St. Louis Cardinals: Rotation problem was the team’s doing

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ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 30: Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 30, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 30: Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 30, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals’ rotation has been the team’s weakest link, but it might have been bolstered with a little patience.

When St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez was nearing the end of rehabbing a rotator cuff injury, questions stirred about whether he would be in the rotation or the bullpen. Manager Mike Shildt chose the bullpen, believing Martinez wasn’t physically ready for a rotation spot. But it may have been the wrong decision.

Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty have been the rotation mainstays throughout the season. But the last spot has been an area of need. Michael Wacha and Daniel Ponce de Leon have had chances at the spot, but they have both struggled. This has led to the Cardinals likely seeking a starting pitcher at the trade deadline.

But what if the team had let Martinez rehab a bit longer and put him in the rotation instead? When Martinez has been healthy, he has been a very good pitcher for the most part throughout his career. It is certainly possible that he could have shored up the rotation and served as an ace.

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Martinez was advertised as a late-inning weapon for the team when he came back, and he has served as a solid bullpen piece, even taking over as the closer after the injury to Jordan Hicks. But he would be far more valuable to the team in a rotation spot.

As for the bullpen, Giovanny Gallegos has been a revelation and would likely be a dominant closer, and Wacha or Ponce de Leon could be a long reliever instead of being exposed in the rotation.

Of course, this is all hindsight. If the Cardinals had taken more time with Martinez and decided to start him, he could have been out an extra month or more. But while the rotation would still have problems and the bullpen would need another player to replace Martinez, the Cardinals may have decided that they did not need to make a move for a starter with Martinez coming back.

The Cardinals understandably wanted Martinez to return quickly and help the team however he could, but if they had taken more time with him, the results could have been better in the long run. The team will likely make a trade for a starting pitcher in the coming days, and that will probably require giving up talent.

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This looked to be a misstep born of impatience from the Cardinals staff, and the team could be feeling its effects now. There is a gaping hole in the rotation, and hopefully, its filling won’t be too costly. But one wonders if this issue could have been avoided altogether.

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