Inconsistent Matz to move to bullpen for next few games

Cards will assess the future of the team's rotation during upcoming break

May 27th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- The Cardinals’ starting rotation has been solidified for the near future, as manager Oliver Marmol said that Steven Matz will move to the bullpen for the next couple days.

Marmol said he’ll “assess” the future of the team’s rotation during their two-day break in the middle of next week. Miles Mikolas will get the start for the Cardinals on Tuesday against Kansas City instead of Matz.

The Cardinals are currently in the middle of a streak of playing 19 games in 19 days. 

“At the end of the day, the way I’m looking at finishing off these last several games is Miles has thrown well, and you want a right-hander against Kansas City, so Miles starts there,” Marmol said.

Matz, who is in the second year of a four-year, $44 million contract, is 0-6 with a 5.72 ERA in 50 1/3 innings on the season. In his two years in St. Louis, he’s 5-9 with a 5.49 ERA, and he allowed six runs in four innings in his last start.

“At the end of the day, Matz needs to locate, and he has shown stints of doing that, and he’s shown stints where he’s in the heart of the zone and gets hit,” Marmol said. 

When the Cardinals get back to playing on June 2 against the Pirates, they’ll likely do so with a five-man rotation, with Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Montgomery and Mikolas occupying four of those spots. That leaves Matz and Matthew Liberatore (the club’s No. 4 prospect) in a battle for the final spot. Liberatore threw four solid innings against the Guardians on Friday before his start unraveled in the fifth inning.

“If you looked up at 50 pitches, he had a 1:1 strike to ball ratio,” Marmol said of Liberatore’s start against Cleveland. “If [that ratio] is good, you get to go deeper in games. There were some flashes of really good things there.”

Matz could be an interesting weapon in the bullpen, as Matz has held left-handed batters to a .266 average in 689 career at-bats. He has made 10 career relief appearances, five of which came at the end of last season when he was working his way back from an MCL injury in his knee. 

“He’s done a nice job against lefties,” Marmol said. “If you look at his overall strikeout percentage and all of that against lefties, it’s good, so your ability to pick when he pitches out of the ‘pen over the next several days could be helpful.”

Matz said he’s going to use the time in the bullpen to “work on cleaning some things up” along with working on being comfortable in his windup and on the mound. 

“It’s been a grind for me this year, but I’ve had these ups and downs in my career,” Matz said. “It’s so hard for me. I love starting. I love the routine. That’s what I want to do.

“I’ll do whatever they want at the end of the day and I’ll do it to the best of my ability, but I want to start. That’s why I signed here, to help them win as a starter.”