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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

St. Louis Cardinals: Can Tyler Lyons keep up with the rest of the Cards rotation?

What a difference seven weeks has made. Out of spring training, the St. Louis Cardinals had a solid pitching staff that was exciting to watch. What fans couldn't have known at that time was how impressive of a performance they were about to put up. Arguably that performance peaked when Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright posted back to back shutouts - with one hit and two hits allowed, respectively.

After the loss of Jake Westbrook to the 15-day DL, and the subsequent promotion of John Gast, no one wanted to hear that all wasn't well with Jaime Garcia. Unfortunately, that's exactly the case. Jaime is slated to have the very surgery he should have had last fall. In the Cardinals clubhouse there's a sometimes frustrating wait-and-see attitude about injuries. No amount of rest will bring Garcia back, and so the second change to the Cardinals' rotation will take place tonight when Tyler Lyons hits the mound.

Can Tyler Lyons keep up with the Cards rotation?

No doubt, he's got big shoes to fill. Jaime has been good this year, but that isn't the only reason why. In some ways, the continued success of the entire rotation appears to hinge on how he performs.

Shelby Miller is now a known quantity. Wainwright is outstanding. Lynn is off to a similar start as last year, which is incredible. Even John Gast is a known quantity to some extent after two starts.

So far, the system appears to work with 1/5 of its staff replaced. What will happen when the second piece goes away? We all wait on Lyons to answer that.

In his career Lyons isn't a big strikeout guy. He's very typical for a pitcher in the Cards system - a groundball pitcher.A career 4.30 pitcher in the minors, he hasn't been a shutdown type, but he doesn't let the ball get out of the park too much either.

In his worst full season, he allowed 15 home runs. He's been the type of pitcher that will keep the team in the game, provided that the team's offense finds ways to score. The bullpen needs to find ways to stay fresh, too. While Lyons is doing a little better this year, he's been averaging around 5.5 innings per start over his past two seasons.

So to answer the question posed in the title; yes, Tyler Lyons can keep up with this rotation, but he's going to need some help. Solid defense that can handle a ground ball, hitters that remember how to use the bat, and a manager that knows when he's done will all go a long way toward ensuring Lyons doesn't make the team miss a beat.

Wes Keene writes about the St. Louis Cardinals for StlSportsMinute.com and also runs his own website, KeeneMLB.com. You can also follow Wes on Twitter (@KeeneMLB).