St. Louis Cardinals: A Plan From Within To Save the Bullpen

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May 16, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Brett Cecil (21) waits to be removed from the game by manager Mike Matheny (22) during the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
May 16, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Brett Cecil (21) waits to be removed from the game by manager Mike Matheny (22) during the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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The St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen has been shaky through the first two months of the season. But there’s still time to turn it around.

The first quarter of the 2017 season in Major League Baseball has come and gone, and the St. Louis Cardinals are 22-19 and in second place after 41 games. After a disappointing 3-5 homestand, they hit the road for three-game series against the Los Angles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies, the two top teams in the National League West.

Through almost two months of the schedule, several characteristics of the 2017 Cardinals have surfaced. The starting rotation is among the league’s best. Carlos Martinez looks more like an ace with each start after a frustrating April. Adam Wainwright bounced back with two great starts after a rough beginning to the season.

Those two guys were the first two starters for the Cardinals this season. We haven’t even gotten to Lance Lynn who has quietly returned to his usual self after missing a year to injury. Mike Leake is having the best season of his career. Michael Wacha looks more like the Michael Wacha that burst onto the scene in 2013 than the Wacha who pitched with chronic shoulder trouble two of the previous seasons.

As far as offense goes, manager Mike Matheny has mixed and matched lineups in search of something that will click. Dexter Fowler, Stephen Piscotty, Matt Carpenter, and Aledmys Diaz are among the hitters who are performing below their career standards.

Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk each have a hold on their starting spots after some uncertainty in previous years. Jedd Gyorko has emerged as the team’s cleanup hitter and everyday third baseman. Jose Martinez, Tommy Pham, and Magneuris Sierra have provided a spark. Yadier Molina is Yadier Molina.

But what about the bullpen? Well, it’s struggled. The Cardinals have already lost four games in which they lead when the starting pitcher exited. Management has insisted on carrying eight relievers even in the midst of many recent off days and uncertainty about roles.

Of those eight, not many of them right now have the confidence of Cardinal Nation to protect a close lead of get out of a jam. Maybe one, maybe none. But nevertheless, the Cardinals are only a game and a half out of first place in the National League Central Division. Their bullpen woes haven’t sunk them, and there’s still time to right the ship.

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