St. Louis Cardinals: Don’t jump ship on Matthew Liberatore
St. Louis Cardinals fans shouldn’t be worried after pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore’s mediocre starts.
Matthew Liberatore must feel as though the weight of the world is on his shoulders. The St. Louis Cardinals acquired him in early 2020 for outfielders Randy Arozarena and Jose Martinez, and as fans know, Arozarena tore up the league in the postseason with the Tampa Bay Rays, leading them to the World Series.
Although Liberatore was doing well in the minor leagues with the Cardinals, fans were understandably upset when Arozarena popped off. Grumbles ensued among Cardinals fans, often along the lines of “Liberatore had better be the next Nolan Ryan.”
Liberatore made his major league debut on May 21, 2022, after pitching 40 innings with Triple-A Memphis and striking out 46 batters, amassing an ERA of 3.82. Against the woeful Pittsburgh Pirates, Liberatore pitched 4.2 innings, allowing four earned runs and two walks, striking out three. It was an inauspicious start for the lefty, but he earned the win in his second appearance, throwing five scoreless innings and striking out six.
Liberatore’s last start, though, was a struggle. He lasted 3.1 innings and gave up six hits and four earned runs, including three home runs. He had trouble commanding his curveball, leaving it hanging in the middle of the zone too often. His velocity has been down during his time in the major leagues, with his fastball generally sitting around 92 as opposed to the 96 he flashed in Memphis.
It’s easy to proclaim that the sky is falling after Liberatore’s underwhelming starts, but it’s far too early to make any judgments. He’s still getting acquainted with the big leagues, and unlike some starters, he was never exposed gradually through starting out as a relief pitcher. If he continues to struggle in starting, a temporary move to the bullpen might be a good way to ease him into facing tougher competition.
But it’s not time for that yet. The Cardinals have had several position players hit the ground running, such as Juan Yepez and Nolan Gorman. Liberatore hasn’t had the same immediate success, and we as Cardinals fans could be a bit spoiled and expect rookies to excel as soon as they’re called up.
The slightest struggles Liberatore faces will be put under a microscope because of he was the primary return in the Arozarena deal. As difficult as it is to do, fans should clear that trade from their minds and judge Liberatore as they would any other player. He might not become a star, but there is plenty of time for him to become a rotation stalwart.