There was some genuine excitement in the Twitterverse when it was learned that Lance Lynn would be called up from Memphis to fill in for the injured Kyle McClellan. When it was learned that he would get the start on June 2 against the San Francisco Giants, heads were scratched all across Cardinals Nation.
Forget that Lynn has won his last three decisions, the most recent of those was a 7 inning performance against the Omaha
Royals Storm Chasers where he threw 101 pitches. Oh, that start was on May 29, giving the young man just three days rest between his last start and his major league debut. This sounds crazy, even for Tony La Russa.
Wait, not so fast. When you step back from the ledge, you will see that this makes perfect sense, but it takes a bit more information to see why.
If Lance Lynn is replacing Kyle McClellan, that would make his start on Saturday afternoon, against the Chicago Cubs. It is also a nationally televised game. Put those two things together, and you might not want a young man making his debut under those circumstances. You aren’t going to move Chris Carpenter up in the rotation and run him out there on short rest, so the only other options are June 2 (Giants) or June 3 (Cubs).
The June 2 start would have been Jamie Garcia’s, on normal rest. The key word in that last sentence was normal. Garcia’s last start against the Colorado Rockies on May 28 was anything but normal. The young lefty would give up 12 runs, 11 of them earned, in just 3 1/3 innings. More important was his pitch count at a frightening 107. After the game, Garcia commented that he was out of gas after the 50 pitch first inning. Perhaps the manager left him in a bit too long, and that factors into why Lynn gets the start instead of Garcia. A Lance Lynn start on June 2 will give Garcia an extra day of rest. In 2010, Garcia did very well with the additional day off, so there is no reason to expect differently in 2011.
Kyle Lohse was the probable pitcher for the opening game of the Cubs series, on Friday, June 3. That would also be the day Lance Lynn would start on normal rest. That game is a bit more important than the final one in the Giants series for two reasons: (1) it is against a divisional rival, and (2) it is the first game of a series, and it is easier to win the series when you win the first game. The Cardinals best chance of winning the series against the Cubs is with Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia starting the first two games, instead of some combination with Lance Lynn. With Lynn starting on June 2, Lohse is pushed back to the nationally televised game on Saturday afternoon. The last time he pitched on national television, he threw an absolute gem against the Brewers. Unfortunately, it was the same day that Yovanni Gallardo nearly no-hit the Cardinals.
I am no longer questioning the decision to start Lance Lynn on just three days rest. In fact, that might help the youngster in several ways. Tony La Russ and Dave Duncan might be a bit quicker in the event that he runs into trouble than they would on a normal start. It’s almost like a built-in excuse, so the worst case is already covered, and it is just upside from there.
Another aspect of Lynn on short rest is that his out-pitch is a heavy sinking fastball. Think more Brad Penny than Jake Westbrook. Lynn runs into trouble when he starts getting up in the strikezone with that pitch. He does have a lively fastball that he can get away with up in the zone, but the sinker turns into more of a smacker. The short rest might cost him some velocity, but it might also keep that pitch lower in the zone. It may also help offset some of the adrenaline that will be surging through his system when he takes the mound. A bit of fatigue might not be the worst thing in the world, given his circumstances.
So what happens if Lynn isn’t able to go deep in the game ? Remember that Maikel Cleto has been working in Palm Beach and Springfield as a starter. With his electric arm, he should be able to get through any opponents batting order once before they figure out what he is throwing.
I don’t know about you, but I am sure excited to see both Lynn and Cleto make their debut with the Cardinals. One more reason to make 2011 a fun one to watch.