Cards stretching out Lynn as Carp backup plan

Cards stretching out Lynn as Carp backup plan

Cards stretching out Lynn as Carp backup plan
JUPITER, Fla. -- No stranger to starting, Lance Lynn will transition back into that role for the final weeks of Spring Training just in case he is needed to begin the year in the Cardinals' rotation.

The decision to move Lynn from a bullpen role to a starting one was made over the weekend, as the Cardinals got to a point where they had to prepare for the possibility that Chris Carpenter might not be ready to take the mound on Opening Day. Lynn was a natural choice to get stretched out this spring given his familiarity with such a routine.

This was the first time Lynn had arrived at Spring Training not preparing as a starter. A supplemental first-round Draft pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Lynn was used almost exclusively as a starter in the Minors. He began his Major League career that way, too, by making two spot starts in place of Kyle McClellan last June. After a short return to Triple-A, Lynn returned to the Majors to fill a spot in the bullpen.

Lynn made 16 appearances as a reliever before a left oblique strain put the right-hander on the disabled list on Aug. 10. He came off the DL in October and logged another 11 innings in the postseason.

"The bullpen was fun," Lynn said. "I had some success there, which has given me a lot of confidence going into doing this now. I'm just looking forward to getting this opportunity [to start]. Right now it's not good because Carp is down. But they have the faith in me to be able to do that if it comes to that. It's a good feeling."

Because no rotation spots were open at the start of spring, the Cardinals had planned to keep Lynn in the bullpen this year. But the organization kept an open mind about eventually converting Lynn back into a starter. The Cardinals are now just doing so quicker than anticipated.

"We've drug our feet out long enough to see how [Carpenter's neck stiffness] would play itself out," manager Mike Matheny. "We want the best for him, and we also believe that he'll get there. We just don't want to push him any more than what he should be pushed."

Lynn, 24, will make his first Grapefruit League start on Wednesday in a home game against Houston. He pitched two innings in a relief appearance on March 7 and tossed another inning on Saturday. He would have come out for a second inning of work on Saturday if not for a rain delay.

In his three Grapefruit innings, Lynn has allowed one run on four hits. He has stuck out three.

"Everything feels great, so I'm looking forward to throwing a couple innings, throwing more pitches and using all four pitches I have," Lynn said. "It's going to be exciting to keep going and start to use all pitches instead of just one or two that I would use out of the bullpen."

The Cardinals' comfort in moving Lynn out of the bullpen, where he very well could have ended up in a setup role, is due in large part to the number of other right-handed relievers currently competing for spots in the St. Louis 'pen.

Four bullpen spots seem destined for Jason Motte, Marc Rzepczynski, J.C. Romero and McClellan. To fill the other three, the Cardinals will consider Eduardo Sanchez, Fernando Salas, Mitchell Boggs and Scott Linebrink -- though other candidates could emerge. And Matheny said that Lynn would jump right back into that mix should Carpenter end up ready to start the season on time.

"It would just be the change of a mindset," Matheny said. "You [would] get him back to thinking about being that bullpen guy again. Nothing would change as far as where Lance's progression would go."

General manager John Mozeliak said on Sunday that it seems likely that Carpenter would need to make three Grapefruit League appearances for the club to feel comfortable sending him to the mound in Miami on Opening Day. Carpenter was tentatively set to make his first appearance early this week before neck stiffness became an issue.

Carpenter last threw on March 3, when he faced hitters during a live batting practice session.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.