With action dormant since early October, the Cardinals will commence their 2017 campaign this weekend with a pair of games against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida.
The first of those games will be on Saturday, with the Marlins serving as the home team. Opposite of Edinson Volquez, fresh off a new deal with Miami, Cardinals prospect Luke Weaver will take the mound for the Cardinals.
With the season-ending injury to Alex Reyes, the 23-year-old Weaver saw his path to a 25-man roster spot out of camp widen significantly. Coming off over 36 innings of big-league time over the final months of the 2016 season, Weaver, who primarily plugged a gap in the club’s starting rotation, enters camp this spring in position that may allow him to garner a bullpen spot.
Depending on if the Cardinals decide to go with twelve position players and thirteen pitchers or instead opt for thirteen position players and twelve pitchers, Weaver may be a nice fit to occupy a possibly remaining spot. For purpose of this theory, let’s say, in addition to the projected five starters — Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Mike Leake, Michael Wacha — Seung Hwan Oh, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Brett Cecil, Matt Bowman, and Jonathan Broxton are ‘locks’ for roster spots out of camp, leaving at least one, potentially two, vacated roles in the bullpen.
Miguel Socolovich or Sam Tuivailala and may be a solid spring away from securing a spot, but what the bullpen (in the above-depicted state, anyway) is lacking is a ‘long relief man’, one who’d the team would feel comfortable bringing in for multiple innings at a time and even starting when circumstances align. With Wacha now in the rotation, it seems there is no one else who fits the bill (and has a clean bill of health, as well) better than Weaver.
In the second game of the exhibition season, Mike Mayers will start for the Cardinals, the home team for the Sunday game. Mayers made his first big-league appearance back on July 24, and it was memorably subpar.
After being battered for nine runs by the Dodgers and recording just four outs, Mayers returned to Triple-A and eventually made it back to the majors as a September call-up at the end of the year, when he helped ease the burning of the dreadful first appearance with some success as a reliever.
Although he, as several, could be just a solid performance away from breaking camp on the roster, Mayers will likely begin the 2017 season as a member of the Triple-A rotation, serving as one of the team’s key pieces of starting depth, along with Weaver and lefties Marco Gonzales and Tyler Lyons.