The Cardinals just lost Trevor Rosenthal, so it's time for unproven relievers to step up

The St. Louis Cardinals are in a worrisome position. They entered Wednesday having lost three in a row, dropping them to 4 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. The Cardinals' postseason aspirations took another hit during the afternoon, as they announced reliever Trevor Rosenthal will undergo Tommy John surgery. Rosenthal will miss the rest of this season and most of next.

Rosenthal's absence means the Cardinals and manager Mike Matheny may have to lean more on some otherwise unproven options. Tyler Lyons (2.77 ERA, 3.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio), John Brebbia (2.04, 5.80), and Sam Tuivaliala (2.15, 2.09) have each pitched well in various stints. Yet combined they've recorded appearances in just 12 high-leverage situations. Rosenthal, comparatively, had 28 himself. Staff leader Matthew Bowman has notched 31 -- that despite a worse ERA and a FIP that would rank third among the four pitchers under examination.

Whether skipper Mike Matheny alters his usage patterns or not -- and remember, Matheny's bullpen-management skills have been questioned in the past -- some of the blame for the Cardinals' middle-of-the-pack bullpen belongs to disappointing veterans.

The Cards handed Brett Cecil a four-year deal worth more than $30 million, yet he has pitched to his worst ERA+ and strikeout-to-walk ratio in years. Closer Seung-hwan Oh, meanwhile, has seen his peripherals worsen across the board -- he's allowing more hits, home runs and walks and notching fewer strikeouts per nine than he did in his rookie season. As such, the Cardinals' bullpen is in a tender state: some of the vets they lean on the most are struggling, while they've yet to entrust some of the youngsters with more important roles.

Make no mistake, the Cardinals were facing an uphill journey to the postseason before Rosenthal was headed for surgery. But with Rosenthal out, and Matheny reluctant to change his ways, the Cardinals' path figures to be even tougher. 

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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