Oli Marmol plans to shake up St. Louis Cardinals bullpen
First-year manager Oli Marmol plans to shake up the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen as relievers Drew VerHagen and T.J. McFarland continue to struggle.
The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen has been under fire lately, as manager Oli Marmol has been criticized by outside observers for his usage of Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos. But the first-year manager has held firm in his decisions to manage their workloads, opting to use both pitchers either in tie games or when they have the lead.
Going forward, Johan Oviedo will take over for Drew VerHagen’s role in the bullpen while Zack Thompson will do the same for T.J. McFarland, Marmol told reporters, including Katie Woo of The Athletic.
VerHagen was arguably the Cardinals’ biggest addition to the bullpen this winter alongside Nick Wittgren. But in 14 appearances, VerHagen has struggled, posting a 4.91 ERA and 13/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 18.1 innings. The underlying numbers paint an even worse picture, as he has a 5.65 FIP, an 80 ERA+ and a 1.3 SO/W ratio, which would be his worst since 2015.
McFarland, meanwhile, has been a punching bag for Cardinals fans. He has been Marmol’s go-to pitcher this season, appearing in 24 games, and posting a 7.43 ERA and 16/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26.2 innings. A year after emerging as their best groundball reliever, McFarland has been borderline unplayable. The organization is hoping that transitioning to a lower-leverage bullpen role will allow him to bounce back to the pitcher he was last season. But that might be overly optimistic at this stage of his career.
The Cardinals will test their new bullpen configuration before evaluating their trade deadline strategy. Even then, it might be necessary for president of baseball operations John Mozeliak to explore the trade market in search for bullpen upgrades. But right now, the market is clouded as the ability for three wild card teams to make the postseason has added some uncertainty to what teams might sell.
That clarity should come sooner than later. For now, the Cardinals will bank on their internal options bouncing back.