In bullpen shakeup, Cardinals part ways with veteran reliever

In their latest bullpen shakeup, the St. Louis Cardinals have parted ways with veteran right-handed reliever Nick Wittgren.

The St. Louis Cardinals signed right-handed reliever Nick Wittgren to a one-year, $1.2 million contract this winter in the hopes that he would emerge into a capable veteran in the sixth or seventh innings this season.

After all, Wittgren has been more than capable in such a role throughout his career. He posted 2.94 and 2.81 ERAs in 2018 and 2019 and was a stalwart in the Cleveland Guardians’ bullpen. But after a down season in 2021, in which he posted a 5.05 ERA, he signed a major-league deal late in the 2022 offseason with the Cardinals.

In the first half of the season, Wittgren pitched in 29 games and recorded a 5.90 ERA, a -0.8 WAR and a 17/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He struggled and was recently moved to a lower-leverage role before the Cardinals ultimately decided to move on from the 31-year-old. Additionally, the Cardinals activated Jordan Hicks off the Injured List, recalled left-hander Matthew Liberatore and optioned right-hander Jake Woodford to Triple-A.

After starting the season off in the rotation, Hicks will transition back to the bullpen. But even with Hicks back, the Cardinals will need bullpen reinforcements. They’ll need someone to eat the innings that Wittgren did; he threw 29 innings and pitched often. The organization was hurting for innings before moving on from Wittgren and that becomes even more prevalent of a need now.

For Wittgren, he is likely to latch on somewhere else. He is highly respected in the clubhouse and was viewed as a great teammate in St. Louis. That, combined with his previous track record, should be more than enough to get him another job elsewhere.

It just won’t be in St. Louis, where Wittgren is from and wanted to play in 2022. But the Cardinals will move on and should enter Aug. 3 (the day after the trade deadline) with a new reliever or two.