The 2009 season is before us. The Cardinals have a few question marks on their roster. Who will play left field? How will Skip Schumaker handle second base? Who will be the first position player to throw a pitch in a blowout game (note: It will not be Ankiel, not matter how much EVERYONE wants it to happen)? But the most significant linchpin for the team's success is the starting rotation. Let's take a look at who is in the projected to pitch in it:Adam Wainwright: Waino or "Wagonmaker," as the clever folks at Viva El Birdos have dubbed him, is the undisputed ace. His first start will be preceded by a ceremony involving Corvettes and Clydesdales. God bless St. Louis. He was acquired in 2003 along with Jason Marquis and Ray King in exchange for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero. Marrero is retired, Drew avoids tripping down stairs in Boston, Jason Marquis currently serves up home runs in a purple uniform, and Ray King has changed his name to Dennys Reyes and still pitches for the Cardinals. He has a career ERA of 3.48, averages over six strikeouts per nine innings, under three walks per nine innings, and is the league leader in making Carlos Beltran look foolish. A finger injury forced Waino to miss two and a half months in 2008, but he pitched over 200 innings in 2007 and is one of the National League leaders in ERA since 2007 (200 innings minimum). Not much to worry about here, as it should be for teams that are going to compete.Kyle Lohse: Lohse is coming off a career year with a 3.78 ERA, which is well below his career ERA of 4.67. To reward him for such an positive anomaly, the Cardinals invested $41 million in him over the next four years. He is the type of average pitcher that the Cardinals organization loves. According to Baseball Reference, of the 10 most similar pitchers through the age of 29, five have pitched or currently pitch for the Cardinals. Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis, Joel Piñeiro, and Todd Stottlemyre all had some success and Sidney Ponson got a World Series ring with the team, despite his horrible, sweaty pitching. While Wainwright's and Carpenter's health get most of the attention, the real question will be how long before the real Lohse shows up.Chris Carpenter: The 2005 Cy Young winner hasn't pitched over 200 innings since 2006. While his durability is a constant concern, his ability shouldn't be questioned. He's a our tragic hero. All the skills, none of the durability of a top flight Major League pitcher. If he pitches anywhere near 200 healthy innings this year, expect him to be in the Cy Young running again.Todd Wellemeyer: One of pitching coach/magician Dave Duncan's favorite tricks is turning career relievers into serviceable starters. The Kentucky Colonel posted a 3.71 ERA last season, his first full season as a starter. Some reports stated that Wellemeyer sacrificed some heat on his pitches to gain more control. Even if his stats recess some this year, it is still very possible for him to post an ERA under 4. That ain't not bad for a fourth starter.Joel Piñeiro: We have to be honest. We're not sure why this guy is still in the rotation. While he pitched decently when he was acquired two years ago,there was a definite feeling of resignation every time it was his turn to pitch last year. If he works out, then it is all for the better. If he doesn't, there are other capable options waiting in the wings, including baby face Brad Thompson and hometown hero Kyle McClellan.There's your 2009 Cardinals starting rotation. You never know what the rotation will look like in 162 games. LaRussa may put a baseball-throwing vacuum cleaner on the mound by September as long as it was manufactured before 1978 and throws sinkers. That, of course, will depend on if Andy Benes is willing to come out of retirement.
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