Report: Cardinals interested in Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris

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Now that Rafael Furcal is done for the season following Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, it’s not surprising to hear that the Cardinals are asking around about shortstops. But this report from MLB Network’s Peter Gammons indicates that they are also in the market for a starting pitcher.

This one is a bit of a head-scratcher, as the Cardinals have more starters than rotation spots at the moment, even after the loss of Chris Carpenter. While Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook are set to occupy the first four spots in the rotation, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller are currently competing for the fifth spot. Trevor Rosenthal was sent to the bullpen last week, but he’s also capable of starting. And that’s not even including top prospects like Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez, who could be options later this year. Still, if the Cardinals wanted either pitcher, they certainly have the prospect inventory to get a deal done.

Harrell, 27, posted a 3.76 ERA and 140/78 K/BB ratio over 193 2/3 innings last season and won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2015. Norris has shown some potential at times, but he’s coming off a disappointing 4.65 ERA in 29 starts last year. The 28-year-old right-hander was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and can become a free agent after 2015. As I noted on Twitter earlier this week, Norris has a 2.74 ERA in 15 career starts against the Cardinals and a 4.77 ERA in 83 games against everybody else.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.