The St. Louis Cardinals added a piece to their depleted pitching rotation on Wednesday, acquiring righthander Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for minor-league outfielder James Ramsey. We caught up with Jared Mueller, an editor at our sister site, Factory of Sadness in Cleveland, to give us some inside info on what to expect from the new acquisition.
Having observed Masterson for several years, would you say that his performance over the first half of 2013 can be the norm, or was it more luck?
In a lot of ways we would consider it luck. The reality is that Masterson gained confidence and decided to attack more instead of trying to nibble around the plate. That aggressive nature is rarely seen from him. His sinker can be lights out but when thrown on the fringes batters are able to lay off of it. Often this results in walks, a la 6 walks in his last minor league start. The Cardinals’ pitching coach may be able to press him to challenge hitters more, but his confidence has to be there.
Is there anything you can pinpoint as the cause for Masterson’s bad performance this year? Do you see the knee injury being a significant factor?
Primarily it was the injury. He has also struggled with some core issues as well that can impact his delivery. The pressure of the big contract on the horizon also played a huge role. Reports are that he and his agent presented the Indians a contract proposal to avoid going to free agency. Once he and the team couldn’t work that out, it seemed like the pressure rose on him. This year was the first year he was expected nationally to be a true ace. He has been the Indians’ ace for a few years, but that isn’t saying too much.
Having seen Masterson work as a reliever at the end of last season, would you rather have seen him utilized regularly out of the bullpen in Cleveland?
No way. He doesn’t have a short enough memory for that role long-term. He took on that role to help the team when he came back from injury, since he couldn’t start. He may be able to fill a long-innings relief role but beyond that, it would seem like he would almost be offended to be in the bullpen.
For Cardinal fans looking to dig more deeply into Masterson’s game, what would you say is his biggest strength, and what is the biggest thing to be worried about with him?
His biggest strength is his sinker. He is a big man and his pitch really moves. He often turned early inning walks into double plays. The Cardinals’ infield will get quite a workout from a strong Masterson outing. When he is pitching well, hitters pound the ball into the dirt. His biggest weakness is between the ears. He is a friendly, caring person but as a player he doesn’t have the bulldog mentality often needed to succeed on the big stage.