Matthew Liberatore is coming into his own with the Cardinals

Left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore is making an impact out of the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen.
Miami Marlins v St. Louis Cardinals
Miami Marlins v St. Louis Cardinals / Joe Puetz/GettyImages

The bullpen of the St. Louis Cardinals has been a massive strength to begin the season, and one of the reasons for its success is left-hander Matthew Liberatore, who has been under intense scrutiny with the Cardinals since he was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in the Randy Arozarena trade in 2020.

Arozarena's subsequent emergence into one of the Rays' top hitters has made Liberatore's career to this point appear to be a massive disappointment after he had an ERA over five in 2022 and 2023, but Liberatore is finding his niche as a high-leverage bullpen piece.

Liberatore currently has a 3.14 ERA in relief this season, and while he was saddled with the loss in the extra-inning affair against the New York Mets on April 28, he had not conceded an earned run in his five prior appearances. Liberatore also showed his ability to pitch multiple innings in the aforementioned loss against the Mets, and it likely saved precious innings for the rest of the dominant bullpen.

Liberatore's history in the rotation isn't pretty, as he has struggled to a 5.72 career ERA in 18 starts, and the Cardinals may have finally shut the door on their attempt to keep Liberatore in the rotation. But contrary to the traditional idea of relievers being failed starters, holding a spot in the bullpen to get key outs is likely more important in today's relief-heavy game than serving as a fifth starter.

If Liberatore can keep his spot in the Cardinals' bullpen, it will create some interesting decisions for the team when Keynan Middleton and Riley O'Brien return from injury. The Cardinals, perhaps forecasting this logjam, may attempt to turn Andre Pallante and Zack Thompson into starters. Both Pallante and Thompson are pitching in starting roles with Triple-A Memphis.

Cardinals fans will likely never fully forgive the front office for the Arozarena trade, but Liberatore's emergence, along with Arozarena's .152 average to begin the season, has made the move more palatable. After several failures at developing quality pitchers in recent years, the Cardinals might finally be seeing results with the southpaw.