Cardinals' Matthew Liberatore Looks To Open His Own Door To MLB
One of the first adjustments lefthander Matthew Liberatore had to make after his big league debut came as fast as he recognized it.
In Liberatore's first MLB start, hitters found something in the mechanics he had used his whole career that alerted them to which pitches were coming.
Nine of the first 22 batters he faced reached base. Before a second start, he moved his hands—and allowed just three hits.
The lessons carried into his offseason.
“Being able to play at the highest level of the game and face some failure on the biggest stage,” Liberatore said, “I think was really a good growing experience for me.”
The 23-year-old Liberatore ran up a 5.97 ERA in nine games (seven starts) for the Cardinals. At Triple-A Memphis his ERA was 5.17 in 22 games. He allowed 16 home runs in 115 innings at Triple-A, with 118 hits allowed against 116 strikeouts.
His command of multiple pitches, sharp breaking ball and sturdy delivery from the left side has helped the Cardinals’ maintain elevated expectations of Liberatore as a top prospect.
Acquired from the Rays in a trade that has become famous for sending Randy Arozarena to the Rays, Liberatore went from Low-A in the Rays' system before the pandemic to Triple-A with the Cardinals in 2021. The quick jump steepened the learning curve for the 2018 first-rounder.
The lefty entered the offseason looking for what he called “sandpaper adjustments”—polishing and sharpening with an eye on asserting the consistency that faltered inning to inning in the majors. He also sought to add weight and stacked at least 15 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame to gain durability and perhaps velocity.
The Cardinals want to see Liberatore command his fastball better so that he can control counts, limit the damage hitters did to that pitch (.364 average) and better use a sharp breaking ball.
“I’m really not looking for other people to open a door for me to have those opportunities,” Liberatore said as spring neared. “I want to open that door for myself.”
— Including top catching talent Ivan Herrera, three Cardinals prospects were named to Panama’s national team for the World Baseball Classic. Herrera has represented his country multiple times in international competitions, and joining him for the March tournament will be outfielder L.J. Jones—the Cardinals’ fifth-round pick in 2020—and minor league righthander Wilfredo Pereira.
— A minor signing meant a notable reunion this spring. Oscar Mercado, the Cardinals’ second-round pick in 2013, returned to the organization after several years with Cleveland. The Cardinals traded Mercado in July 2018 to get two outfielders further away from needing Rule 5 protection. Now 28, Mercado returns as a non-roster invitee and a depth option in center field.