Cardinals Rumors: A new-look bullpen?
While some of the Cardinals bullpen issues this year have been on Oli Marmol and his inability to put his team in the best position to win games, there have been injuries, as well as bad luck.
Finally, St. Louis’ luck is starting to change, with left-handed reliever Packy Naughton set to return in the coming weeks. When Naughton returns, expect him to slot in somewhere in the middle-to-late innings. MLB Trade Rumors offered an optimistic outlook:
“Left-hander Packy Naughton, who has been on the IL with a forearm strain since early April, is poised to make a Triple-A rehab appearance tomorrow. Prior to his injury, Naughton impressed with five scoreless innings where he allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out five, good for a 1.88 FIP. Upon his return, Naughton could factor into the St. Louis bullpen alongside the likes of Andre Pallante and Genesis Cabrera as the club relies on Ryan Helsley, Jordan Hicks, and Giovanny Gallegos in the late innings.”
Last season, Naughton struggled against right-handed hitters, as they had a .374 batting average against him. Should he truly cement himself as the team’s lefty specialist, he’ll need to prove at least somewhat capable against right-handed hitters, or else the Cardinals and Marmol won’t be able to count on him consistently. RedBird Rants J.T. Buchheit offered this best-case scenario for Naughton in March:
“Naughton has shown an ability to retire left-handers consistently, and as the second lefty in the pen alongside Zack Thompson, he could be thrust into some high-pressure spots. Ideally, Naughton will be deployed against left-handed-heavy lineups and be able to retire the occasional right-hander, especially with his changeup.”
In order for Marmol to see what he has in Naughton long-term, he’ll have to get consistent reps. Expect that to come soon.