St. Louis Cardinals: Monday is a big night for Jake Woodford

The St. Louis Cardinals start a huge four-game series against the Cubs at home on Monday and Jake Woodford is starting in game one.

Jake Woodford has gotten the short end of the stick many times this season coming out of the bullpen for the St. Louis Cardinals. After his wishy-washy debut last season, Woodford has strictly been a reliever this year.

I say that Woodford has gotten the short end of the stick because a large chunk of his appearances have come early in games as a long reliever. Of his 17 appearances, six have come in or before the fourth inning of a game.

For a young player who has only ever started games, this role has proven difficult for him to find success in. Woodford’s 4.62 ERA wasn’t cutting it and eventually the Cardinals sent him back down to AAA to stretch out as a starter again.

Since the start of July, Woodford made three starts at AAA. The first one was a 2.0 inning stinker where he let up four earned runs, but his last two have been very solid. In both, he went 5.0 innings and only gave up one earned run.

While having a long man in the bullpen is necessary, the team could use a starter even more, making Woodford’s return to the MLB a huge opportunity for the former 1st-round pick. Woodford’s ceiling may not be anything higher than a 4th or 5th starter, but that is something the Cardinals couldn’t turn down right now.

Woodford is starting the first game of a huge series for the Cardinals against the Cubs. Coming into the series tied in the standings at 46-47 each, a dominant series could swing things in a big way for either team. The next 10 days could determine what the Cardinals intend to do at the trade deadline as well.

At 9.0 games back of the Brewers right now, the Cardinals have no more time to waste. The Cubs have already began waving the white flag on 2021 by trading away Joc Pederson and more trades could be coming.

If Woodford can put together a good start, he can carve out a role at the back end of the rotation. If he struggles, it could be a quick ride back to Memphis for the 24-year-old.

Either way, it is a huge opportunity for Woodford to fill a hole the Cardinals desperately need filled.