Cardinals Debate Whether Matthew Liberatore is a Starting Pitcher or a Reliever

In what has been a rocky start to the season, the St. Louis Cardinals have been forced to shuffle their starting lineup and pitching rotation due to a rash of injuries. They recently lost starting catcher Willson Contreras and starting pitcher Steven Matz within days of each other.

It was Matz’s injury that forced Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol to move lefthander Matthew Liberatore from his bullpen role into the starting rotation. Thus far, the switch has produced mixed results.

Liberatore (1-2) has made three starts in Matz’s absence. In those contests, he’s gone 0-0, with a 9.00 ERA in 10 innings pitched. He allowed 14 hits, three walks, and one home run, as the Cardinals lost all three of those games.

Overall, Liberatore has made 16 total appearances and has posted a 5.30 ERA with 20 Ks in 26.2 IP. While he was originally projected as a starter in the minor leagues, he’s been predominately used as a lefthanded bullpen option in 2024. In a recent interview, Marmol stated the club believes the 24-year-old has a good enough arm to be successful in the rotation eventually, but he’s been more of a contributor out of the bullpen this season.

Cardinals Manager Oliver Marmol Discusses Liberatore’s Role

Following Liberatore’s last start, an 11-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on May 19 at Busch Stadium, Marmol spoke to the media about Liberatore’s current situation.

“He’s taking his best shot for the situation that we’re in, and it does complicate things for the ’pen a little bit because you end up overextending guys,” Marmol said, according to Lynn Worthy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You’re asking them to do more than they need to do, and they’re out there for extra outs, an extra inning. It’s a combination that puts them in a tough spot for that game and the following days, as well. It is tough. I don’t have a great answer for you.”

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Bernie On The Cardinals: Please End The Insanity. Matthew Liberatore Isn’t A Starting Pitcher. https://t.co/2MAy4jekP6

— Bernie Miklasz (@miklasz) May 20, 2024

 

“This is a guy that’s settling into a bullpen role and doing a really nice job,” Marmol said. “He’s filling a need for us. I appreciate the way he’s handling it because that’s not an easy thing to do.

The manager said that many of the plans he had for his pitching staff have been sidetracked due to all the mixing and matching he’s had to do to cover for injuries.

“I think we were pretty clear in spring training that we were wanting to assign roles and guys show up every day knowing what we expect out of them and understanding how to prepare for that specific role.”

No Timetable For Steven Matz’s Return

Matz went on the injured list on May 3 with a severely strained back. The lefthander, who has posted a 1-2 record and 6.18 ERA in five starts, was originally expected back by early June. However, there’s now no timetable for his return.

John Denton of MLB.com recently noted that Matz hadn’t begun a throwing program as of May 12th. He instead received another pain-killing injection.

Despite him being one of their best relief options, the Cardinals will again start Matthew Liberatore on Sunday.
“He’s our best option,” Marmol said repeatedly.

Why that’s a poor indictment of the Cardinals roster and pitching development:https://t.co/EqoMo0afqV

— Katie Woo (@katiejwoo) May 17, 2024

While Matz won’t reclaim the fifth spot in the rotation in the immediate future, there’s a belief that the Cardinals will search for a replacement for Liberatore, as well.

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They could seek temporary relief from their minor league corps. like highly touted prospect Tink Hence. However, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ Mark Polishuk, the team may reach out to 40-year-old free agent Zack Greinke as an option.

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