The move that had been expected since Tyler Lyons made himself unavailable by pitching magnificently in Friday’s extra innings marathon became official today as the Cardinals announced they have called up Mike Mayers to make the start tonight against the Dodgers. Miguel Socolovich, who got in just two games after getting called up earlier in the week, has been optioned back to Memphis.
The Cardinals only needed an extra starter tonight due to the rainout on Tuesday which necessitated a doubleheader on Wednesday. With no off days between Wednesday and tonight, that meant that the Cardinals would have to pitch Carlos Martinez or Jaime Garcia on short rest to keep the rotation on schedule. The Cardinals are the only team to use only five starters all season long.
Alex Reyes was the hot name as the top prospect in baseball, but it appeared the Cardinals were going to go in-house with Tyler Lyons, who had been pitching well lately out of the bullpen in the few opportunities he had been receiving. Reyes started his minor league on Thursday as scheduled, but then Lyons was removed as option to start when he went 4.2 innings in Friday’s extra inning game against the Dodgers. Lyons might have shown some capabilities as a potential starter, but going deep Friday meant he was unable to pitch tonight. Whether Reyes would have been the call if the team had known earlier that Lyons would not be unavailable is tough to say. In the end, the team went with Memphis’ scheduled starter for Sunday, Mike Mayers.
Mayers was drafted in the third round in 2013 out of Ole Miss. Mayers, a 24-year-old righty, has made steady progress, starting in High-A in 2014 before pitching half the season in Double-A. Thoracic outlet surgery set him back in 2015, but after a quick start in Double-A this season, Mayers earned a promotion to Memphis.
After his struggles last season, Mayers was not on any major publications’ Cardinals prospect lists, and he is still not in MLB.com’s Cardinals top 30. Prior to the 2015 season, FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel (now in the Braves organization), had this to say:
[H]e’s a potential fifth starter with a solid average sinker/slider combo but inconsistent fastball command and changeup.
On the season, in 106.2 innings between Springfield and Memphis, Mayers has struck out 19% of batters while walking 8% of hitters. His ERA on the season is a solid 2.62, although his FIP is above four, so expectations should not be high for Mayers. The only pitcher in the pen who pitched last night is Trevor Rosenthal, and assuming Lyons is still out, that means the bullpen, which had an extra pitcher, should be at pretty close to full strength if things don’t go well in Mayers’ debut.
With the rotation back on schedule for Monday, Mayers will likely be sent back down, although his replacement is unclear. Brandon Moss might be a candidate depending on how the team views his health and the necessity of a rehab stint. If not, the team could keep an extra pitcher in the bullpen by calling up Sam Tuivailala. Miguel Socolovich is not eligible to return to the majors for another 10 days without an injury.
Mayers has been through a lot in the past year, and making it up to the big leagues, regardless of the circumstances, is an incredible accomplishment. Mayers' hard work in getting drafted after going undrafted after high school, rising through the ranks of the minors, and then overcoming a potentially career-threatening surgery should be lauded.