With Holliday Sidelined Pitching Becomes Key To Cardinals Success

(St. Louis, MO. April 4, 2010)

After clubbing a go-ahead homerun on opening day Cardinals fans anticipation of his bat heating up before August, Holliday was taken out by appendectomy and will be sidelined for a few weeks.

With that news, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that our offensive production is going to take a hit. Most people in Cardinal Nation would be concerned and writing about who would be replacing Holliday in the line up and in the field.

I’m less inclined to worry about whether it’s Jon Jay or Allen Craig patrolling left field for the birds. Instead I’m worried about the bullpen. Granted we scored a total of 8 runs in the series (2.6 runs/game), however in both losses to an offensively mediocre Padres our pitching was the bigger problem.

On opening day I think it was a combination of Tony La Russa not knowing the roles of some of his new bullpen pitchers along with them just not being sharp. Miguel Batista was brought in a situation where La Russa would have typically used Kyle McClellan or Jason Motte. But McClellan is now a member of the starting rotation and for whatever reason he chose not to use Motte.

Batista proved ineffective and struggled allowing two hits and a walk on the way to getting two outs. Luckily Trevor Miller was called in to douse the fire and record a hold. Bryan Augenstein was let down by defense in the 11th and the Cardinals loss.

Jake Westbrook struggled in his first start of the year allowing 8 runs in his 4.1 innings of work. La Russa then called upon Jason Motte, which made no sense to me as he’s usually good for 2 innings max and would have been called upon the next day if the game was close. Motte was also shaky allowing a run in his 1.2 innings of relief. Mitchell Boggs was also responsible for 2 of the Padres runs allowing those in his 3 innings of work.

If not for Jaime Garcia going the distance on Sunday, the Cardinals could have very easily started the season 0-3. At this point, I am not confident in any of the relievers in the Cards pen.

The season is a series old so it’s far too early to draw any conclusions about how La Russa will deploy his relief corps for its duration. Nonetheless, the early usage is troublesome as he appears to be leaning toward replacing Kyle McClellan with a pitcher who has not been particularly effective in 4 years. Over the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see whether the 40 year-old continues to be used in such pivotal situations.

How he uses Batista and the rest of the guys in the pen will be a major key to the Cards success this season and the sooner La Russa figures it out, the better.

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