It is a given that hitters strike out more today than they used to. Nevertheless, it was most significant Tuesday night that righthanded rookie Trevor Rosenthal smashed the Cardinals’ single-season high for a pitcher used exclusively as a reliever when he fanned three Milwaukee hitters in the eighth inning.
That gave Rosenthal 96 strikeouts, three more than veteran Diego Segui had in 1973. But, while Segui needed 100 1/3 innings to reach 93, Rosenthal has his 96 in just 67 1/3 innings or 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
TREVOR ROSENTHAL: GAME BY GAME
It must be noted here that Mark Littell actually had 130 strikeouts in 72 games in 1978 although two were starts, in which he struck out a total of 10, leaving Littell at 120 strikeouts for his 97 1/3 innings of relief work that year, or an average of 11.1 per nine innings, well under Rosenthal’s.
Segui had 17 saves in 1973 and Littell 11 on a dreadful Cardinals team in 1978 while Rosenthal still hasn’t had a save because of the excellence of Edward Mujica, who finished off the Cardinals’ 4-2 win though allowing a two-run homer in the ninth. But Cardinals tradition is rich with great relievers who haven’t done what the hard-throwing 23-year-old Kansas City area native has accomplished.
Todd Worrell had 92 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings in 1987.
Little-known setup man Rich Croushore had 88 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings in 1999.
Injured closer Jason Motte had 86 whiffs in 72 innings last year and the “Mad Hungarian,” Al Hrabosky had 82 in 97 1/3 innings in 1975.
Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter’s best strikeout total as a Cardinal was 77 in 1984 when he logged 122 2/3 innings.
Hall of Fame candidate Lee Smith’s tops here was 70 in 1991.
Rosenthal spent most of his time in the minors as a starter and wants to be one here, too. Left fielder Matt Holliday, a more than interested observer, said, “He’s quietly had a tremendous season.
“They’re going to have a decision to make on what his career path is going to look like. He’s got a huge arm. He’s getting outs in the big leagues pretty easily for a 22-year-old kid.”
Veteran lefthander Randy Choate, asked about Rosenthal’s near 100 mile an hour arm which has recorded three or more strikeouts eight times this season, said, “It must be rough.
“Nothing really seems to faze him,” Choate said. “But that’s kind of life in general, with Rosey going around being Rosey.
“There’s only a few things that really rile him up. The fact that he wants to be a starter ... that can drive him nuts. There’s not enough of them (starters) here,” said Choate, by understatement.
“It doesn’t bother him real bad. It’s more like a pride thing for him, to prove that he could do it. But he’ll make quite the life doing what he’s doing.”
Rosenthal said, “I knew I had quite a few strikeouts this year, but I don’t know the numbers exactly.”
A key part of the Cardinals’ postseason run last year, Rosenthal is in the middle of a chase again.
“I think it’s fun to be a part of this team right now,” he said. “We’re playing good baseball. We’re looking at the position we’re in and we have a chance to make a run. It’s similar to last (year) but I think we have a better team than we had last year.”
Rosenthal surely is better, too
“I’ve improved mentally,” he said. “I have a better feel for the game. Yadi (Yadier Molina) has had a lot of time to experiment and learn me, too. . You’ve got to trust him and what he sees.”
Rosenthal doesn’t necessarily have to throw 100 to succeed because he is developing his off-speed pitches.
“No matter the velocity, it’s when I’m throwing strikes down in the zone that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “I notice that on days I feel better I try to do too much and that means I give walks or end up getting into trouble.
“Big-league hitters can turn around a good fastball.”
Rosenthal continued his praise of his catcher for asking for Rosenthal’s off-speed deliveries.
“I know he’s paying really close attention, even in my warm-ups, to what my pitches look like,” said Rosenthal.
“In big situations, he has the confidence to call some of those pitches. I can have the confidence that they must be pretty good and they’re probably going to work.”