Rosenthal, who saved a majors-best 93 games between the 2014 and 2015 seasons, is now a candidate for the Cardinals' fifth starter role in the wake of Alex Reyes' season-ending elbow injury, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports. "It's interesting," Rosenthal said of the opportunity. "I try not to view it as a great thing or a bad thing. I have to pitch well and then everything will take care of itself. ... Coming up as a starter, I just really loved the routine of it. I loved that competition of pitching deep into the game."
As has been the case on multiple occasions in recent seasons, a key spring training injury will open up opportunity for another arm on the Cardinals, and the former closer could be the rather unlikely beneficiary this time around. The team had already announced plans to stretch Rosenthal out during the exhibition slate, most likely in anticipation of a transition to a middle relief/setup role. However, the 27-year-old, who logged a combined 20 starts with Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis in 2012 during his most recent stint in a rotation, is now reportedly under consideration for the newly-vacant fifth starter job along with Michael Wacha and Luke Weaver. While both of his aforementioned teammates have major league starting experience, Rosenthal would be stepping in to the role for the first time at this level, a transition that would require him to develop at least one other pitch besides the fastball and changeup he's heavily relied on as a reliever. With a curveball and cutter in his repertoire as well, Rosenthal feels up to the task if called upon. "Having command of the strike zone, commanding the fastball, different approaches to different types of hitters, it's being an all-encompassing pitcher," Rosenthal said. "I think guys who have been around have learned how to change on a certain day depending on what kind of stuff they feel they have. That's one area I'll work at growing in."
The former closer has ceded his old job to Seung Hwan Oh, but the Cardinals still see him a valuable and versatile asset to their staff. Rosenthal notched a majors-best 93 saves over the 2014-15 seasons, while ranking fourth among all relievers with 278 strikeouts between the 2013 and 2015 campaigns. However, injuries conspired against the 26-year-old last season, as rotator cuff and hamstring ailments limited him to 40.3 innings, with only 10.1 of those frames coming after the All-Star break. However, he did finish the season with eight strikeouts and only one run over seven innings after his final DL stint in September, and both the team and Rosenthal are hoping that was a harbinger of what's to come in 2017. The Cardinals have already announced they'll stretch out Rosenthal during spring training, possibily auditioning him for a middle reliever or set-up man role come the regular season. A spot in the rotation isn't necessarily out of the question either, but appears less likely at present with St. Louis currently six-deep with starters as initial workouts near.
Rosenthal will be one of the more interesting pitchers to watch this spring, as he is expected to be stretched out as a rotation candidate, although he figures to be at best seventh or eighth in the pecking order. If he does not win a spot as a starter, he could be used as a fireman in the Cardinals' bullpen, logging multiple-inning appearances, a la Andrew Miller last season in Cleveland.
Rosenthal will be stretched out for spring training and offered a chance to show what he can do alongside the starters, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold reports.
Rosenthal's agent, Scott Boras, said his client is excited about this opportunity. The Cardinals don't need another starter, and, reading between the lines, it seems like Rosenthal will be deployed as a multi-inning reliever to start the year unless he shatters expectations as a starter in spring training. In fact, St. Louis seems to be setting things up so that Rosenthal and Michael Wacha are both in position to audition to be the Cardinals' version of Andrew Miller. Rosenthal's fantasy value is very fluid at the moment, but he should be considered a long shot to make more than a handful of starts in 2017.
General manager John Mozeliak said the
It might be full circle for Rosenthal, who came up through St. Louis' system as a starting pitcher but eventually became a standout reliever and, in 2014 and 2015, a lockdown closer. The fact he's started before could help in such a transition, but the obvious concern is how his velocity and pitch selection will play out. There is a smidge of an opportunity for Rosenthal to gain a rotation spot outright; the club holds an option on injury-prone Jaime Garcia, and Lance Lynn may need more time in his delayed recovery from Tommy John surgery.
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