ST. LOUIS — Carlos Martinez has been stretched out in the minors and Joe Kelly has shown he’s always up to start. But if you think either will be starting in place of rookie left-hander Tyler Lyons Friday night, think again.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on Monday afternoon did not talk as if Lyons, who has lost his past three starts while giving up 14 runs, is in danger of being removed from the rotation anytime soon.
Matheny, however, stopped a bit short of saying Lyons absolutely would take the mound against the Rangers.
“Right now, (that’s) definitely where we’re going,” Matheny said in his office at rainy Busch Stadium. “We want him just thinking about his next start, not about all this other stuff.”
Lyons’ struggles are as simple to explain, according to Matheny. He is not controlling the count like he did in his first two starts and his mistakes are not being missed.
“He’s realizing mistakes hurt you more in this league than they do in the minor leagues,” Matheny said. “Guys don’t miss many mistakes in the middle of the plate when you’re in the hitter’s count. He’s got to be able to control the count and he’s got to be able to use his secondary pitches. It’s just the consistency of putting those together.”
Lyons encountered his biggest trouble Sunday at Miami when, with two outs and one on, he hit 8-hole hitter Jeff Mathis in the foot with an errant slider and then walked starter Ricky Nolasco on five pitches. Juan Pierre followed with a two-run single that gave the Marlins a 4-1 lead.
In the first, Lyons gave up two runs on three hits, all three coming after he had fallen behind in the count. Placido Polanco drove in two more runs with a double in the fifth after Lyons had fallen behind 2-0. Lyons ended up working 5 1/3 innings while allowing six runs, his ERA shooting from 3.51 to 4.65.
For the most part this season, St. Louis’ rookie pitchers have exceeded all expectations. They have combined to go 17-8 with a 3.17 ERA in 221 2/3 innings.
“We’ve been very spoiled with our young pitchers,” Matheny said. “These sort of (struggles) are to be expected at some point. We just don’t throw in all the chips and start something else.”
Lyons won his first two starts, at San Diego and Kansas City by pitching seven innings and allowing only one run. In the past three, he’s given up at least four runs and not made it through the seventh inning. Though he has had his problems on the mound, Matheny said he’s been impressed with how the 25-year-old has handled the adversity.
“He’s given zero excuses, which tells a lot,” Matheny said. “He was very upright about (his Sunday start). (He said) ‘Hey, I just have to make better pitches. I feel great. My stuff felt good. I just didn’t execute when I needed to.'” You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.