Carpenter, Duncan, and Zeppelin: The 2009 St. Louis Cardinals Projected Rotation

Grant Correspondent IFebruary 9, 2009

Path One of Projected Rotation

  1. Chris Carpenter
  2. Adam Wainwright
  3. Kyle Lohse
  4. Todd Wellemeyer
  5. Joel Pineiro


Path Two of Projected Rotation

  1. Adam Wainwright
  2. Kyle Lohse
  3. Todd Wellemeyer
  4. Joel Pineiro
  5. Kyle McClellan/Mitchell Boggs


It was either Plato or Plant who stated, "There are two paths you can go by...there's still time to change the road you're on."

This seems to be the approach the St. Louis Cardinals are taking with their starting pitching rotation for the upcoming 2009 baseball season.

Chris Carpenter, the oft-injured staff ace, makes a much anticipated return to the Redbird clubhouse this year. If even a semblance of his 2005 Cy Young Award winning form takes the mound, then no one in the National League can compete with the one-two punch of Carpenter and fellow starter Adam Wainwright.

On the other hand, if the injuries continue to plague Carpenter, the outlook is no longer so rosy.  The Cardinals have relief pitcher Kyle McClellan training as a starter this spring as a safety net.

While Cardinal fans have a myriad of opinions about head skipper Tony La Russa, nearly all of them agree upon the genius of pitching coach Dave Duncan.  Duncan is a straight shooting, superb judge of talent who once threatened to resign when the front office traded then prospect Dan Haren to the Oakland Athletics for Mark Mulder.

Want to guess who was right on that call?

Also, in 2006 Duncan shaped midseason acquisition humdrum Jeff Weaver into a World Series caliber starter with only two months of instruction.

Therefore, the Redbird nation can take a collective sigh of relief because Duncan is very optimistic about Carpenter being a part of the opening day rotation.  In a recent radio interview Duncan revealed that Cardinal head trainer Barry Weinberg has cleared Carpenter for a normal spring training with no need to tread lightly.

If Carpenter is somehow not ready to perform, Adam Wainwright will once again be the top starter. In 2007, with Carpenter lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery, Wainwright responded by pitching over 200 innings en route to a 14-12 record. 

As the staff ace last season he posted a 11-3 mark, but missed three months because of a dislocated middle finger.

Both Kyle Lohse and converted reliever Todd Wellemeyer got off to boiling starts in 2008, but each simmered down after the All-Star Break. Whereas the two are passably effective as the second and third men in the rotation, they are much more attractive options in the third and fourth spots.

Joel Pineiro finishes off the Cardinals succession of projected starters, but he is to the rotation what Meg White is to the White Stripes: average and interchangeable. 

However, Dave Duncan expects more than last year's 7-7 performance. Pineiro is reportedly in better shape this spring, probably because he is in the last year of his contract and is pitching for a new deal.

Prospect Mitchell Boggs is next in line behind Kyle McClellan if any of these starters should falter. Boggs went 9-3 while striking out 81 batters for the Cardinals Triple A affiliate last year.

All in all, it is difficult to say that the fate of a team rests with one man's arm.  But Chris Carpenter has the ability to transform a middle of the road St. Louis squad into a dark horse World Series contender.