The Cardinals have announced their final roster on Tuesday with a few roster moves and the fifth starter announcement. Carlos Villanueva was been added to the 40-man roster and will be the team’s long reliever. Jaime Garcia will start the season on the 15-day DL after he was shut down over the weekend. With Garica out, Carlos Martinez has been named the team’s fifth starter to start the season.
The bench has also been announced this morning, with Pete Kozma and Randal Grichuk getting the final 2 bench spots; they’ll join Tony Cruz, Mark Reynolds, and Peter Bourjos as reserves.
Villanueva was signed to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training in January. After a rough first outing (1.2 innings, 6 hits, 4 earned runs), Villanueva settled down and pitched pretty well. He threw 11.0 innings in seven games, with an ERA of 4.91 and 1.46 WHIP. While the team didn’t formally announce him as the long-man, that should be the role he’ll play; it’s fitting for the righty, as he’s been more successful as a reliever.
In 2014, Villanueva pitched 37 games in the Cubs bullpen, where he had a 2.64 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 58.0 innings; his starting numbers were a little worse, with a 10.53 ERA and 2.19 WHIP in 19.2 innings (small sample size). As a reliever, his slash line against was .226/.284/.364 while striking out 8.8 per nine innings.
Garcia threw a wrench in the fifth starter plans at the beginning of spring training; the Cardinals expected Martinez and Marco Gonzales to battle it out, with Martinez being the favorite. Then Garcia showed up further along than the team thought. Garcia had a great spring, going 9.1 innings in 3 starts; he sported a 3.86 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. The Cardinals announced Sunday that Garcia was being bumped from his start due to dead arm.
A Garcia injury isn’t surprising to Cardinal fans; he’s missed time in each of the last 3 seasons. 2014 was cut short to surgery for Thoracic-Outlet syndrome, the same thing that ended Chris Carpenter’s career. The team expected that Garcia would not be as far as long as he was coming into camp; the end result is what they were expecting though.
Garcia will stay in extended spring training to work on building up his shoulder strength.
The DL move for Garcia led to the Cardinals naming Martinez the fifth starter. While Gonzales had better overall numbers, the team has been pretty straight-forward that Martinez was their guy. Martinez owned a 3.94 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 16.0 innings; he struck out a hitter per inning while only walking 5.
There have been questions of Martinez’s mental state coming into the season; he lost close friend Oscar Taveras in the off-season and was pretty emotional before that happened. Add in that he was slightly more successful out of the bullpen and the fact he’s smaller than the average starter, and it’s not hard to see why people are skeptical of him as a starter. Martinez should be good in the rotation.
Gonzales will head to Memphis to pitch every fifth day, and that’s the right move. With the uncertainty of Martinez and the previous health issues of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and John Lackey, Gonzales is better served to be stretched out in case the team needs a fresh starter.
The lefty was sporting a 1.04 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 17.1 innings, both better than Martinez. The flip side was his lower 4.7 K/9 and seven walks. Gonzales struggled in his brief MLB rotation time; he struggled with the control of his plus changeup, which led him to rely on his 90 MPH fastball too much. He didn’t fool opposing hitters. He pitched better later in the season out of the bullpen.
The bench was pretty much in place, so the announcement was more of a formality. Cruz will continue his job as Yadier Molina’s backup. He’ll maybe see a game a week, and won’t be available as a pinch hitter; Mike Matheny has traditionally not used his backup catcher as a pinch hitter.
Reynolds was pretty much secured in his role; he’ll be a left handed compliment to Matt Adams, who could also see time at third base and left field. He’s going to be the primary source of power off the bench. Joining him on the infield will be Kozma. After spending much of the season in Memphis, Kozma came into camp out of options and looking to stay up with the team; he responded by leading the team in hitting at .425. He’s also taken on the role of third catcher and could get a little play in the outfield too.
The outfielders, Grichuk and Bourjos, can handle all three outfield positions. Grichuk is probably more of the 4th outfielder than Bourjos is. Grichuk is a step behind Bourjos in fielding, but is still better in the field than Jon Jay; in fact, Grichuk might step in and get a bit of playing time in center to allow Jay to work his way back after off-season wrist surgery. Bourjos will pretty much be limited to pinch running and defensive replacement; he’s struggled this spring to a line of .125/.227/.231 and is coming off a .231/.294/.348 season in 2014.
The Cardinals open their season Sunday night against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.