As the injuries mounted to the Cardinals' rotation candidates, the organization decided to bring in the 29-year-old as the two sides agreed a $4.25 million, one-year contract.
Of those pitchers still standing vying for spots in the Cardinals' starting rotation, Lohse's 195 career starts are the most of the group. His 63 career victories rank second to Joel Pineiro's 65 career wins. Of the pitchers on the Cardinals' 40-man roster, Mark Mulder has the most career victories with 103, ranking second is Chris Carpenter with 100 career victories, Matt Clement is third with 87 but are none of these three are expected to be ready on opening day.
Lohse was born in Chico, California and attended Hamilton Union. Along with Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox and Joba Chamberlain of the Yankees, Lohse is one of the only three Native Americans in Major League baseball.
The Chicago Cubs selected Lohse in the 29th round of the 1996 draft. Instead of signing immediately, Lohse elected to attend Butte Community College. He would then sign with the Cubs on May 20, 1997 as a draft and follow.
The Cubs sent Lohse to the Arizona League where he pitched 47.2 innings in his debut. He averaged an impressive 9.25 K/9 while posting a 3.02 ERA.
Rockford was the next stop for Lohse as he made his full season debut. The then-19-year-old posted an impressive 13 wins with a 3.22 in 170.2 innings pitched. Those wins and innings ranked first among minor league teenagers.
Before the 1999 season, Baseball America ranked Lohse as the sixth-best prospect in the Cubs system. BA had this to say about him: "Lohse is a bulldog competitor who challenges hitters well, especially for a young pitcher from a small school. His best pitch is his slider, which he complements with a solid-average fastball and a straight change. He also has shown the potential to have above-average command of his pitches."
Assigned to High Class-A Daytona, Lohse continued where he left off, posting a 5-3 record with a 2.89 ERA. On May 21, 1999, he and Jay Ryan were traded to the Minnesota Twins for Rick Aguilera and Scott Downs. Lohse struggled after the organizational change, posting an ERA over five in seven starts for Fort Myers.
There was a silver lining as the Twins promoted the 20-year-old to Double-A New Britain. Lohse struggled, posting a record of 3-4 with a 5.89 ERA.
Before the 2000 season, Baseball America ranked him seventh in the Twins organization. He was one spot ahead of another pitcher who changed teams this winter, Johan Santana. Unfortunately, for Lohse and the Twins, the wheels seemed to fall off. At New Britain, the 21-year-old posted a 3-18 record with an ERA over six.
To start the 2001 season, the Twins sent Lohse back to Double-A New Britain. The third time was the charm as Lohse registered a 2.37 ERA in six starts before being promoted. Sent to Triple-A Edmonton, Lohse did not miss a beat, putting up a 4-2 record with an ERA just over three. Also encouraging, Lohse got his strikeout total back up to almost a K per inning.
On June 22, 2001, the California native made his Major League debut against the Detroit Tigers. In 6.1 innings, he gave up four runs while striking out five and picked up his first Major League loss. He would not have to wait long to get his first victory; it came five days later against the Chicago White Sox. Against the Sox, Lohse gave up one run and struck out six in seven innings of work. He would finish his first season with a record of 4-7 with a 5.68 ERA.
2002 brought his first complete season in the big leagues. He posted a 13-8 record with an ERA of 4.23 while pitching 180 innings. The 23-year-old made his post-season debut, pitching in three games covering five innings while not allowing a run.
2003 and 2004 saw Lohse continue in the big leagues while his numbers slightly declined. He did win a career high in 2003 but saw his ERA increase by almost half a run. His 2.04 BB/9 ranked seventh while his strikeout to walk ratio came in at number 10 in the American League. The 24-year-old made his first post-season start against the New York Yankees, allowing three runs on six hits in five innings of work while being charged with the loss.
In 2004, Lohse posted a 9-13 record while his ERA ballooned to 5.34. Again, he faced the Yankees in the post-season, but this time he came out of the bullpen. The results were similar as Lohse took the loss. A stat that really stands out is his 240 hits allowed in 194 innings. Those 240 hits were the sixth-highest total given up in the American League.
Lohse posted the same win-loss totals in 2005, but did decrease his ERA by over a run. As well as his ERA, he lowered his hits and walks per nine innings. As Lohse struggled, there was an incident reported in which Lohse damaged the door to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's office after being removed from a game after only two innings. The two went on to exchange verbal jabs in the media.
After the fiery September the previous year, 2006 was a roller coaster for the right-hander. The now 27-year-old struggled in the American League, posting an ERA of over seven in 22 games, only eight which were starts. In May, the Twins sent him back to Triple-A, where he posted an impressive 1.50 ERA but only had 12 strikeouts in 24 innings.
During the off-season, Lohse along with his wife, Gabby, welcomed their first child, a boy named Kameron.
Back with the Reds to start the 2007 season, Lohse delivered a 6-12 record with an ERA of 4.58. He still showed good control with a 2.4-to-1 K to BB ratio. Once again, Lohse needed a moving van at the trade deadline. On July 30, he was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies for Matt Moloney. In 11 starts for the playoff-bound Phils, Lohse went undefeated with three wins and a 4.72 ERA.
Lohse appeared in relief in game two of the 2007 National League Division Series, going 1.1 innings against the eventual NL champion Rockies, allowing one earned run on one hit, while striking out one. Those numbers don't tell the story as that one hit was perhaps the pivotal play of the NLDS, a grand slam by now-Houston Astros second baseman Kaz Matsui that turned a slim Phillies lead into a deficit from which they would not recover. Lohse was also the scheduled starter for game four, but Colorado swept the Phillies in three games.
As a major leaguer, when Lohse has been good, he has been very good. In his 63 career wins, he has amassed a 2.37 ERA and an almost 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. That being said, it should also be pointed out that when he has been bad, he has been very bad. In 74 career losses, he has an ERA of almost eight and that strikeout to walk ratio falls to 1.5-to-1.
Against the National League Central, he has a career record of 9-10 with an ERA around four with a little better than a 2-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.
Lohse seems to get a little bit stronger as he gets deeper into the season. August, September, and October are the only three months in which he has an above .500 record. In August, he has been the best with a career mark of 13-11 and a 4.01 ERA in 249 career innings.
Magglio Ordonez has faced Lohse more than any other active hitter; logging 60 at bats and a line of .333/.367/.614. Of those who have faced Lohse at least 25 times, Cardinal killer Carlos Beltran has had the most success. In 29 at bats, Beltran has hit .517/.605/.1.034 with four home runs. In terms of batting average, current teammate Adam Kennedy has had the fourth-most success with a .414 average.
In his career, Lohse has struggled against the rival Chicago Cubs' big three. Alfonso Soriano is a career .387 hitter in 31 at bats against Lohse while teammates Derrek Lee (.333 in six at bats) and Aramis Ramirez (a perfect 1.000 in five at bats) have also enjoyed success.
Other notables around the National League Central that have done well against Lohse are the Astros' Carlos Lee, a career .386/.438/.727 hitter in 44 at-bats and the Brewers' Rickie Weeks, who is hitting .333 in six at-bats.
On the other end of the spectrum, Lohse has owned the White Sox' Paul Konerko. In 50 career at bats, Konerko has hit an anemic .120/.200/.240 against Lohse. Of those in the National League Central, the Pirates' Freddy Sanchez is hitting .100 in 10 at bats.
Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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