Why the Cardinals promoted Matthew Liberatore and what it means
Why the St. Louis Cardinals promoted left-hander Matthew Liberatore and what it means for the team moving forward.
After Steven Matz walked off the mound at PNC Park with trainers on Sunday, two thoughts immediately popped into my head: 1) how significant is the left shoulder injury? and 2) how will the Cardinals replace him if he’s indeed placed on the Injured List?
An MRI revealed that Matz suffered a left shoulder impingement and is being placed on the 15-day IL. Additionally, Dylan Carlson (left hamstring strain) was placed on the 10-day IL and right-hander Angel Rondon was optioned to Triple-A Memphis after throwing five innings following Matz’s injury.
Matz’s replacement is top left-handed pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore, who was recalled after being optioned to Triple-A roughly 24 hours before. Liberatore is the natural replacement for Matz – they are both left-handed – and in the short-term should be a capable replacement, though he did allow four runs and seven hits in 4.2 innings in his major-league debut on Saturday.
But why call up Liberatore, who won’t be available to pitch until Thursday, and not another reliever or position player? Since he was optioned on Sunday, the only way to promote him so soon was because of the IL placement. Had there not been an IL placement, he wouldn’t have been eligible to come up on Thursday.
It remains unclear how long Matz will be out, but missing him for any period of time is a blow to a Cardinals rotation that is already without Jack Flaherty. Of course, Matz has struggled to the tune of posting a mediocre -0.6 bWAR. But the Cardinals signed him for $44 million for a reason. He has flashed that ability at times and they believed that he would bounce back to the level he was last season when he posted a 3.82 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Right now, Matz goes on the IL with 6.03 ERA and a 44/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. What has the Cardinals optimistic that he will turn around is the underlying numbers, specifically his 4.25 FIP and 10.6 SO/9, which would tie a previous career high, as well as a career-low 1.9 BB9.
But Matz won’t have the opportunity to take the mound and improve those numbers for at least another 15 days and potentially more barring what kind of update manager Oli Marmol gives when he talks to the media later. But in Liberatore, the Cardinals have a capable replacement, and it once again proves that you can never have too much pitching depth.
Because time and time again, it will be tested, and the Cardinals know that all too well.