Matthew Liberatore is a popular candidate to be called up in 2021, but it’s a longshot he debuts with the St. Louis Cardinals this season.
With the recent injury to Jack Flaherty, and the rotation being decimated all season, Matthew Liberatore has seemed like a candidate to make his debut in 2021. But the St. Louis Cardinals have held firm in their stance of not rushing him to the majors and it remains a longshot that he’s called up, Katie Woo of The Athletic says.
That could change, of course, if the Cardinals decide to shut Flaherty down for the season, though a recent second opinion came back favorably. Wade LeBlanc is now questionable to return this season after suffering a setback recovering from a left elbow injury.
The needs is clearly there for Liberatore, and it’s not like it’s unheard of for a top pitching prospect to debut during a postseason race. It’s been common in recent years, with the Tampa Bay Rays successfully deploying Shane McLanahan in their bullpen in last years postseason, and the Cardinals could use a similar strategy with Liberatore. It’s been how the Milwaukee Brewers have introduced starters Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, though all three did not necessarily come in the bullpen.
Liberatore, 21, certainly has the recent results that would warrant a promotion. But while he had a 2.84 ERA in four August starts, his ERA sits at 4.53 in 16 starts in Triple-A. If the Cardinals called him up, they would surely use him in the rotation given 1) the need and 2) that he has a 9.53 ERA in 5.2 innings (1 appearance) as a reliever.
The most likely scenario has always been that Liberatore would make his debut sometime in 2022, perhaps even earlier in the season. Rushing him to the majors before he’s ready could perhaps stunt his development and set him back, something the organization has insisted they won’t risk since they remain optimistic that he can be a foundational piece in their rotation.
Perhaps that thinking changes as the postseason race heats up and if Flaherty does in fact miss the rest of the season. But a playoff berth that has been unlikely for months shouldn’t lead the Cardinals to rush their prized pitching prospect — and their history shows they will be content on waiting.