St. Louis Cardinals: Questions For Each Pitcher On the Staff
Can St. Louis Cardinals relievers Matt Bowman and Miguel Socolovich continue the brief taste of major league success they’ve had in the previous two seasons?
Matt Bowman was a Rule-5 draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2015-2016 offseason. As a result, he’d have to stick with the major league club out of the gate or be returned to the waiver wire.
He broke camp with the Cardinals and excelled in the role Seth Maness once held. He earned an extra vote of confidence when the team decided to non-tender Maness’ contract and allow him to walk in free agency at the end of the 2016 season.
Bowman appeared in fifty-nine games as a rookie out of the St. Louis bullpen last season and recorded a 3.46 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .229 batting average. His heavy sinker allowed him to induce many ground ball outs, which became his specialty. A starter in the minor leagues, he also has the ability to go multiple innings in relief.
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Can Bowman repeat his 2016 performance and maybe even be better in 2017? He’s looked very good so far this spring, tossing seven innings with only an unearned run on his stat line. The more Bowman produces on the mound, the more and more comfortable Matheny will be with going to him in a mid-inning jam or late in a close game.
Bowman isn’t taking his spot on the team for granted, though. The Cardinals have relief options from the right side waiting in the wings. His performance last season and so far this spring should secure his place on the roster to begin the year, but the organization doesn’t have to keep him in St. Louis all season like they did last year.
Even if Socolovich doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, it’s inevitable that we’ll see him in St. Louis at some point this season, so the same question still applies.
Soco has appeared in forty-three games out of the Cardinals’ bullpen in 2015-2016. He posted ERA’s of 1.82 and 2.00 in those two seasons. He’s been very good, but Cardinals fans haven’t seen too much of him. That may change this year, as he’s fighting for an Opening Day roster spot instead of the mid-season call-up he’s received the previous two years.
Since he’s out of options, sending him down to the minor leagues at any point this season would mean he would first have to clear the waiver wire, where he’d be made available to all twenty-nine teams before returning to the Cardinals organization.
He’s pitched eight innings in six appearances so far this spring, allowing only two runs and four hits. A low opposing batting average seems to be a strength of his, as he’s held hitters to a .154 rate this spring. In 2015, opposing batters hit .221 against him. In 2016, they hit .086.
Socolovich is a pitcher who has versatility in the bullpen. He can go multiple innings, as he’s done this spring for the Cardinals, but he also has the potential to pitch in tough spots. Like Bowman, the more he produces on the mound, the more trust he’ll earn from his manager.