Cards bullpen confusing

The St. Louis Cardinals, who were in the National League Championship series last year, have a ball of confusion at the back of their bullpen. Last year, Jordan Hicks started the season as the closer and racked up 14 saves before a torn UCL led to Tommy John Surgery. Carlos Martinez finished the season in that role and had 24 saves.

Who is going to start the 2020 season as the closer is up in the air 10 days before the shortened season starts, adding stress to the lives of the Cardinals and their fans (like me). With Hicks opting out for 2020 and Martinez moving into the starting lineup, Giovanny Gallegos would be a lock – except that he hasn’t reported to camp yet.

Giovanny, having cruised to a 2.31 ERA and a 33.3 percent strikeout rate last year, could still be the closer. But he’s still stuck in Mexico due to pandemic-related travel issues. Even if he arrives soon, there may not be time for him to be ready for high-leverage work by Opening Day. This smells like a committee situation in St. Louis.

The Cardinals have had a designated closer in the past, and this may still happen. But when? Just FYI, I had both Hicks and Gallegos rostered on one of my fantasy teams. Hicks was in the IL slot, since he was still on the 60-day IL, but I felt confident he could be the closer until he decided not to risk playing baseball in 2020.

Today, the buzz word in St. Louis is Helsley. That’s Ryan Helsley. But before you hit the waiver wire and add him to your team, consider that his 2.95 ERA in his 36.2-inning debut last year was helped by an unsustainable 84.6 percent strand rate and came with just a modest 20.9 percent strikeout rate. He’s not dominant like most closers.

Martinez could still claim the closer job, although he clearly wants to be back in the rotation. Injuries have been the problem for Martinez, who was actually the Cardinals ace a few years ago. Martinez offered a compelling case for returning to the rotation on Saturday, striking four of the seven batters he faced in an intrasquad game.

This 2020 baseball season already looks like a weird aberration, so it’s no stretch in my mind to think that the Cardinals will use the committee approach during the 60-game schedule. I am on the record predicting that will happen, and that’s the reason why I have already dropped Hicks and Giovanny and won’t be adding Helsley.


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