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Cardinals Veteran Starting Pitcher is Aiming for a Mid-June Return

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Steven Matz is nearing a return to the Cardinals rotation. The left-hander has been on the injured list since early May with a lower back strain. Matz began a rehab assignment with Double-A Springfield last Thursday. Matz was cleared for a rehab start after completing two high-intensity bullpen sessions. On Tuesday night, Matz made his second rehab start, throwing 35 pitches in 1 2/3 innings. He gave up three hits and five unearned runs while walking one and striking out three. He is expected to make two to three more to get him back up to 75-80 pitches before rejoining the Cardinals.

Cardinals Steven Matz Nearing Return

In his first rehab start at Triple-A, Matz threw two innings, 24 pitches, one walk and two strikeouts without surrendering a hit. Cardinals Manager Oliver Marmol told KMOX radio on Sunday that Matz came out of that feeling pretty good.

“We’re still hopeful that maybe Matz can come back and contribute,” Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said on Sunday to KMOX Radio. 

His injury left the team with a hole in the fifth starter spot. In the last three turns through the rotation, the Cardinals have turned to another left-handed pitcher in Andre Pallante. In those three starts, Pallante has produced a 3.86 ERA with two wins and a loss.

“The simplest way for him to be at his best is to be able to throw a sinker, keep the ball on the ground, use the defense, and not give up any freebies,” Mozeliak said Sunday. “When he does that, he can be pretty effective.”

Pallante Making a Case to Stay in the Rotation

It will either be Matz or Pallante who will have the fifth starter spot in the Cardinals rotation. Pallante is making a case in his three starts, he didn’t give up a run in five innings allowing but only three hits against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.

“Pallante did a really good job of navigating that lineup two times through,” Marmol said after the game. “Outside of [Charlie] Blackmon who took some pretty good swings against him. He was in control of that game that whole time. It was good to get him through that lineup through the five. He did exactly what we needed him to do.”

Pallante did get shelled by the Houston Astros in his second start of the season on June 4th. He gave up six runs in three innings that game.

What the Cardinals Need Out of a Fifth Starter

The Cardinals have a lot of confidence in their bullpen. The team feels like it just needs a fifth starter to get them to the sixth inning to not put too much wear and tear on the arms they have.

“You’re constantly thinking about what pieces you have available for that fifth day to make sure you have enough innings to cover depending on how you match up and how early you want to start matching up,” Marmol said Sunday. 

In six starts, Matz got the team to the sixth inning three times. In Pallante’s three starts he hit that benchmark twice so far. There is a third option if neither option ends up giving the Cardinals much confidence in the long run. Mozeliak has repeatedly hinted that the team will be on the prowl for a starter in the trade market over the next month.

Main Photo: © Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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