HUMMEL ON EXPECTATIONS IN THE BULLPEN:
There are many power arms in the relief corps and more lefthanders from which to choose than in many years. But much of this year’s success will depend on how available and productive 35-year-old Andrew Miller is. For much of spring training, Miller didn’t have the “feel” for the ball that he would like, and his command was spotty at best, although he said he felt better at the end of spring and felt fine in the early stages of summer camp. While not quite what the club expected in the first year of his two-year (plus an option) deal in 2019, he did work in 73 games and saved some of his best work for last when compiling a save, a win and a hold in a key four-game sweep at Chicago in September.
If Miller is compromised, Tyler Webb, who mostly had a strong season in 2019, would be the primary lefthanded reliever. Webb seems to be a perfect fit for the new rule whereby relievers have to face at least three batters. He was first among all major-league pitchers in lowest batting average against by lefthanded hitters at .157 and he was fifth among lefthanders against righthanded batters at .189.
Lefthander Genesis Cabrera, who can throw in the high 90s, could be a factor if he reaches form after being sidelined by a pair of positive tests for coronavirus. And southpaw Austin Gomber, thought of mostly as a starter, relieved some for the Cardinals in 2018.
Korean lefthander Kwang Hyun Kim was signed to a two-year contract with the understanding that he might relieve and start. Then there is Brett Cecil, who on the final year of his $30.5 million, four-year contract, indicated he was healthy this spring although still without a plus fastball. He suffered a hamstring injury in the next-to-last spring game but seems to have overcome that and thinks he is better able to compete because of his new sidearm delivery.
From the right side, there is even more depth, although that was compromised when on Monday Jordan Hicks — he of the 100 mph-plus fastball and two varieties of sliders — opted out of the season due to his risk level to coronavirus as a Type 1 diabetic. He was going to be out until August, anyway, as he worked his way back from Tommy John elbow surgery.
Giovanny Gallegos, who was delayed in reporting to summer camp, was an outstanding setup man last season, allowing just 44 hits and 16 walks in 74 innings while striking out 93 and holding opponents to a .170 batting average.
Former independent league pitcher John Brebbia had put together three solid seasons, but he’s out after Tommy John surgery this spring.
John Gant scored 11 wins in relief last season. Ryan Helsley is capable of throwing 100 miles an hour and has a breaking ball, too. Helsley, who was on the postseason roster last season, is considered starter material down the line if he gets a third pitch, but he might be the closer at the start of the season.