The St. Louis Cardinals hope their injury-depleted starting rotation will get a big lift from newcomer Steven Matz this season.
Matz will debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday in the third game of a four-game homestand in St. Louis. The Cardinals won the first two games, 9-0 Thursday and 6-2 on Saturday.
After going 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA last season for the Toronto Blue Jays, Matz, a left-hander, signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals for four years and $44 million.
“He’s a really good fit for the type of culture we have here,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “He goes about it right. He’s almost the type of guy that, if anything, you have to tone down at some point.”
Matz’s addition became more important when starting pitcher Jack Flaherty and potential starter Alex Reyes reported to spring training with shoulder injuries that will sideline them well into the season.
The Pirates will counter with right-hander Bryse Wilson, who was 3-7 with a 5.35 ERA last season. He came to Pittsburgh from the Atlanta Braves before the trade deadline in the swap for pitcher Richard Rodriguez.
Wilson has made one relief appearance and one start against the Cardinals. The start came last season, and he allowed five runs on eight hits in four innings. He is 0-1 with a 12.60 career ERA against them.
“This (Cardinals’ lineup) is a good lineup, let’s not kid ourselves,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said Saturday. “These guys can hit. If you don’t execute pitches, they will do damage.”
Matz is 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA in five starts against the Pirates in his career. He did not face them last season.
He experienced an up-and-down spring training, but his strong outing against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday to end his spring appearances (6 2/3 shutout innings, two hits) gave him encouragement.
“I’m feeling my delivery now; I’m not overthrowing my pitches,” Matz said.
“That was awesome,” Marmol said of the outing. “Super-efficient. He had good life to his fastball. Good changeup. Got some swings and misses with that.”
Nolan Arenado has paced the Cardinals’ attack in the first two games: 5-for-8 with three doubles, a homer and five RBIs. Paul Goldschmidt is 2-for-5 with five walks and four runs scored.
Yoshi Tsutsugo is the one Pirates’ hitter off to a strong start. He went 4-for-7 in the first two games, and he drove in both Pittsburgh runs Saturday.
“He had good at-bats,” Shelton said. “First two games, Yoshi has had our best at-bats; they have been really consistent. He’s taken what we saw last year, in spring training, and gone right into it.”
The Pirates promoted starting pitching prospect Roansy Contreras from Triple-A to replace reliever Duane Underwood Jr., who suffered a right-hamstring strain in the season opener. Contreras, the only healthy pitcher left in the minors who was on the 40-man roster, pitched in relief Saturday.
Right-handers Blake Cederlind and Nick Mears are on the 60-day injured list with elbow issues. Left-hander Sam Howard (back-muscle strain) and right-handers Max Kranick (right-forearm strain) and Luis Oviedo (right-ankle sprain) are on the 10-day injured list.
–Field Level Media