Bernie Miklasz: "This is about stabilizing the rotation with a solid innings guy."

March 13, 2008: Cardinals sign Kyle Lohse

With less than three weeks remaining before their March 31 season opener, the 2008 Cardinals were quickly running out of healthy starting pitchers.

Mark Mulder was rehabbing from shoulder surgery. Chris Carpenter was working his way back from elbow surgery. Joel Pineiro was questionable with shoulder stiffness and Matt Clement had yet to pitch since undergoing shoulder surgery of his own in September 2006.

With Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper the only healthy arms remaining from what they hoped would be their opening-day rotation, the Cardinals needed reinforcements. They got even more than they hoped for when they signed Kyle Lohse to a one-year, $4.25 million contract on March 13, 2008.

“I didn’t really think it was a possibility coming over here but, unfortunately (because of) all the injuries, it ended up being a good fit,” Lohse said. “I always liked going to St. Louis. It’s a good situation for me, I think.”[1]

Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, originally sought a five-year, $50 million contract for the free-agent pitcher, but the market didn’t develop. When Carlos Silva signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Mariners, he became the only free-agent starter to receive a multi-year contract.[2]

“I tried to stay positive the whole time. It’s been a different situation,” Lohse said. “Everything turned out quite a bit different than I thought it would coming into it, but I think it’s all going to work out in the end.”[3]

While several teams, including the Orioles,[4] expressed interest, Lohse found himself pitching every fifth day at Cal State-Fullerton and California-Irvine while training camps began.

“There were some days it tested my patience,” he said. “I was anxious to get into camp somewhere. I knew I was going to end up somewhere. It wasn’t like I thought I’d sit at home all year.”[5]

In addition to his base salary, Lohse was eligible to earn an additional $400,000 if he reached 200 innings pitched. The contract included $100,000 incentive bonuses at 160, 170, 180, and 200 innings pitched, plus an additional $500,000 if the Cardinals traded him during the season. Though the Cardinals traditionally insisted upon a club option attached to any one-year deal, Boras refused to budge and the Cardinals settled for a single year.[6]

“You look at the start of the season,” pitching coach Dave Duncan said. “There’s a need and every game counts. I think we picked him up under the right circumstances.”[7]

The 29-year-old Lohse came to St. Louis with a career 63-74 record and a 4.82 ERA. He pitched the first six seasons of his major-league career with the Twins before he was traded at each of the two previous trade deadlines – first to Cincinnati and then to Philadelphia. The Cardinals had explored the possibility of trading for Lohse in 2006 before the Twins sent him to the Reds.

“He’s got a really good arsenal of weapons,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s gotten our attention before.”[8]

Lohse was coming off a 2007 season in which he went 9-12 with a 4.62 ERA. While his results weren’t eye-popping, he had made 32 starts and pitched 192 2/3 innings, reaching at least six innings in 22 starts and at least seven in 10 others.[9]

“This is about stabilizing the rotation with a solid innings guy,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote.[10]

Both Lohse and the Cardinals hoped he could be something more.

“Putting him in an environment where it’s a pitcher-friendly ballpark, working under Dunc, we think it makes a lot of sense for him to have success,” Mozeliak said.[11]

Lohse’s record “never reflected the type of ability he has,” Duncan said. “Maybe the time is right for him to reach a level of success that his physical ability should allow him to.”[12]

Meanwhile, Mozekiak admitted that when Mulder, Carpenter, and Clement got healthy, he likely would have more starters than he could use.

“It’s something if we could get to that point, I welcome that challenge,” Mozeliak said. “There is a chance that none of that comes to fruition. We think what we’ve done today is give ourselves protection should it not happen.”[13]

Too much starting pitching was never an issue for the 2008 Cardinals. Pineiro returned, but was just 7-7 with a 5.15 ERA in 148 2/3 innings. Carpenter pitched just 15 1/3 innings and Mulder threw just 1 2/3 innings as both pitchers struggled to recover from their respective surgeries. Clement never recovered from his shoulder woes and never pitched in the majors again.

Lohse, however, emerged as an immediate bright spot, winning 12 of his first 14 decisions with a 3.35 ERA. Under Duncan’s guidance, Lohse had replaced his four-seam fastball with a two-seam sinker. That pitch, combined with his mid-80s slider and the occasional curveball and changeup, helped Lohse to the best season of his career. His 15 wins led the team, and by reaching 200 innings pitched, he met all four performance incentives in his contract.

In September, the Cardinals signed him to a four-year, $41 million extension.

“There is no question he could have gotten more money and more years, but his goal was a degree of stability,” Boras said. “The big thing was being in one place.”[14]

Though Lohse had down years in 2009 and 2010, he bounced back in 2011, once again leading the team in wins. With a 14-8 record and 3.39 ERA, Lohse regained his innings-eating form and helped the Cardinals claim a wild-card berth.

Lohse was even better in 2012, going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 211 innings. His .842 winning percentage led the league and he placed seventh in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

In March 2013, Lohse signed three-year, $33 million deal with the Brewers. His tenure in St. Louis ended with a 55-35 record, a 3.90 ERA, and the 2011 World Series championship.

In three seasons with the Brewers, Lohse went 29-32 with a 4.11 ERA. He retired ahead of the 2018 season with a 147-143 career record and 4.40 ERA.


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[1] Joe Strauss, “Lohse arrives, boosts spirits with first workout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 15, 2008.

[2] Joe Strauss, “Cards look to Lohse for help,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 14, 2008.

[3] Joe Strauss, “Lohse arrives, boosts spirits with first workout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 15, 2008.

[4] Joe Strauss, “Lohse arrives, boosts spirits with first workout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 15, 2008.

[5] Joe Strauss, “Lohse arrives, boosts spirits with first workout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 15, 2008.

[6] Joe Strauss, “Cards look to Lohse for help,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 14, 2008.

[7] Joe Strauss, “Cards look to Lohse for help,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 14, 2008.

[8] Joe Strauss, “Cards look to Lohse for help,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 14, 2008.

[9] Bernie Miklasz, “Look for Lohse to give Cards lots of innings, unlike some,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 15, 2008.

[10] Bernie Miklasz, “Look for Lohse to give Cards lots of innings, unlike some,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 15, 2008.

[11] Joe Strauss, “Lohse arrives, boosts spirits with first workout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 15, 2008.

[12] Joe Strauss, “Lohse arrives, boosts spirits with first workout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 15, 2008.

[13] Joe Strauss, “Lohse arrives, boosts spirits with first workout,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 15, 2008.

[14] Joe Strauss, “Lohse agrees to $41 million deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 30, 2008.

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