April 15, 2009

Cards system has chance to prove itself in the pen

One good thing about having a well-stocked affiliate system: you can call on them when needed.

And the Cards need their system now.

When Chris Carpenter went down early (3 innings) versus the D'backs Tuesday night, manager Tony La Russa used a half-dozen arms covering the balance of a ballgame that ended with the disappointment of an extra-inning loss.

The loss aside, the Cards have bigger problems. The obvious is the necessity to replace Chris Carpenter in the starting rotation while he mends on an as yet undetermined DL stint. The other obvious need to fulfill is extra "arm-or" in the bullpen, after the bulk of relievers tossed during the six innings of coverage for Carp's early departure.

The short-term fix: Brad Thompson was optioned to Triple-A Memphis (since he was one of the used up arms in the pen); Chris Perez and Mitchell Boggs will skedaddle to Arizona ASAP.

The somewhat short-term fix: P.J. Walters will get a call-up and pitch versus the Cubs on Friday.

Adam Wainwright will pitch on schedule Thursday afternoon against the Cubs. With an extra day's rest, Kyle Lohse will pitch Saturday. Also with an extra day's rest, Todd Wellemeyer will pitch Sunday in Chicago.

There is no word yet on who will give up their roster spot for the Walters call-up later this week.

At the end of Spring Training, there were hard decisions to make concerning a few position players, but as well, concerning the pitching staff. Chris Perez was sent down, and one might say that hurlers like Walters and Boggs were not far below the level of others who were included on the trip north out of Jupiter, Florida.

The Cardinals have plenty of solid ball players within the tiers of their organization, and keeping that system intact instead of trading them away early may provide a saving grace in the form of a Triple-A bandage. Nothing generic about these Redbirds call-ups, though.

And now comes the chance for the Cardinals' organization to put their affiliate philosophy of "home-growth" to the test. The first big test for the collective affiliates: to prove itself in the pen.

Second test: starting.

Third test: surviving the Cubs.

Let the fun begin.
photo by Barbara Moore