Kyle Lohse's Upcoming Return Puts Management in a Bind

Justin HulseyCorrespondent IJune 23, 2009

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 23: Starting pitcher Kyle Lohse #26 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws against the New York Mets on April 23, 2009 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Mets 12-8.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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In a season where Kyle Lohse has seemingly discovered ways to get hurt other than from throwing a pitch, we could soon receive some major help (and relief) in the rotation.

Lohse suffered a strained flexor muscle on June 4 after diving for a ground ball. This eventually put him on the disabled list for the first time in his nine-year career.

Right away, the team was thinking Kyle would be out at least a month, maybe more. However, after experiencing no complications during his Sunday 40-pitch bullpen session, the target comeback is set at early-July – Possibly the Cubs series in Chicago (10th-12th).

Hopeful that Lohse may reappear before the All-Star break, the Cardinals have placed their No. 3 starter on a program that calls for him to throw off a mound on alternate days.

When asked about his return, Lohse said, “For a while it was hard to project anything at all. I couldn’t be sure how certain activities would make it feel, much less throwing a ball. That’s gone now. I’m hoping there won’t be any more setbacks and I can get back as soon as possible.”

With 15-game winner from 2008 coming back in a few weeks, management is going to have a big decision to make. Who to drop from the rotation?

There are a few directions available.

The one that first comes to mind is simply putting Todd Wellemeyer in the bullpen. Wellemeyer has a 5.53 ERA in 86 innings pitcher and has given up 12 runs in the previous three starts.

The team could also think about bringing up Mitchell Boggs from AAA-Memphis. Boggs had a very good stint as a Cardinal starter this year, but has struggled recently as a Redbird in the Minors. His 3.22 ERA and 20 Ks in 22 IP as a starter in St. Louis was very impressive, but his ERA north of five in Triple-A is very alarming.

Another option (not a very popular one) is bringing Brad Thompson back into his normal position as the long-reliever for the Cards. While it seems stupid at first, that is a Cardinal Management-like move. It seems like the always side with the struggling veteran over the proven youngster (i.e. Mitchell Boggs). Brad has certainly shocked most with his great pitching of late and has likely sealed a spot in the rotation for a while. He now rides a 3.87 ERA in 37 innings pitched and has the best start of his career fresh in his mind from last week (6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 5 K).

IF I was part of Management, this decision would take about five seconds.

Todd Wellemeyer was murdered yet again out there last night against a sub-par Mets lineup without Reyes, Delgado, AND Beltran. He was obliterated for 10 hits in five innings and allowed five runs. This seems to be the norm for the Todalion, but La Russa just keeps running him out there to get killed. Time, after time, after time.

There are only nine starting pitchers in the MLB with a higher ERA, and his seven losses rank 5th highest in the NL. He allows over 15 baserunners per nine innings pitched… which is the worst such stat in the MLB.

Some of his struggles have been blamed on “bad luck”. But it is more than bad luck with him.

Sure, opponents’ batting average for balls-in-play against him is substantially higher than the average MLB mark, but it is much more than that.

Somebody needs to tell the guy to get the ball down. If he can’t do that, then why is he in the Majors?

Out of all the starting pitchers that have taken the mound for STL this year, Wellemeyer has the worst ground ball percentage at 48%. The rest of the Cardinals regular starters have that mark above 60%.

The rest of it lies with his inability to finish off an inning. HALF of the runs that Wellemeyer has allowed have come with two outs.

He also needs to start using his slider more often. Todd threw his slide-piece 24% of the time. This year, that percentage is at 17. If he wants to know which pitch to layoff a little, tell him his fastball. Batters are crushing it. Whether it is due to his decreasing velocity, or him just missing location all together, batters are locked in.

Especially lefties who are batting .349/.421/.622 on the season.

I am interested to see what the team plans to do when Lohse returns. Wellemeyer is obviously the consensus pick by the fans, but what will the Front Office think about sitting one of the team’s best pitchers from a year ago… Not to mention one that is making $4 million this season.

Justin Hulsey
Cardinals Front Office