Just a week ago, the rotation was seemingly all but set in stone. Sitting atop the starting five, were Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. After that, logic said there would be Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia and the last spot to be filled by Lance Lynn/Shelby Miller/Joe Kelly/Trevor Rosenthal. My guess was that it would end up being Shelby Miller, as he is the top pitching prospect in the organization, and he performed well in his much anticipated MLB debut last September. With that would come a move back to the 'pen for Lance Lynn. Rosenthal would also remain in the bullpen as a long reliever, or even a late innings guy/closer with his explosive stuff. Kelly would be the one, if any, to make the move back to Memphis until needed at the Major League level.
However, since Carp is no longer in the picture for at least 2013, where does the rotation go now? Assuming Waino returns to his 2010 form, he's the obvious #1. However, the "?" hovers over Wainwright regaining his form after a dismal playoff performance in 2012. Time will tell. Then there's Jaime Garcia. Garcia has been plagued with arm trouble for the past couple of years, being shut down twice in 2012 with shoulder problems. On Dec. 3, Garcia stated that he would pitch for Mexico in this year's World Baseball Classic. On Jan. 17, Mexico's WBC roster was released and Garcia was not on it due to his shoulder uncertainty. Who knows if Garcia will pitch a full season this year? My bet is that he won't. Next: Jake Westbrook. Although Westbrook has been healthy, for the most part, over the past 2 seasons, in 28 starts last year his ERA was just under 4, and his fly ball to ground ball ratio was 1:1.46. He struggled mightily in May and again late in the season, before being shut down with an oblique strain after his final start on September 8. He was also left off of the postseason roster. If Westbrook can't figure out how to keep the ball down, he's in trouble.
So the two final spots are wide open. I would imagine that Shelby Miller will occupy one of those rotation spots, although some feel that he may benefit for just one more year in AAA after struggling for the better part of the first half in Memphis last year. It was the first time Miller had ever struggled at any level. He appeared to right the ship in the 2nd half, and then pitched well in his time in St. Louis in September, but we don't really know what Shelby Miller we're going to get, come Opening Day. The last rotation spot (Not necessarily the #5 starter at all) should be Kyle Lohse! Lohse was the only stable leg in the Cards' rotation last year. After almost an entire winter without so much as a single "reported offer," the Cardinals are in a position to make Lohse an offer similar to the qualifying offer they made him early in the offseason, to ensure a compensatory draft pick, if Lohse were to sign with another team. If the Cardinals could get Lohse to sign a 2 year deal, or even a 1 year deal worth a couple million more, they would benefit from this, in that having Lohse around the younger guys will only help the young arms in the end, and it would place veteran leadership, other than an Adam Wainwright who should be solely focused on getting himself right, before he does any mentoring. And with not knowing whether Chris Carpenter will even be in the clubhouse this season, the Cardinals NEED that respectable, lead-by-example type veteran on the pitching staff, and Lohse is the perfect candidate. When his contract is up in a year or two, Michael Wacha will be ready to take his place, and bench coach, Chris Carpenter, and veteran Adam Wainwright will be all the veteran presence that the pitching staff needs.