This story seems to me, suddenly, to be rolling toward inevitability from implausibility in the same way that Skip Schumaker, Second Baseman did last year.
General manager John Mozeliak insisted after signing Hill to a minor-league contract last month that he did not envision additional moves until well into camp. That suggests an extended look for McClellan.
"I've been told to come in prepared to start," McClellan said. "Of course, that depends on the moves they make going forward. As of right now there's a fifth spot open. My whole mind-set is to come in and show I can start. Obviously, the last two years show I can pitch in the bullpen. Really it depends on where they see me and being the best fit."
Wasn't this exactly how it worked last year? We all thought Skip Schumaker looked and hit kind of like a second baseman; the Cardinals "considered" it; the Cardinals went through with it without offering themselves a lot of secondary options. The Cardinals have better fifth starters this year than they did second basemen last year, but even as we speak I can sense that John Mozeliak is preparing to acquire Adam Kennedy, declare him the de facto fifth starter, and then dump him.
In the Schumaker sense, Kyle McClellan looks and feels more like a starter than a reliever. He's got a bunch of different pitches, and none of them is a blistering fastball or a ridiculous platoon-advantage slider; he doesn't wear funny goggles or cultivate a funny beard. In a less aesthetic sense, he's got the kind of skill-set—average strikeout rate, less-than-perfect control—that will never turn him into a first-rate, highly leveraged reliever, but might allow him to become a valuable starting pitcher for a few years. It's not like he's Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain—the thing we're certain he's able to do isn't so valuable.
In Erik's positive take at Play a Hard Nine he mentions, in passing, the related problem the 2010 Cardinals will face if and when Kyle McClellan becomes a reliever—the awkward way it forces them to utilize the rest of their limited resources. McClellan is, somehow, one of the Cardinals' best remaining relievers, and inasmuch as less-than-nails relievers can have track records his is pretty good; worse still, the other in-house candidates for fifth starter are both left-handed, and unlikely to stick in his place. In the P-D piece McClellan talks about how he was reticent to root for his spot in the rotation in 2009:
McClellan would start only if Chris Carpenter could not. No one, McClellan especially, wanted that deal.
"I didn't want to start last year," McClellan explained Friday following a morning workout at Roger Dean Stadium, where pitchers and catcher are due to report Feb. 17.
In 2009 Kyle McClellan's status in the starting rotation was a referendum on Chris Carpenter's health. This year it's still not just about Kyle McClellan, although I can understand how he'd be more enthusiastic to pitch despite this year's circumstances than 2009's. It's an in-house challenge trade: Kyle McClellan the starter in exchange for Jaime Garcia the starter and Kyle McClellan the reliever.
Few people like Kyle McClellan the reliever less than I do, and I've been that way for a long time; I'd love for him to be expendable, and I'd love even more for him to be the reasonably effective starter he's always looked like. But Jaime Garcia isn't, or at least won't be, a reliever, and the exact reluctance to spend money that might land McClellan a starting job is also making it more difficult to guess at his replacement.
Requisite Super Bowl discussions:
- I was happy to see New Orleans win, even though, as a Numbers Guy, I have long been a fan of Peyton Manning, who was always the A-Rod to Tom Brady's Jeter and who also has the rare gift of making SNL funny. The game itself was my kind of football, too, lots of passing and minimal clock stoppage. As someone who cringes whenever Zatarains commercials come on, though, let this please be the death of WHO DAT.
- My favorite commercial was the Intel robot ad, though I also appreciated the Green Police Audi commercial. It was a thin crop, though, because the other commercials were divided into two completely unrewarding themes: people who drink beer are sociopaths with no other interests or hobbies; men who are married are henpecked and have no joy left to take from this living hell, save for driving a Dodge Charger and enjoying, in a completely superficial way, the sacred game of football.