Tyler Lyons, Chris Carpenter, & the Future 2013 St. Louis Cardinals Starting Rotation

USA TODAY Sports

With Jaime Garcia landing on the disabled list, Tyler Lyons will be the seventh St. Louis Cardinals pitchers to make a start this season while we all count down the days until the eighth starter makes his 2013 debut.

After losing Chris Carpenter before the season began, the St. Louis Cardinals starting rotation nonetheless carried the club through the season's opening weeks. The group included veteran sinkerballer Jake Westbrook and southpaw Jaime Garcia, who might have the best repertoire of the entire of the lot. Injuries have seen both groundballers land on the disabled list. Westbrook seems likely to return to big-league action in the near-to-medium future. Garcia, on the hand, appears likely to undergo surgery. Fittingly, Carpenter may return to fill a newly formed hole in the starting five.

The Departed

Garcia suffered a shoulder injury during the 2012 season that limited the lefthander to only 20 starts totaling 121 2/3 innings. Baseball Prospectus labels the injury a "labrum and partial rotator cuff tear." Despite this diagnosis, Garcia returned for the club's Wild Card push and started NLDS Game 2 against Washington. In that game, the injury again reared its ugly head, forcing manager Mike Matheny to pull Garcia after just two innings.

The offseason prognosis was not heartening. Garcia saw three doctors--Robert Altcheck, Lewis Yocum, and George Paletta--and they all recommend Garcia undergo a surgical procedure that involved shoulder debridement. Garcia sought the opinion of Dr. James Andrews, who recommended rehabilitation.

Garcia rehabed and reported to spring training in good shape. He made nine starts for the Redbirds this season before his balky shoulder drove him to the DL. Here is the production the Cards received during Garcia's nine starts this 2013 season.

JAIME GARCIA STATS (2013)

GS

IP

K%

BB%

HR/9

HR/FB

LOB%

ERA

FIP

xFIP

fWAR

9

55.1

18.4%

6.4%

0.98

15.4%

72.3%

3.58

3.70

3.31

0.6

Garcia gave the Cardinals solid production this season. The southpaw's 3.58 ERA is a bit above average, coming in at a 96 ERA-. His 3.70 FIP also rates out as above average, equalling a 97 FIP-.

Garcia's shoulder injury has returned with a vengeance. The port-sider described the pain in his throwing shoulder as worse than it was at any point in 2012. Depending on what Dr. Andrews finds during his examination of Garcia, the lefty may be headed for a lengthy disabled list stint.

The Near-Term Replacement

The Redbirds' immediate replacement for the injured Garcia will be Triple-A lefthander Tyler Lyons.

The 2010 ninth-round pick will be called upon to make his big-league debut, starting for the injured Garcia. Lyons is listed as 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. The lanky lefty relies more on guile than stuff. While his breaking ball generally receives good grades, there isn't much else in his repertoire to write the front office about.

The following chart show Lyons's minor-league stats to date.

TYLER LYONS CAREER MiLB STATS (2011-2013)

Year

Level

G

GS

IP

K%

BB%

HR/9

LOB%

ERA

FIP

2011

R

7

7

29.2

23.7%

5.9%

1.21

65.8%

4.85

3.87

2011

A+

33

12

94.0

19.7%

7.2%

0.77

65.4%

4.50

3.68

2012

AA

12

12

64.1

19.7%

6.9%

0.84

69.9%

3.92

3.67

2012

AAA

15

15

88.1

24.3%

4.9%

0.92

68.9%

4.28

3.19

2013

AAA

8

8

46.1

19.0%

4.5%

0.58

68.4%

4.47

3.31

That the Cards decided to purchase the contract of Lyons instead of Michael Wacha has been the subject of some debate. It appears that the Cardinals went with Lyons because they only need a single start in replacement of the injured Garcia. This is because Jake Westbrook is expected to be activated from the DL soon.

The Near-Medium-Term Replacement

Righthander Westbrook landed on the DL last week with what has been labeled "inflammation" of the elbow in his throwing arm. Whereas general manager John Mozeliak has openly expressed concern regarding Garcia's shoulder, he has never been anything but upbeat about Westbrook's return. Even though the veteran has suffered a setback of sorts.

MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reports:

Three days after receiving a cortisone injection to target a buildup of scar tissue around his right elbow, Jake Westbrook was cleared to begin his throwing program.

Westbrook made about 25 throws from a distance of 60 feet on Sunday, saying afterward that "it went well" and that his elbow "feels a lot better." Westbrook, who will travel to California with the club after Sunday's game, expects to play catch again on Monday.

The Cardinals are still hopeful that Westbrook, who was placed on the disabled list retroactive to May 9, will miss only three starts.

If Westbrook is able to return in the near-medium term, he would likely bump Lyons back to the Memphis rotation and John Gast would stay on as Starter No. 5 until Carp strikes back.

The Medium-Long-Term Replacement

Chris Carpenter's career isn't yet over. The curly-haired righty has again started throwing a baseball. So far, the results have been positive.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that it remains to be seen whether the veteran will return as a reliever or starter.

"I'm going to prepare myself to be extended," Carpenter said. "Right now, they don't even have a need for me. So I'll prepare just in case something happens. ...

"Bottom line is I'll do whatever it takes. We'll find out when I start to stretch myself out if I can do that or not. Ultimately I might start my rehab and get to five innings and I can't make it. Then the decision gets easy."

After Saturday's throwing session, Langosch writes the following:

Chris Carpenter said that his arm responded well enough to throwing three simulated innings on Saturday that he'll continue to move forward with his throwing program as scheduled. That means he will throw a short side session on Monday before throwing four simulated innings on Thursday.

Now that the Cardinals have a need for Carp, there will nonetheless be no effect on his rehabilitation program. Goold Sulia'd the following quote from the the injured righty:

"It's not fair to them, the team or myself if I'm not ready to go," said Carpenter, who has one more extended bullpen session scheduled before he advances to facing hitters. "I'm not going to push myself back. I'm going to make sure that I'm healthy and that I know everything is going to work and that I can go out there and take that grind of the amount of pitches and innings it takes to go the rest of the year."

The Cardinals currently possess the best starting rotation ERA in all of baseball. At 2.62, it was over 40 points lower than the second-best team entering play on Sunday. Their 2.88 FIP is also excellent and falls second behind only the Tigers starters this season. LIkewise, el Birdos' 3.31 starters' xFIP is also quite good. The Cardinals were unlikely to maintain their excellent pace even before Westbrook and Garcia hit the DL. Gast and Lyons are crafty Triple-A lefties that are fine stop-gaps even if they're unlikely to be much more than cromulent. The current need in the rotation makes Carpenter's potential return all the more intriguing.

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