ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 21: Maikel Cleto #63 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws to a Philadelphia Phillies batter at Busch Stadium on June 21, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Maikel Cleto wasn't worth Brendan Ryan, but he could make the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen more interesting starting now.
The St. Louis Cardinals' September call-ups have already made themselves known on the pitching staff; Brandon Dickson made an ill-fated but ultimately successful start on September 1 and looked fine in relief on Monday, and his availability for mop-up innings could give the team additional chances to evaluate Marc Rzepczynski, the only part of the Colby Rasmus trade likely to pay off in 2012 unless you count draft compensation picks. But it's Maikel Cleto, who began the year in A-ball, who figures to get the most attention out of the bullpen.
After a brilliant stint in high-A and AA, a rough-but-serviceable run as a starter with the AAA Memphis Redbirds, and some tantalizing innings in the Major Leagues, I still have no idea what to make of Cleto, who's done as good a job as could be expected of making up for the Cardinals' absurd decision to trade Brendan Ryan for what amounted to a pitching prospect and Ryan Theriot. His breaking pitches are a nasty rumor, and he wastes a lot of pitches well out of the strike zone, but as bad as his command is supposed to be he showed decent K:BB ratios in the minor leagues and will, every so often, throw a perfect fastball on the outside corner against big league hitters.
Also, that fastball's going to be clocked at 98 miles per hour. Cleto hit 99 miles per hour three times according to game day, and was never clocked below 97 on a pitch that I can confirm to be a fastball.