McClellan to pitch out of bullpen

McClellan to pitch out of bullpen

JUPITER, Fla. -- Kyle McClellan will pitch in relief for the Cardinals in 2010, clearing the way for Jaime Garcia to be the club's fifth starter. And with both pitchers working in their new capacities on Monday for the first time this spring, the arrangement looked awfully good.

Manager Tony La Russa announced McClellan's status on Monday morning after informing McClellan that his quest to move from the bullpen into the starting rotation had been deferred once again. Garcia has not been officially notified of his status, even following a solid six-inning start in a 5-3 win over the Twins on Monday afternoon.

"They just said, 'We need you in the bullpen,'" McClellan said. "The writing has been kind of on the wall the last few days. As well as Jaime's pitched all spring, it's been pretty obvious that with him on our staff, in our rotation, it's going to be a very solid rotation. And I can go back to the bullpen and improve on what I've done the last two years."

La Russa said before the game on Monday that even with McClellan's move, Garcia's insertion into the rotation was not a fait accompli. He maintained that stance after the game, despite Garcia's six efficient and effective innings. McClellan followed with two innings of shutout relief, striking out four.

"The decision has not been made that Jaime is the fifth starter," La Russa said in the morning. "He's got an opportunity today. He could mug it. It would be wrong to read into this thing more than is there. He's definitely in better position than he was when he showed up this morning, because all of a sudden McClellan is being prepared to pitch in the bullpen."

The first half, however, is finalized. McClellan, who has pitched in relief for St. Louis the past two years, will do so again in 2010. He had hoped to win a starting job, and he pitched very well, but will instead go back to the bullpen. He may serve as the primary setup man to closer Ryan Franklin.

"I came into camp with an idea of what I wanted to do and accomplish, and I feel like I did that," McClellan said. "I don't feel like I pitched my way out of that spot. I think it's easier to know that I didn't lose the job. You're just needed somewhere else. It's nice to know that they value you in that role, and it's a valuable role. I don't think it's harder to take. It's easier."

2010 Spring Training - null
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info

Garcia pitched the best of the three candidates -- Rich Hill was also a contender -- and that was certainly one factor in the decision on McClellan. But the Cardinals also remain short on right-handed bullpen depth, which also tipped the scales somewhat.

"Those are the factors that have come into play," La Russa said. "Jaime's done a good job, really good. Without that good job, then we'd still be looking for something."

Garcia left very little to complain about or look for all spring. In his final appearance and first start in the Grapefruit League, he kept up what he had been doing. He got 12 of his 18 outs via ground ball, struck out three without issuing a walk and needed a mere 71 pitches to get through six innings.

"I think it's the best outing I've had so far," Garcia said. "The biggest thing I focus on is trying to get ground balls. Today, no walks and I got huge outs. The defense helped me, got the double plays. So that was huge. It wasn't the best I've felt physically, but I made adjustments."

The left-hander acknowledged that it's been a strange few days. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week that Garcia was in fact the choice, and general manager John Mozeliak publicly acknowledged shortly thereafter that Garcia was the heavy favorite. Yet he still has yet to be officially notified that he's in the rotation or even on the team.

It was against that backdrop that he turned in his strong performance on Monday.

"I've got a lot of family members and friends, people from all over Mexico congratulating me," Garcia said. "And I'm like, 'It's not over yet. They haven't told me anything.' ... So I get a little anxious. I'm still a young guy, trying to learn and get experience and stuff. But the good thing is, game time, all I worry about is going out there and doing my best."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.