The Cardinals need fresh arms, as over 8 games and 72 possible innings pitched, the bullpen has thrown 32.2 IP or right around 45% of the innings, with the starters averaging less than 5 and a starter’s ERA that’s second-to-last in the NL. Reyes had an ok spring, allowing 10 baserunners over 8 IP and 4 H, but with 6 BB to 8 SO. He hasn’t really pitched competitively since 2016 when he was in the big league bullpen in August and September. He has been bringing the heat, but he hasn’t had the command we hoped he would, especially with his breaking pitches. He has introduced a changeup but as of yet hasn’t been able to get that pitch over, throwing it into the dirt almost every time. Reyes got out of his first appearance on March 29 with no damage, and was charged with an earned run in his second appearance on March 31 when a runner he walked (after having him ahead 0-2) was allowed to score by Miller. From there, things got progressively worse. Called on to get a save on April 3 in the bottom of the 10th at Pittsburgh, he gave up a hit and 2 walks to load the bases before Hudson came in and got the save. Hudson also allowed one of Reyes’s runs to score, which netted him another earned run. Finally he was asked to pitch the 7th inning of a 2-2 game during the home opener on April 5, but walked 3, and gave up a Sac Fly and a 2-run HR for 3 earned runs in the inning. His total line over 4 games and 17 batters faced is 3 IP, 2 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 1 SO, 1 HR. While he has been squeezed a tad bit on a couple of pitches by the home plate umpire, and the rookie Tatis’s HR was a great swing on a fastball high in the zone, he clearly needs to work on his command. Out of 71 pitches, he has been credited with 36 balls to 35 strikes.
I’ve covered Munoz’s usage in the previous transaction analysis post, but his option reflects the team’s desire to go back to back to an 8-man pen given the number of innings the bullpen has thrown. He hasn’t been used in the 2 games since Robinson was optioned on the team’s off-day on April 4. In 5 PA, he’s 1 for 4 with an infield single with 1 BB and 2 SO.
For the recalls, there are only 3 real options for 2 spots. We have 21 pitchers on the 40-man roster, and 12 are here now. With Reyes optioned, that leaves 9 pitchers. Luke Gregerson and Carlos Martinez are on the injured list. Merandy Gonzalez is at A+ Palm Beach. Austin Gomber is the #1 starter for Memphis and pitched 5 innings for their opener on April 4. Ryan Helsley is their #3 starter, started on April 6 and pitched 4 innings. Genesis Cabrera was scheduled to piggyback Helsley and threw 2.1 innings out of the bullpen on the same night. Not only that, but he struggled in spring training and the reports were that he didn’t look so hot in minor league camp either. Even if he hadn't pitched on the night of April 6, before the start of this season he only had 1 game and 2 IP at the AAA level.
The only 3 real options, therefore, are Daniel Ponce de Leon, Giovanny Gallegos and Tyler Webb because we need guys that can pitch right now. Ponce de Leon is a lock to be called up because he hasn’t pitched yet, having been scheduled to be the #4 starter for Memphis April 7 in San Antonio. He could be used as a potential piggyback for Wainwright's start if he falters. Between Gallegos and Webb for the second spot, Gallegos is fresher, pitching only 1 IP to 3 batters in a 9-2 victory on April 4 with 1 SO. Webb almost singlehandedly lost Memphis’s game on April 5 by himself. Coming into the game in the 6th with a 2-1 lead, he escaped the 6th, but in the 7th, he allowed a walk and a single, committed a fielding error to load the bases, then allowed another walk and hit a guy with the bases loaded to give up 2 runs and blow the lead. Chasen Shreve, the other lefty that we just outrighted, had to come in and settle things down. Webb’s line for the day out of 9 batters faced was 1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER (due to his own error), 2 BB, 2 SO.
Although Gallegos has pitched better than Webb during their brief spins in the majors, Webb has the edge here for a few reasons. First, Webb was the last cut in camp and got a longer look. While Gallegos was no slouch, especially with strikeouts, he only lasted 3 G and gave up 3 HR. Webb allowed the same number of earned runs in 8 more games, with a 13:1 SO/BB ratio to boot. In addition, Webb happens to be lefthanded. With Andrew Miller struggling and the Dodgers coming to town on Monday with 5 lefties they could put in the lineup with 14 HRs between them, including the sizzling Cody Bellinger and mashers Joc Pederson and Max Muncy, Shildt may feel the need for another lefty in the pen to attempt to neutralize them. All of them, including Corey Seager, another lefty starter, have pronounced platoon splits. Interestingly, the righty Gallegos actually has reverse platoon splits for the last 3 years in the minors, and Webb did last year as well. If Webb is chosen, it may be more about the Dodgers and their lefty bats than his demonstrated ability to silence lefthanders.
The recalls from AAA Memphis will be announced later this morning before the game, so stay tuned for an update to see if my predictions were correct. And let me know in the comments what you think of the Cards' bullpen and what they should do about it going forward.