Cards' Garcia wins upset bid for No. 5 slot

Another blog entry, another rotation (unofficially) set. Joe Strauss:

    The Cardinals are expected to formalize their starting rotation after Rich Hill and Kyle McClellan appear this afternoon against the Baltimore Orioles. Today’s action likely represents little more than a formality as heavy sentiment exists to install lefthander Jaime Garcia as the fifth starter.

    Garcia apparently cinched his standing with a strong performance against the Houston Astros on Monday in Kissimmee. Garcia allowed one run on two hits while getting eight groundouts in four innings.


    Embracing Garcia as fifth starter allows La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan to return Kyle McClellan to the bullpen, where he may serve as righthanded set-up man for closer Ryan Franklin.

    McClellan entered camp projected as the frontrunner for the fifth-starter role. McClellan has done little wrong, constructing a 2.57 ERA while allowing six hits in seven innings covering two A-game appearances. He also appeared in an intrasquad game following postponement of a March 12 game against the Boston Red Sox.


    Garcia, 23, would become the youngest starting pitcher to make the Cardinals’ Opening Day rotation since Rick Ankiel made the 2000 club at 20.

(Something tells me that Tony La Russa doesn't spend a great deal of time worrying about the Verducci Effect.)

It's an odd trio of rotation candidates.

Rich Hill, who used to be one of my favorites, has walked more than he's struck out in the last two seasons. Now he's trying to change his delivery and maybe it'll work, but it's not the way to win a regular job with a contending club.

McClellan threw only 76 professional innings in 2008 and 67 in 2009, all of them as a reliever; he hasn't really been a starter since 2004, when he went 4-12 with a big ERA in Peoria.

Meanwhile, Garcia threw the grand total of 38 innings last year after recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2008. Those 38 innings went reasonably well, but as John Sickels notes, "his control is still inconsistent, and pushing him into the big-league rotation might be rushing things."

Garcia's 23, turns 24 this summer. Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan are famous for their work with veteran castoffs; their history with young starters is less an inspiring. But maybe Garcia, already having had a ligament transplanted into his young elbow, is now relatively safe.

He still has to throw strikes, though, and five walks in 12-2/3 innings this month doesn't constitute a great deal of proof that he's ready to do that.