SAN DIEGO -- When Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook injured his right oblique muscle in his last start, a spot opened up in the St. Louis rotation, and a crucial spot at that: Westbrook's next scheduled start would have come Thursday in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, who are in hot pursuit of the Wild Card spot the Cardinals currently hold.
Given the importance of the game, manager Mike Matheny and the Cardinals brass announced Monday that righty Lance Lynn will fill in for Westbrook, due in large part to the fact that he is the most proven and experienced option available.
Lynn was chosen over 22-year-old rookie Shelby Miller, who made his big league debut last Wednesday, and Trevor Rosenthal, who made his on July 18. Both are currently in the Cardinals' bullpen and would have been able to provide length Thursday, if called upon.
"A lot of thought went into it," said Matheny. "Being in L.A., being against L.A., being where we are right now, it's a lot to throw on a young player. Lance has been a pitcher that's pitched in as high-leverage situations as anyone. We know that's not going to affect him, and we believe in his stuff."
Lynn, who tossed a scoreless inning of relief Sunday, was in the midst of a highly impressive rookie season (14-7 in 25 starts overall and an All-Star bid), before he was derailed by some August struggles that led Matheny to remove him from the rotation on Aug. 24. But the 25-year-old pitched in 10 games during St. Louis' World Series run last season, and has shown he can pitch in high-pressure situations.
"Lynn obviously deserves an opportunity again," said general manager John Mozeliak.
He may only need to make one start, as the Cardinals received good news regarding Westbrook on Monday. His oblique injury is localized and "as good as it could possibly be," according to Matheny, who added that the team expects Westbrook back this season. When that might be remains unclear.