The Rotation, Left-Handed Relief and the Gyorko Factor

I have been pleasantly surprised by the starting rotation thus far. C-Mart looks like he may be finally coming into his own as a legit ace, and Mikolas and Wacha are shoring up the middle-back of the rotation. Weaver has been up and down, and while some bumps are expected for a guy who is yet to have a full season under his belt, I think once he can get into a rhythm with throwing every fifth day (being moved up to start instead of Wacha because of the weather at Wrigley was a bad move and took him out of that rhythm) he will be just fine.

The obvious question mark is Wainwright. However, the even more obvious answer to the questions surrounding Wainwright can be found in two words: Jack Flaherty. What in the heck are we waiting for with this kid? Like every Cardinal fan I absolutely love Waino, but with him showing up on the DL for elbow problems yet again, I think it's only speeding up a process that will help the rotation more than hurt it. At this point, we don't know what we're going to get with Wainwright start-to-start. He may go out and give you 7 strong and work around trouble throughout, or just not have it from the start and maybe give you 5 with 4 or 5 earned. I hate to say it, but with lingering health issues and diminished stuff, his days of pitching 230 innings with a 2.75 ERA are just not going to suddenly return.

Enter Flaherty. This kid, if given the chance, has the potential to dominate much in the way Wainwright used to. I respect the loyalty the Cardinals have shown to Waino over these last few years, but if his health continues to be an issue, then it only creates issues for the other starters and the team as a whole. With a young, healthy Flaherty you know you're going to get a kid who can throw strikes with good stuff, is a competitor and can be counted on to be out there every fifth day, which in and of itself is asking a lot of Wainwright at this point. Hell, even what we saw out of John Gant this weekend further proves that Wainwright is expendable, and that we would most likely, as much as I hate to say it, be better off without Waino in the rotation.

As for another pitching topic, can we talk about our lack of left-handed relief? Tyler Lyons is the only guy on the big league roster who is a lefty -- starter or reliever. That says a lot about the faith the Cardinals put in him coming into this season. However, so far Lyons has not been good. And what's more, even Matheny is lacking confidence in using him, as demonstrated by his choice to use Bowman instead of Lyons to face Jay Bruce in a tie game in extras, and we know how that turned out.

So the question is, is Lyons really the best and only lefty option we have? Everyone in baseball knows how valuable good left-handed relievers are. Why didn't we invest in trying to give Lyons a solidified, experienced lefty counterpart in the bullpen? I don't see Ryan Sherriff contributing much if at all, so if Lyons doesn't get it together that is something that needs to be addressed if we expect this team to make a post-season run. Look at the last few WS champions and other teams that have made deep playoff runs. What's one thing all their bullpens have in common? Solid lefty relief. Not everyone is as lights out as Chapman or Andrew Miller, but hell, the Astros had Francisco Liriano coming out of the pen in October last year. Left-handed relief is invaluable, and either Lyons needs to have a major turnaround, or we need to get creative mid-season to find a lefty to fill what could prove to be a major void in the bullpen.

Finally, I want to talk about Jedd Gyorko. Kolten Wong is terrible, Matt Carpenter is probably hurt, and meanwhile Jedd Gyorko is the most under-used bat in baseball. I don't care how Matheny makes it happen, but he needs to play Jedd Gyorko. There is no point in limiting a batter that we've seen give us 50 homers in two years of limited playing time to one or two starts a week. I know it's early in the season, but this guy has nothing more to prove. Play him. He's earned it. He will produce at the plate, he will play solid defense, and more important than anything, he will be healthy. And with Gyorko, I'm more confident that we will win than with Wong or Carpenter at this point.