Entering camp, the expectation was that Carlos Martinez would regain his standing as a member of the Cardinals’ starting five. That may ultimately come to pass, though he’ll first need to work back to full strength. In Martinez’s absence, Mark Saxon of The Athletic tweets, the Cards will utilize either John Gant or Dakota Hudson to round out the rotation.
Gant, 26, is one of several out-of-options Cardinals hurlers. He pitched to a 3.47 ERA last year in 114 frames over 19 starts and seven relief appearances. The results came in spite of a marginal combination of 7.5 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 with a 45.1% groundball rate. Gant’s success was driven largely by suppression of home runs (0.71 per nine) and batting average on balls in play (.253), the sustainability of which is questionable. If he’s not in the rotation, Gant will either need to find a landing spot in the bullpen or be exposed to waivers.
Options abound for Hudson, a 24-year-old former first-round pick. He could begin the season as the fifth big-league starter, take a job in the MLB pen, or stay stretched out in the Triple-A rotation. In 19 starts last year at the highest level of the minors, Hudson worked to a 2.50 ERA over 111 2/3 innings with 7.0 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 to go with a hefty 57.5% groundball rate. The worm-burners kept coming during his 26-appearance foray into the Cards pen. Though he managed only 19 strikeouts against 18 walks in his first 27 1/3 MLB frames, Hudson allowed nary a home run. That’s no fluke; Hudson has permitted only eight long balls in over three hundred professional innings pitched.
Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon are other 40-man members that might have been seen as possibilities. Each started MLB contests last year but has evidently already been ruled out of the Opening Day rotation race. As the news further suggests, hugely talented youngster Alex Reyes is also out of the mix to open the season as a starter. But that doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily be optioned at the end of camp. As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets, manager Mike Shildt says that Reyes will be considered for a relief post. Reyes, 24, is working back from significant shoulder and elbow surgeries and will surely face innings limitations.