Degerman was the Cardinals' fourth-round selection in the 2006 draft after starring at Rice University. After signing, he made nine starts for short-season Class A State College, posting a 2.76 ERA, allowing 37 hits, striking out 53 and walking 20 in 42 1/3 innings. Opponents hit .227 against him.
This spring, Degerman had a rough time, however, walking ten and allowing eight earned runs in 1 1/3 innings over two games before being taken out of action. When the full-season clubs broke camp and came north at the beginning of April, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound pitcher was understandably left behind.
Degerman was definitely able to work out his problems in Extended Spring Training. In his first two outings covering five innings, Degerman fanned nine and allowed two runs. As he stretched out, his three most recent times to the mound covered ten innings. During that time, he yielded three runs, but fanned 18 hitters and walked none. Needless to say, it has been a huge improvement that the Cardinals hope will continue in the Midwest League.
Cardinals Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch explains the organization's thinking. "Degerman had a few command issues early in Spring Training, but he seems to have ironed those things out and pitched very well the last two or three starts – maybe even the last three or four starts he pitched in Extended. Given that along with his age and experience, it made sense to move him up now."
Degerman will take the mound Saturday for Quad Cities at Cedar Rapids, moving into their tandem starter arrangement, designed to allow eight pitchers to get starting experience.
In the rotation, Degerman takes the place of righty Mike Schellinger, who is coming back from surgery for micro-fractures in his elbow that sidelined him the entire 2006 season. Schellinger posted a 3.43 ERA in six appearances, including three starts for Quad Cities this season. In 21 innings, he walked five and struck out 22, so remains an asset for the organization.
With every move comes at least one corresponding move. The Cardinals organization confronted lefty Brian Schroeder with a difficult decision – either return to Florida to work on his game in Extended Spring Training or take his release. The 22-year-old, selected in the 33rd round of the 2006 draft from UCLA, chose the latter.
This spring, Schroeder worked out of the pen, allowing three runs in 7 1/3 innings, striking out eight while walking four. Once the season began, he gave up just one run in 7 2/3 innings, but that didn't tell the story. Schroeder allowed a lot of baserunners - ten hits for an opponent batting average of .333 and he also walked six more batters.
Vuch says the Cardinals are continuing with the tandem starter experiment, for the time being, at least. "We have no immediate plans to discontinue the approach. Eight priority players are receiving the bulk of innings, which allows us to accelerate their development."
There are still opportunities for everyone, however. "The tandem starter approach doesn't mean that the other players on the roster won't have their chances to demonstrate their skills. Every situation is different. For example, take Kenny Maiques, our closer. We are very pleased with him," Vuch said.
Rightfully so. Maiques, the 21-year-old righthander coming off Tommy John surgery, has six saves in nine appearances. The Cards' 33rd round pick in 2005 has allowed just one run in those nine frames, while fanning eight for Quad Cities.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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