Inbox: Which Cards will make All-Star Game?
Cardinals beat reporter Jenifer Langosch responds to fans' questions
ST. LOUIS - After a late night and early morning of baseball, let's get to some Inbox questions on this Monday morning. Remember, if you want to submit a question for future Inbox consideration, include your first name, last initial and hometown along with it.
How many Cardinal players do you think will be All-Stars? It looks like Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Lance Lynn have to be in, right? Will there be others?
-- Phil S., Oklahoma City
More than a half dozen Cardinals could make the case for All-Star inclusion, though roster size and the requirement that all teams be represented will invariably leave deserving candidates off. My guess: the Cardinals will have five players represent the National League.
I would expect the Cardinals to have three position players chosen. Molina has arguably been the Most Valuable Player of the NL in the first-half and recently passed Buster Posey in the backstop voting. Carlos Beltran is in line to be voted in as a starting outfielder. And Matt Carpenter, though he's a long shot in third place to win the fan vote, should received strong consideration to make the team as a backup second baseman.
Wainwright will be in and has a chance to earn the starting assignment. It's hard to envision Edward Mujica, who is 21-for-21 in save opportunities, being left off. Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Lynn could all make arguments for inclusion, though there has to be a cutoff somewhere.
The Final Vote competition and the certainty that some pitchers named to the team will not be able to pitch could help the Cardinals sneak another member onto the team.
What moves if any are the Cardinals considering making at the Trade Deadline? I read a report that the Cards were considering trading for Jonathan Papelbon. In my opinion, that would not be a wise move.
-- Spenser W., Richmond, Ky.
There is still a little more than five weeks before the non-waiver Trade Deadline (July 31), which means it is still somewhat early to identify targets. At this point, there are still several teams fluctuating between seller and buyer status, and a lot can happen between now and the end of July to solidify a club's standing on either side of the fence. The market usually begins to settle around mid-July and available players become known.
Asked recently about potential targets, general manager John Mozeliak said it was too early to identify the team's biggest area of need. He also wouldn't speculate about the possibility of a blockbuster-type deal. I would expect the Cardinals to look at fortifying their bullpen. That doesn't necessarily mean adding a closer, as Mujica has fit superbly in that role. It could be following the blueprint of a year ago, when the Cardinals acquired Mujica in a relatively under-the-radar deal that completed their 'pen.
If the Cards were to have a starting pitcher go down between now and the end of the July, that would almost certainly put them in the market to add a starter. Fortifying the bench is always a possibility, though the Cardinals don't lack much in the way of position players.
A Papelbon-to-St. Louis deal just doesn't make much sense. Again, the Cardinals are not desperate for a closer, so what would be the benefit in overpaying for one? Papelbon is due $13 million in 2014, $13 million in '15 and has an option that could vest and earn him $13 million in'16. The Cardinals -- who have Mujica closing now, will have Jason Motte back next year and have Trevor Rosenthal ready to close when need be after -- are not going to pay that much for an aging reliever. That doesn't even factor in the remainder of what Papelbon is due this year and the players the Phillies would demand in return.
Now, I haven't heard anything about Chris Carpenter in a few weeks and have unsuccessfully scoured the Internet for news. Is he still throwing with this year in mind? And if so, how is his recuperating coming along?
-- Chris S., Ann Arbor, Mich.
Carpenter's progress stalled on June 16, when an episode of lower back tightness affected him during a bullpen session. Though Carpenter has resumed throwing and maintains that his arm strength is still strong, the Cardinals are going to continue to be cautious with expectations and workload. Carpenter has had lower back problems each of the past two seasons, so this is not an isolated case.
In terms of coverage of Carpenter's rehab, know that there is not going to be a daily play-by-play of his activities, or lack thereof. When something notable -- a step forward or a setback -- occurs, it will certainly be covered. When he throws, you'll know. But in between, there will be days where there is no update, so just be cognizant that sometimes there really is no news.
Also, understand that the Cardinals are planning on playing 2013 without Carpenter. That does not mean that they've dismissed the possibility that he could return and contribute during the second half of the season. But for now, the organization cannot operate assuming anything since Carpenter's status and the speed of his rehab program fluctuate so often.
I have looked and have not seen any news on John Gast. Are the Cards thinking of bringing him back some time this season? I thought he did a better than average job before his shoulder got hurt.
-- Jim B., St. Louis
You haven't seen many updates on Gast because there has been nothing new to report. Gast was expected to need about four to six weeks of rest for the left shoulder strain that put him on the disabled list on May 26. He is still in that rest period and said last week that he has not yet been told when he will be cleared to resume throwing again.
Gast is expected to pitch again this year. Whether it's in the Majors or Minors, rotation or bullpen will depend upon his effectiveness when he returns and the club's pitching situation at the time.
I am curious why the Cardinals are wasting their time with Ty Wigginton. There has to be someone available that can be a more dependable bench player than he has been this year.
-- Scott H., Macomb, Ill.
The Cardinals signed Wigginton last offseason, hopeful that he would be a capable pinch-hitter with the potential to add a power element off the bench. To this point, Wigginton has only two extra-base hits (both doubles) in 49 at-bats and is 5-for-29 with no RBIs as a pinch-hitter.
The Cardinals may try to fortify their bench at the Trade Deadline, but I don't envision that being the priority. And the Cardinals certainly won't give up much to add a reserve. The organization doesn't have many options for internal upgrades. Triple-A players like Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras are not going to be brought up to boost the makeup of the bench. They'll come only if there is a chance to start regularly.
Don't forget, too, that the Cardinals have $5 million in guaranteed money invested in Wigginton over the next two seasons, and that will weigh into any decision. A marginal upgrade would not warrant eating the rest of that contract. For now, the Cardinals cite the influence Wigginton has in the clubhouse and the help he has offered other bench players as valuable enough to warrant his continued stay.
Is there any possibility of fitting Joe Kelly or Michael Wacha into the rotation for five weeks, thereby allowing each of the starters a chance to rest for a turn (alternating weeks)? I think it's a brilliant idea, although they might be a pitcher short in the bullpen for the month or give up a position player on the bench. With all the changes to the pitching staff, I thought what they did last year with Kelly was great. Why not kick it up a notch and give these guys some rest?
-- David A., Phoenix
I'm not sure I totally follow the modified six-man rotation plan, though I can tell you the Cardinals have no immediate plans to begin using six starters. For one, the Cardinals want Wainwright pitching every five days. He's their ace, and there are no workload concerns with him.
The same is true for veteran Jake Westbrook, who will have no innings limitations given that he just spent a month on the disabled list. Lynn threw 176 innings a year ago (plus another 11 in the postseason), so the Cardinals are comfortable with him approaching the 200-innings mark. He's on pace to be right around that by the end of the season.
The workload concerns apply predominately to two pitchers: Miller and Wacha. The Cardinals have modified Wacha's starting schedule in Triple-A -- he'll now pitch every six days, not five -- to address that for the time being. By giving Wacha the extra day before his starts, he should still have innings left to pitch should the Cardinals need him later in the year.
How the Cardinals will handle Miller over the next few months has not been revealed. But don't be surprised if the Cardinals use off-days to skip Miller a time or two as they monitor his innings count.