse for a rotation spot or a new-look weapon out of the pen.
Luke Weaver, now the team’s top healthy pitching prospect, will also get a look. He’ll be starting the Cardinals’ first Spring game on Saturday against the Marlins. Weaver made eight starts last season with the big-league club. He struggled, but has been dominant in the minor leagues since being drafted in 2014.
Whether or not Weaver begins the season in the St. Louis rotation or bullpen, or in the AAA Memphis rotation, he’ll get his shot at some point in 2017.
The fifth starting spot is clearly Wacha’s to lose, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any competition, however superficial it might be. As long as he stays healthy, he’ll likely break camp in the St. Louis rotation for a fourth consecutive year.