ST. LOUIS -- A combination of circumstances and success has led manager Mike Matheny to push his starting pitchers deeper into games than he did during the first two weeks of last season. A 100-pitch mark that was rarely touched by Cardinals starters last April is now being surpassed with regularity.
A year later, St. Louis starters have thrown over 100 pitches in seven of the team's first 11 games. In comparison, the starters hit that total only once in the first 14 games of the 2012 season. It took 30 games for the team to total seven 100-pitch starts.
There are a handful of reasons for the difference in early-season durability. A longer Spring Training schedule allowed for the starters to all build their pitch counts high enough to where throwing 100 pitches the first week of the season was not a stretch.
Also, twice Matheny has wanted to give his starter the chance to finish off a shutout, which both Jake Westbrook (111 pitches on Wednesday) and Adam Wainwright (115 pitches on Saturday) successfully did. Westbrook's 116-pitch season debut, on the other hand, was prompted by a need to rest a wearied bullpen.
"Last year, we started them slower," Matheny said. "We weren't pushing them over 100 pitches every game. That's not necessarily the goal going in here either. But we have to take each game on an individual basis. You just never know as a pitcher when your last chance will be to get that last out in a shutout. And a lot of these guys have earned that right."
Wainwright has eclipsed the 100-pitch mark in all three of his starts. He threw 115 pitches in his last start, a total he surpassed in only one of his 32 starts last year. Westbrook went all of 2012 without ever throwing as many pitches in an outing as he did on April 5 against the Giants. He added afterward that he felt stronger toward the end of the start than he did in the early innings.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.