The St Louis Cardinals’ bullpen has been pressed lately and walks are just making it worse. It is time to make a call to Memphis for Austin Warner.
The St Louis Cardinals’ bullpen was viewed as one of the best before the 2021 season began. With Alex Reyes, Andrew Miller, Giovanny Gallegos, and Jordan Hicks all options at closer, the rest were going to be free to shut the opponent down whenever they were needed.
At the start of the year, things worked exactly to plan, although the bullpen was being overused. Then, injuries to Jordan Hicks and Andrew Miller stretched the depth thin, and now, a walk bug has bit the entire pitching staff.
The top end of the bullpen has worked incredibly well even with two big pieces injured. On nights where Mike Shildt uses his trio of Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos, and Alex Reyes, things have gone very well. But the problem is that beyond that group things have not been smooth.
Among the group of Seth Elledge, Kodi Whitley, Jake Woodford, and Daniel Ponce de Leon, the lowest ERA is Woodford’s 5.19. This sort of Memphis Mafia of the bullpen doesn’t have to be late-game relievers, but they certainly need to be better than this.
The two biggest points of weakness that the Cardinals needed to be strong have been Ryan Helsley and Tyler Webb. Helsley has a fantastic 100 mph fastball and other strong pitches, but he’s walked 14 in 19.1 innings and given up 12 earned runs. All of Helsley’s per-nine stats are great outside of the walks. He just needs to get the ball in the zone.
For Webb, things are bad and keep getting worse. After he had been quietly really good with the Cardinals since joining in 2018, his 2021 has been the hardest crash down to Earth I’ve seen. Over 12.1 innings, Webb has now allowed 17 earned runs, walked 15, and allowed 14 hits. His walks per nine sit at 10.9, and as a 30-year-old without any options left, it’s not looking good for the lefty.
Until the Cardinals get at least one of Hicks and Miller back, they are searching for a fourth option to depend on in the bullpen. If they can’t get that, some fresh blood might be needed at the very least. Sitting at Memphis is a great option in Austin Warner.
Warner, 26, has had an amazing path to get to Memphis. Back in 2018, former Site Expert, Trevor Hooth, sat down with Warner and talked with him about how his journey.
After pitching at Bellarmine University in college, Warner went to independent baseball in the Frontier League. In 2017, the Cardinals purchased his contract from the O’Fallon, Missouri River City Rascals.
From there he skyrocketed from then High-A Palm Beach all the way to AAA Memphis in a year and has been there since 2018. Now, he’s at AAA and has started the year hot. Over 11.2 innings, Warner has only given up two earned runs, good for a 1.54 ERA. He has walked five batters and only struck out eight, but the 5’11” lefty has put in his dues, and the Cardinals need fresh arms.
The biggest obstacle between Warner and the St Louis Cardinals is the 40-man roster. Warner isn’t on it, but there are a couple of ways he could find his way on. First, the Cardinals could DFA Tyler Webb. This one is obvious but nobody knows how close the Cardinals are to the end of their leash with Webb.
The second way is if Miles Mikolas is going to miss more than just a little bit of time after he was pulled from his first start back on Saturday. Mikolas was removed with right forearm soreness, the same thing that kept him out in spring. Tests still need to be done, but if he winds up on the 60-day IL, that is an easy way to get Warner on.
While Warner is unproven, the Cardinals’ last three in the bullpen can’t get much worse than it is right now, and at worse Warner can provide a fresh arm to give some others a break. At the very least, Warner has put in his dues at the minor league level.