St. Louis Cardinals: A six-man rotation could work for 2020

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ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 11: Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers the pitch against the Washington Nationals during the ninth inning in game one of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 11, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 11: Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers the pitch against the Washington Nationals during the ninth inning in game one of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 11, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images) /
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A six-man rotation could be the answer for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.

While pitching rotations have long comprised five hurlers, this has started to change in recent years, and with the upcoming 60-game season throwing everything into disarray, more teams are adding a sixth man to the staff. The St. Louis Cardinals should take a look at adopting the same strategy.

The obvious benefit to a six-man rotation is that each starter receives an extra day of rest, possibly preventing injuries resulting from overuse. The drawback, of course, is that an extra starter will cost the top pitchers in the staff some starts and possibly cause the pitching quality to suffer.

Although manager Mike Shildt stated the team is going with a traditional five-man staff, an extra starter could benefit the Cardinals more than most teams if they decide to change tactics. The team’s starting pitching is very solid, with Jack Flaherty heading the staff and Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson and Kwang-Hyun Kim taking the other spots.

Carlos Martinez, formerly a starter but who spent the last two seasons in the bullpen, could be in the rotation in 2020 if the Cardinals choose to adopt a six-man staff. But there is also the possibility that a six-man rotation could be used if the St. Louis Cardinals decide to punt on the season.

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There have been arguments made that say the Cardinals shouldn’t bother with this abbreviated season and should look forward to next season instead. If this is how the Cardinals want to play it, slotting a less proven pitcher in the rotation to give him more starting experience in the MLB could be a wise move.

But as a fan, I want the Cardinals to go for the win in every season, and a rotation of Flaherty, Mikolas, Wainwright, Hudson, Kim and Martinez could help make that happen. But the Cardinals may believe Martinez is better suited to be released in short burts. If that’s the case, I would opt for the normal set of five starters.

In the unlikely event the Cardinals opt for a six-man rotation and keep Martinez in the bullpen, they do have a couple options for the No. 6 starter. Daniel Ponce de Leon is probably the best choice. Ponce de Leon started eight games for the Cardinals last season and held his own. In his 48.2 innings pitched, he struck out 52 and had a 3.70 ERA.

Genesis Cabrera could be another option. One of the pieces from the Rays in the Tommy Pham trade, Cabrera made two starts with the Cardinals in 2019, but he pitched to less-than-stellar results. His 2019 numbers include 11 walks in 20.1 innings and a 4.87 ERA.

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I would have no problem with a six-man rotation if the Cardinals utilized it well. A solid six pitchers could prevent extra mileage on everyone’s arms, and with the Cardinals’ pitching depth, the team definitely has the pieces to make it work if they want to go that route.

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