The St. Louis Cardinals have announced their starting pitchers for first spring games

As rumors of a six-man rotation and battles for bullpen spots continue in camp, the first two starting pitchers for the Cardinals this spring are a part of both competitions.

Feb 15, 2024; Jupiter, FL, USA;  St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Matthew Liberatore (52)
Feb 15, 2024; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Matthew Liberatore (52) / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals will begin their Spring Training games on Saturday with a split-squad doubleheader, and manager Oliver Marmol has announced that left-handed pitchers Zack Thompson and Matthew Liberatore will get the starts in those respective games.

It's yet to be confirmed who will start in Jupiter against the Miami Marlins and who will travel to Port St. Lucie to face the New York Mets, but both starts will be intriguing outings for the Cardinals' brass as they evaluate how to handle their rotation and bullpen in the early parts of the 2024 season.

The Cardinals are considering beginning the season with a six-man rotation for a variety of factors, and the two leading candidates for that spot if they choose to go in that direction appear to be Thompson and Liberatore. I talked with Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat about this on the Noot News Podcast Sunday, as he's been down in Jupiter covering the team since pitchers and catchers reported.

Thompson and Liberatore are both intriguing names because of the multiple roles they could fill for St. Louis this season. Both guys want to be starting pitchers, and the club is going to give them opportunities to earn that role, barring an injury to the current five-man group, it's hard to see a path for either guy to be in the rotation consistently, even if they begin the year with a six-man rotation. Jones breaks it down well in our interview, but the six-man rotation would be a very temporary thing for just the first week or two of April.

Thompson and/or Liberatore could join the bullpen to be a part of the big league roster, but that would hinder their ability, at least to some extent, to be a contributor in the rotation during the 2024 season if they are thrown into the bullpen mix from the start. Their best path toward being a part of the rotation this year is to prove they are worthy of being the "sixth option" in camp, and beginning the year as a part of a six-man rotation or being the "next man up" in Memphis for when the inevitable injury does happen.

With other names like Gordon Graceffo, Michael McGreevy, Sem Roberrse, and Adam Kloffenstein already in Memphis as well with aspirations to be starting pitchers in St. Louis, the Cardinals do have the flexibility to utilize one of Thompson or Liberatore in the bullpen as another left-handed option or long-reliever if they want to strengthen that mix. From the left side, JoJo Romero is the clear number one option right now, but after Romero, John King is the only other guy who could challenge to be a part of that mix.