Trevor Rosenthal Shines In October Spotlight





SAN FRANCISCO—A year after he helped pitch low Class A Quad Cities to a Midwest League championship with the sheer boldness of his fastball, righthander Trevor Rosenthal found himself on a much bigger stage in a much bigger role with the same big fastball.

The Cardinals decided to unleash his heat in their October run.

"I'm going to wake up sometime around Christmas and pinch myself to make sure this is all real," Rosenthal said on the eve of his National League Championship Series debut.

Rosenthal, 22, started the 2012 season in the Double-A rotation and ended it in the big league bullpen as the Cardinals' heat-seeking middle reliever. In seven postseason appearances, Rosenthal had 15 strikeouts, two walks and two hits in 82⁄3 innings. Opponents were overwhelmed by his velocity, and his command of it. Said Giants leadoff hitter Angel Pagan after two strikeouts against Rosenthal: "He throws hard."

He was consistently clocked at 101 mph, and of his first 80 pitches in the postseason, more than half were 99 mph or faster.

"Once he got here he was clinging on to the veteran pitchers, continuing to try and improve and stepped into some pretty tough spots for us," manager Mike Matheny said. "(He) has improved the way we think about him and how we use him. It's been a very fast route, but a much-needed one on our part."

The Cardinals nabbed Rosenthal in the 21st-round of the 2009 draft out of Cowley County (Kan) CC, and they didn't have much to go on. The team's scout had watched him throw one inning, total. There was no cross-checker sent to see him. But the report resonated with an organizational goal to get more power in the system. A shortstop in junior college, Rosenthal fit the type of player the Cardinals wanted to find: strong arm, high athleticism, experience not necessary.

Joe Kelly and Tyrell Jenkins, both pitching prospects, also fit in that mold. High on athleticism if not on pitching experience or success. The Cardinals' plan was to take the players and blend their arms with athleticism into "natural mechanics" — with the only edict from the major-league staff being that they must throw low in the zone.

Rosenthal has become the standard-bearer for the group. He Rosenthal not only throws hard, but he's able to fire to different spots in the strike zone. He has a power curveball and enough of an offspeed pitch to perhaps evolve as a starter. He'll get that shot in 2013.

"They knew I had a strong arm (in junior college) — I knew I threw hard, but not that hard," he said. "I guess there weren't that many people who knew."

There are now.

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• Outfielder Charlie Tilson, a second-round pick in 2011, missed most of the 2012 season because of shoulder surgery but was able to return in time for instructional league play in October with no limitations. He'll be considered for a full-season club in 2013.

• Catcher Geoff Klein and outfielder Adam Melker became the first Cardinals to participate in the Australian Baseball League.