What does the Trevor Rosenthal promotion mean?

As many St. Louis Cardinals fans already know, right-handed pitching prospect Trevor Rosenthal has been promoted from Double-A Springfield to the big league bullpen. Maikel Cleto was optioned to Memphis, with Jaime Garcia being moved to the 60-day disabled list to clear a 40-man roster spot.

The unusual move has led to a number of questions today, so I decided to jot down my thoughts here.

What does this say about Rosenthal’s recent past?

It indicates to me that the organization is pleased with his progress since his impressive spring training in major league camp. With Springfield recently, Rosenthal has been walking fewer batters and pitching deeper into games, both very positive. He was the organization’s May Pitcher of the Month and made the Texas League All-Star team. There was a minor scare earlier in the month when Rosenthal injured his lower back in the weight room, but he returned strong after missing just one start.

What does this say about Rosenthal today?

The organization is willing to make the unusual step of promoting a player from Double-A directly to the bigs. The only time I can recall this happening in recent years was a short-term emergency move with catcher Steven Hill a couple of years ago. (Update: There is another. A reader reminded me that just prior to Cleto’s brief June 2011 MLB debut, he was pitching in Springfield’s rotation.)

The Cardinals must believe that the 22-year-old Rosenthal is an unusual individual, able to handle all that goes with such a move, or they would not risk it.

What does this say about Rosenthal’s future?

In case Rosenthal stumbles, damage can be limited in a pen role. Even so, if/when he has to go down, it may be to Memphis, where he can continue to grow. If he does well with St. Louis, it can position him to join the rotation fight for 2013, just as Lance Lynn did the year before.

I do not see this move as showcasing Rosenthal for trade partners. It would seem to indicate to me just the opposite – that he is highly-valued and is not going to be traded.

What does this say about Jaime Garcia?

The left-hander has already been out over 40 days (since June 6), so this move to the 60-day DL only means he cannot return until after the first week of August. I honestly don’t know if/when he will be back this season. A left shoulder strain sounds a lot less concerning than rotator cuff tears.

What does this say about Shelby Miller?

It says what we already knew. Miller isn’t yet ready for the bigs and is better served to continue to work on his pitches in Memphis. I don’t see how Rosenthal has any long-term meaning to Miller, who remains a very valuable prospect in his own right. Yes, Rosenthal and Joe Kelly have passed him up, at least temporarily. But we should not forget that Miller is still just 21 years of age and I believe is still the youngest starting pitcher in Triple-A.

What does this say about Memphis?

The Cardinals have already tried Brandon Dickson and Chuckie Fick and apparently do not want more of the same. Adam Reifer hasn’t returned to his pre-2011 injury form. John Gaub is a waiver-wire claim lefty who hasn’t pitched as well as Barret Browning, already in St. Louis. That is it for 40-man roster pitching options.

What does this say about the state of the bullpen?

Obviously, the pen has been shaky. The club has played 63 one- and two-run games and has lost 15 more of them than they have won (24-39). A simple .500 record in such games would have given the Cardinals at least a 2 ½ game division lead and would put them just one win off the most in MLB.

As noted above, there are no decent new options available at Memphis. Could Rosenthal be any worse than the current choices?

What does this say about the Cardinals’ 40-man roster?

The 40-man remains full. There are no other players that could be moved to the 60-day DL when lefty Brian Fuentes is ready – assuming he shows he is ready in the next two weeks. Someone will have to be taken off at that time – unless a trade in the interim opens up a spot.

(See the Cardinals Roster Matrix here.)

What does this say about the Cardinals in the trade market?

Ideally, nothing. Rosenthal is available to join the club immediately. Trades take time. There are many teams looking for pitching help and prices are likely high. If the Cards do acquire a veteran, Rosenthal or several others could easily be optioned out.

Hopefully, even if Rosenthal does well in his initial few outings, the club will continue on its primary path (to acquire veteran bullpen help). Expecting a young man just up from Double-A – one who spent the entire 2011 season in the Class-A Midwest League – to solve all the major league team’s relief problems is unreasonable.

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