Jaime Garcia appears unlikely to start the season in the Cardinals' rotation after being sent back to St. Louis for an MRI and examination on his shoulder.
Garcia felt soreness in left shoulder following bullpen, will fly for MRI etc Sunday. Unlikely to open season in rotation. #stlcards— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) February 22, 2014
Garcia had trouble with his shoulder at the end of 2012, and opted for rehab over surgery that offseason. He began 2013 in the Cardinals' rotation and pitched very well, posting a 2.50 ERA and 3.21 FIP in 36 April innings. His shoulder soon wore down before opting for season-ending shoulder surgery. Garcia had a normal offseason and was expected to compete for a starting rotation spot. Given his high salary and his status as the only lefthander in the competition, he likely would have been in the rotation if he had remained healthy.
Garcia has always pitched well, when healthy. Unfortunately, he has had trouble keeping himself on the field. It is unclear at this point whether the injury will keep Garcia from pitching in 2014, or if this is merely a temporary setback. This is the "precautionary" stage of Cardinals injuries. Hopefully, for Garcia and the Cardinals, the "progressing nicely" stage is not followed by the all too common "season-ending surgery" stage. Garcia felt good this offseason, although setback after shoulder surgery cannot come as a huge surprise. Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak and Manager Mike Matheny spoke with KMOX this morning (audio here).
The Cardinals are well stocked to deal with Garcia's loss if he misses an extended portion of the season. Going into Spring there appeared to be a faux-competition for the fifth starter role as Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, and Garcia were the presumptive starters. With Garcia expected to miss the beginning of the season, the competition becomes much more interesting.
Joe Kelly pitched very well as a starter last season while Carlos Martinez was lights out in the bullpen. Tyler Lyons will also receive a shot. Garcia's injury is unfortunate, but it will give someone a chance to step up in his absence. Martinez is likely to receive an innings cap this season as a starter. How that will affect his chances to begin the season in the rotation is unknown. Kelly likely has the inside track with Martinez needing to really impress in order to make the move from the bullpen.