Since the outset of Spring Training, Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan have stressed that they would like the race for the 5th starter to come down to Kyle McClellan or Rich Hill. The reasoning being that while Jaime Garcia is probably the candidate with the most long term upside, they would prefer to see him start at Memphis this year to get a little more seasoning and build endurance. That is pretty logical given that Garcia missed a big chunk of time with injury in 2009, and hasn't really proved himself capable of handling a heavy workload.
Given what Garcia is doing in Spring Training thus far though, he is going to be hard to ignore as the Cards go through their selection process for a 5th starter. In three games covering eight and a third innings, Garcia has allowed just one earned run on only three hits. He has also struck out an impressive twelve batters over that span. The thought process that would return him to Memphis for Opening Day is a sound one, but if he continues to pitch as he has it would be tough not to take him north with the big club.
While Garcia pitches himself into consideration, Rich Hill appears to be doing the opposite. Hill has an ERA of 6.43, allowing five earned runs in seven innings pitched. The knock on him has always been his control, and he is living up (or down) to the reputation, walking six over his seven innings of work. Hill needs to step up his effectiveness or he will be on the outside looking in.
Kyle McClellan, the prohibitive favorite for the role, has only appeared in one game but pitched very well in that appearance. McClellan allowed only one hit in three shutout innings, and struck out four. He'll get the ball again in Friday's game, so we'll see if he continues to be sharp.
My guess is that if McClellan continues to perform reasonbly well, it's his job to lose and Garcia will be headed back to Memphis. If he starts to struggle though, and Garcia remains this effective, it'll be a tough, tough call for Tony and Dave to make.
What do you think, Die Hard Nation? Is Garcia better off going back to Memphis, or would you like to see him in the Cardinal rotation right from the start?