06/24/2002 9:30 pm ET
Cards wrestle with rotation options
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- As though the personal aspect of Darryl Kile's death weren't trying enough, the Cardinals now get down to addressing another problem: what to do to fill out their pitching rotation. The team did not make a roster move on Monday, and may not do so for another couple of days. But by this weekend, St. Louis will need a fifth starter, since Monday marks the team's last day off for two weeks.
Kile was one of three relatively sure things among St. Louis starters, along with ace Matt Morris and veteran Woody Williams. He had been coming back slowly from offseason shoulder surgery, but he seemed to have hit his stride in recent weeks.
Jason Simontacchi has pitched superbly, but the 28-year-old rookie right-hander is still something of a long shot to keep up his level of performance. Nonetheless, for the time being Simontacchi is the No. 3 starter.
Bud Smith takes the No. 4 spot. Smith suffered from a sore shoulder earlier this year, and upon his return from the disabled list he was ineffective and was sent to the minors. Since his return -- which came earlier than expected because of an injury to Garrett Stephenson -- Smith has not completely regained his outstanding form of 2001, but he has demonstrated steady improvement despite inconsistent work. With an opportunity to pitch every fifth day, Smith may show even more improvement.
That still leaves a fifth starter. Prospect Josh Pearce, who got the first callup in April when the rotation was ravaged by injuries, is out for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery. The most likely options now are Travis Smith, Andy Benes and Jimmy Journell.
Travis Smith, a right-hander, made four starts for St. Louis in April and May, and held his own for the most part. He had a superb outing on May 1 against Florida, allowing just one run in six innings. He has made nine starts for Triple-A Memphis this season, going 3-4 with a 1.75 ERA and issuing just nine walks in 61 2/3 innings.
Benes has made two starts in Triple-A on a rehab assignment with an arthritic right knee and has been effective in short stints. He has allowed two runs in six innings, but probably isn't ready for a callup just yet, because his longest outing was just four innings. Benes was hit hard in three starts for the Cardinals this season, lasting a total of just 10 innings with a 10.80 ERA.
Journell is the Cardinals' best pitching prospect. He is thriving at Double-A New Haven, but he has made just 11 starts above Class A in his professional career. The Cardinals have said that they strongly prefer to exercise patience with Journell, but in these extremely unusual circumstances they might still elect to call up the 24-year-old right-hander.
Other longer-shot options include lefty Mike Matthews, currently a member of the St. Louis bullpen, Triple-A righty Clint Weibl and former Major Leaguer Jason Jacome, also pitching in Memphis.
Matthew Leach covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.