Rookie left-hander Tyler Lyons will start for the Cardinals Monday against the Reds. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)
By Rob Rains
The Cardinals will start left-handed rookie Tyler Lyons on Monday in the first game of the series against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium.
The team made the decision after placing Jake Westbrook on the disabled list Friday because of back stiffness, which Westbrook said had been bothering him for the last few weeks.
Whether caused by the back problems or not, Westbrook has been ineffective in recent games. In his last four starts plus an emergency relief appearance, Westbrook was 0-4 with a 9.69 ERA, allowing 28 earned runs in 26 innings.
For Westbrook, the back stiffness is the latest ailment he has tried to pitch through, following an oblique injury which put him on the DL last year and elbow inflammation earlier this season.
“Just part of being old I guess,” said Westbrook, who will be 36 in late September. “I’ve kind of been throwing through something the last couple of years. It always seems to be something. I’ve tried to battle through it, but I have no excuses. I’ve never made any and I never will. I just haven’t pitched very well. It’s been tough, frustrating.”
Manager Mike Matheny said the hope is that the two weeks off, with rest and treatment, will allow Westbrook to come back and pitch when he is eligible to come off the DL.
“When you are sore it’s hard to compete at this level,” Matheny said. “We just have to give it some time.”
Matheny and the Cardinals had three options in choosing a starter to replace Westbrook for Monday – Lyons and fellow rookies Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez, recalled from Triple A Memphis Friday to take Westbrook’s spot on the roster.
“Tyler has had a strong season and we like where he is right now and what he brings to our club,” Matheny said.
Lyons, 25, has the most experience of the three pitchers, having started seven games this season, most recently on July 30 in the second game of a doubleheader at Pittsburgh. He worked six innings, allowing eight hits and three earned runs in a game the Cardinals lost 6-0.
Another reason the Cardinals might have decided to go with Lyons is the fact the Reds, with left-handed batters Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Shin-Soo Choo in their starting lineup, are 22-21 versus left-handed starters this year and 51-34 against right-handed starters.
“This is a guy who has been consistent through the season and gives us a good shot,” Matheny said. “We’ve seen a couple of nice starts from him, and want to see more.”
Starting Lyons allows the Cardinals to keep Wacha in the bullpen and also have Martinez available there as well, to use either if needed in a long-relief role or in a high-leverage situation, Matheny said.
“He gives us some versatility,” Matheny said.
The addition of Martinez means that as the Cardinals begin their most important stretch of the season – 17 consecutive games against the combination of Atlanta, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh which began Thursday night - seven of the 12 members of the team’s pitching staff are rookies.