Inbox: Will Hudson get a chance to start?

Beat reporter Jenifer Langosch answers questions from Cards fans

August 27th, 2018

I've rounded up another batch of reader questions to tackle in this week's Inbox. Let's start with a few related to the club's evolving pitching staff:

Don't get your hopes up. Even with pitching in relief, the Cardinals have a plethora of starting options. , and could slot in for a start, if needed. Then there are the two rehabbing Cards, and . Wacha is specifically being built back up to start, and he'll reclaim a rotation spot when he's ready.
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The other side of this is Hudson's value in the 'pen. Interim manager Mike Shildt has watched Hudson emerge as a late-inning weapon, and there seems no reason to mess with a bullpen formula that has been a key reason for this second-half turnaround.

That seems the likely fit, even though the Cardinals are stretching Wainwright out so they have flexibility. With so many starting options, the Cards are likely to deploy him in relief. The fact that Wainwright has rolled through his rehab outings without allowing a run or a walk is quite encouraging. So, too, is the hearing that his fastball velocity is back to sitting in the low 90s. Pitching in shorter stints could increase the chances of Wainwright staying healthy, and his flexibility to pitch multiple innings would give Shildt several ways in which to deploy the veteran right-hander.
Whatever the role, the Cardinals won't activate Wainwright from the disabled list until rosters expand in September.

Obviously a lot can change as rosters are tweaked and rebuilt in the winter. But the Cardinals could conceivably report to Spring Training with 10 pitchers competing for five rotation spots. , Martinez, Wacha and would seem locks for that rotation. Behind them, Hudson, , Weaver, Poncedeleon, and will push for consideration.
, , and will return as arms for the bullpen. And several of those aforementioned starters would likely slide into relief roles, as well. In other words, there's a lot to like about the organization's pitching depth.

The only scenario in which I could see the Cardinals entertaining this possibility would be if they expect to be out for several weeks. As far as I've heard, though, the club does not anticipate such an extended absence. Ozuna, who received an injection in his ailing right shoulder last week, should resume baseball activities early this week. He has his eye on a Saturday return date.
Beyond that, adding room on the 40-man roster for would be tricky (though possible, if absolutely necessary). He's making $14.75 million this season and will be a free agent in the fall. The production (.254/.355/.414) from the former National League MVP Award winner has also been far from elite.

The depth of the Cardinals' farm system has taken a hit with this volume of second-half callups -- though no one is complaining, right? That being said, there's still a lot to like as far as rising prospects. The Cards believe they have another wave of high-end pitchers on the rise, led by Ryan Helsley and Junior Fernandez, who are ranked the club's Nos. 5 and 15 prospects, respectively, by MLB Pipeline. What's especially encouraging, though, is that the club also may have some impact position player prospects also on the way.
Third baseman Nolan Gorman has done nothing but mash since being drafted by the Cardinals in June. Infielder Elehuris Montero just won MVP honors in the Midwest League. Catchers Andrew Knizner and , as well as outfielder Randy Arozarena, are other names to watch. Gorman, Montero, Knizner and Arozarena are among the organization's Top 30 Prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

I'd say Shildt's on-the-job interview is going quite well. More importantly, principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. thinks so, too, as I reported on recently. Shildt has emerged as the front-runner for the job, though it seems likely that the Cards will let things play out until after the season, at which time a final decision will be made. I can tell you, though, that Shildt has a lot of support in the clubhouse from players who would love to play for him for the long-term.