St. Louis Cardinals: Trevor Rosenthal Dominant In Familiar Territory

Apr 19, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal (44) pitches during the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 19, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal (44) pitches during the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports /

Thursday evening, St. Louis Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal finished off a doubleheader sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays. The save was his second of the season.

Trevor Rosenthal began the year on the disabled list. Since being activated a week into the regular season, the St. Louis Cardinals have eased him into the bullpen mix. He has yet to pitch in consecutive games, and was recently held out for three days because of some soreness in his pitching arm.

Much has been made of Rosenthal’s removal from the closer’s role last season and the coincident rise of Seung-Hwan Oh. Rosenthal entered this season without a defined role in the St. Louis bullpen. Many thought he would evolve into a long reliever, but the bulk of his work early in the season has been in the late innings, pitching with a lead.

Part of that could be due to his health. The team doesn’t want to push him too hard too soon, which could aggravate the lat injury he sustained during Spring Training. Because of the strain, he didn’t get as much work as would have been expected in the Spring, which affects the strength of his arm in April.

The Cardinals might not want to move him out of the role he’s been in to begin the season, anyways. In seven games, he’s already collected two holds and two saves. The soreness in his arm doesn’t appear to be affecting his velocity; he’s averaging 99.14 miles per hour on his fastball.

On Thursday evening with Oh unavailable after pitching earlier in the day, Rosenthal thew a 1-2-3, thirteen-pitch ninth inning to secure the Cardinals’ 6-4 victory. Here’s a pitch-by-pitch rundown of the three outs he recorded:

Ryan Goins (strikeout swinging)

99 mph fastball, swing and miss

98 mph fastball, called strike

99 mph fastball, swing and miss

Justin Smoak (strikeout swinging)

99 mph fastball, called strike

100 mph fastball, ball (up and in)

90 mph slider, called strike (backdoor)

87 mph slider, swing and miss (down and in)

Devon Travis (groundout to third base)

100 mph fastball, called strike

90 mph slider, called strike

102 mph fastball, foul ball

89 mph slider, foul ball

101 mph fastball, foul ball

89 mph changeup, groundout to third

Final line: SV (2), 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 13 pitches (12 strikes)

A few things stood out about Rosenthal’s performance. In the at-bat in which he struck out Justin Smoak, his breaking ball was dancing: 

Call it a cutter, slider, whatever, it looked like a wipeout pitch. Rosenthal’s used a cutter in the past, but it the pitch he was throwing Thursday night had more break and depth to it than the cutter he’s used in previous seasons.

The cutter/slider hybrid seems to have replaced the traditional curveball in his repertoire. He also has a changeup to go along with his high-octane fastball,.

Speaking of his fastball, it bottomed out at 98 miles per hour against the Jays, and reached 102 miles per hour. That’s the hardest he’s thrown a pitch all season. Rosenthal has struck out thirteen in just 6 1/3 innings to begin the year.

Rosenthal closed out the nightcap because Oh pitched in the day game Thursday. But could his dominance be a sign of things to come in the ninth inning? He collected a save last week against the Pirates after Oh had pitched in the previous two games.

More from St Louis Cardinals News

It’s unlikely Mike Matheny will commit to Rosenthal in the ninth inning outside of scenarios like the ones that have gotten him save opportunities to begin the year. But Oh has had his share of struggles early in the season. His ERA stands at 5.06 after ten appearances.

The Final Boss hasn’t allowed a run in his last five outings, which is a positive sign, and he’s successfully executed all five of his save opportunities since blowing his first of the season on Opening Night.

Nevertheless, only two of his ten outings have gone without a runner reaching base. Oh will be getting more opportunities to close out games, but the Cardinals have an insurance policy in Rosenthal if Oh falters.

At the same time, there will be stretches of the season similar to the last two weeks in which Oh and Rosenthal will both be needed to close out games out of necessity. In the Cardinals’ current stretch of winning eight of their last ten games, seven of those victories have included a save from either Oh or Rosenthal to finish the game.

Next: A Look At the Remaining April Schedule

Oh is also a free agent after this season. At 34, he’s eight years older than Rosenthal. Trevor could be back in the closer’s role in St. Louis before too long. He’s been there, done that in the past. This season, he’s looked every bit like the All-Star closer that set the franchise record for saves just a few short years ago.