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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cardinals Team Report

nside Pitch

A tattered Cardinals rotation got a lift when veteran Kyle Lohse, who worked a combined 191 2/3 innings for Cincinnati and Philadelphia last year, signed a one-year contract with St. Louis. He will receive a base salary of $4.25 million

Right-handers Matt Clement and Chris Carpenter and lefty Mark Mulder already weren’t going to be ready for the start of the season as they continue to recover from surgeries. And now right-hander Joel Pineiro, who suffered shoulder inflammation after just one spring start, also is likely to open the season on the disabled list.

“You’d be jeopardizing (Pineiro) to be putting him in that situation” of pitching in the first week of the season, pitching coach Dave Duncan said. “If it takes time, it takes time.”

With right-hander Braden Looper struggling early in the spring, Lohse, who has been throwing to Cal State Fullerton hitters, might be the No. 2 starter behind right-hander Adam Wainwright.

General manager John Mozeliak, who had hesitated to sign another free agent pitcher because of flexibility issues that would arise when the injured hurlers return, said, “If this was a perfect world, we wouldn’t have had to go down this road. But it’s not, and we’re going to need a guy to pitch every fifth day.”

Duncan, after watching Lohse’s first workout, said, “I was impressed with his control of all his pitches.

“There’s a need. I think we picked him up under the right circumstances.”

Lohse got under way with the Cardinals on Monday, firing 70 pitches in a simulated game. “I just felt like I normally would at this time of the year,” he said.

Notes, Quotes

• RHP Adam Wainwright struggled on the mound a day after signing a $15 million, four-year contract. Wainwright allowed four earned runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings with a strikeout and a walk.

• LHP Tyler Johnson, out all spring with a strained left rotator cuff, will be re-examined Saturday. General manager John Mozeliak expressed frustration to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Johnson is still unable to throw. “At some point we need the pitcher to pitch. He’s not pitching. So at some point we examine all our options and try to determine what’s best for the club,” Mozeliak said.

• OF Juan Gonzalez, out since March 12 with an abdominal strain, doesn’t have a hernia, he learned after an exam Thursday. However, he remains sidelined indefinitely.

• INF Brendan Ryan, who has a mild muscle strain in his right side, won’t return before Saturday, the team announced. Ryan hasn’t played since Monday.

• 1B Albert Pujols, who didn’t homer until deep into spring training last year, hit his fifth of the spring Wednesday at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., off Baltimore LHP Adam Loewen. Pujols, who drove in a total of three runs, also has five doubles this spring and is slugging .857.

• RHP Brad Thompson, a spot starter last season, made his first start of the spring Wednesday and was highly effective. He held Baltimore to two runs, one of the scratch variety, and four hits in 4 1/3 innings.

• RHP Jason Isringhausen, who hadn’t pitched in nearly a week because of a back strain, worked a perfect sixth inning Wednesday.

• RHP Kyle Lohse, signed last week to a one-year contract as a free agent, will make his first spring start for the Cardinals on Saturday against his former team of many years, the Minnesota Twins.

• OF Chris Duncan, hitting .038 (1-for-26) and recovering from a back ailment, got some extra at-bats Wednesday in a minor league game in Jupiter, Fla. He continues to try to regain his form of the first half of last season, when he hit 16 home runs and batted .288. After his morning workout, Duncan then motored to Fort Lauderdale and popped an opposite-field homer in his first at-bat against Baltimore.

• SS Cesar Izturis, who had been 5-for-36 (.139) this spring, had two hits Wednesday.

By The Numbers: 4—Of the Cardinals’ first eight exhibition victories, four came in their first four games with the New York Mets.

Quote To Note: “I know under the circumstances I’ll probably be under a little bit more of a spotlight.”—Newly signed RHP Kyle Lohse, who came to terms with just two weeks left in spring training.

Roster Report

With the Cardinals’ rotation suffering from numerous injuries, the team made a mid-spring training acquisition, picking up free agent RHP Kyle Lohse. If he gets up to speed in time, he might wind up as the No. 2 starter.

Arrivals: C Jason LaRue (free agent from Royals), SS Cesar Izturis (free agent from Pirates), INF D’Angelo Jimenez (minor league free agent from Nationals), RHP Matt Clement (free agent from Red Sox), 3B Troy Glaus (trade with Blue Jays), OF Juan Gonzalez (minor league free agent, out of baseball last year), LHP Ron Villone (minor league free agent from Yankees), RHP Kyle Lohse (free agent from Philadelphia).

Departures: OF So Taguchi (free agent, signed with Phillies), RHP Troy Percival (free agent, signed with Rays), SS David Eckstein (free agent, signed with Blue Jays), CF Jim Edmonds (traded to Padres), C Gary Bennett (free agent, signed with Dodgers), RHP Kip Wells (free agent, signed with Rockies), INF Miguel Cairo (free agent, signed with Mariners), 3B Scott Rolen (traded to Blue Jays), INF Russell Branyan (free agent, signed minor league deal with Brewers), C Kelly Stinnett (free agent, unsigned), OF Preston Wilson (free agent, unsigned).

Projected Rotation:

1. RHP Adam Wainwright

2. RHP Kyle Lohse

3. RHP Braden Looper

4. RHP Todd Wellemeyer

5. RHP Anthony Reyes

The rotation is all right-handed, so far, with LHP Mark Mulder (shoulder surgery) not being counted on until the second month of the season. RHP Chris Carpenter, RHP Matt Clement and RHP Joel Pineiro are all ailing, too.

Projected Bullpen:

RHP Jason Isringhausen (closer)

RHP Ryan Franklin

RHP Russ Springer

LHP Randy Flores

LHP Tyler Johnson

RHP Brad Thompson

RHP Cliff Politte

In what generally was a poor 2007 season overall, the Cardinals bullpen was a strength, with Isringhausen able to stay healthy for the whole season and rack up 32 saves while holding opponents to a .179 batting average. Springer and Franklin were solid for most of the season as setup men, but Flores and Johnson must be more consistent. Politte, originally a Cardinal, could make the club as a non-roster invitee.

Projected Lineup:

1. RF Skip Schumaker

2. CF Rick Ankiel

3. 1B Albert Pujols

4. 3B Troy Glaus

5. LF Chris Duncan

6. C Yadier Molina

7. 2B Adam Kennedy

8. Pitcher

9. SS Cesar Izturis

Unless he changes his mind, manager Tony La Russa is likely to go with a position player hitting ninth as he did in the final two months last year. According to La Russa’s research, the pitcher hitting eighth rarely hurt a Cardinals rally. Izturis has enough speed that he could become the “second leadoff man,” similar to how American League lineups are constructed. Schumaker might give way to 21-year-old Colby Rasmus if the latter is ready sometime early in the season.

Projected Reserves:

C Jason LaRue

INF Brendan Ryan

INF Aaron Miles

OF Ryan Ludwick

OF Brian Barton or OF Juan Gonzalez

LaRue figures to give C Yadier Molina a better backup than Gary Bennett was last year. Ryan’s chances of sticking increased with the release of INF Scott Spiezio. Barton could make the club with his speed or Gonzalez with his blasts from the past.

Top Rookies: CF Colby Rasmus swatted 29 homers at Class AA Springfield last year and continued to excel as his U.S. team won a tournament in Japan. C Bryan Anderson probably is still a year away, although he hit .298 at Springfield.

Medical Watch:

INF Brendan Ryan (muscle strain in right side) hasn’t played since March 17. He won’t return before March 22.

RHP Jason Isringhausen (sore back) missed a schedule appearance March 16. He returned to action March 19.

OF Juan Gonzalez (abdominal strain) was scratched from the lineup March 12 and still hadn’t played as of March 20. He is day-to-day.

RHP Joel Pineiro (right shoulder strain) missed his March 2 start, pitched March 7, then missed his March 12 start. He likely will open the season on the disabled list.

LHP Tyler Johnson (sore left shoulder) won’t need surgery, but he will open the season on the disabled list.

RHP Chris Carpenter (Tommy John surgery in July 2007) isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break.

LHP Mark Mulder (shoulder surgery in September 2007) is expected to be ready sometime in May.

RF Juan Encarnacion (fractured eye socket) won’t play this year after he was struck by a foul ball last Aug. 31.

RHP Josh Kinney (Tommy John elbow surgery in March 2007) suffered a broken right elbow in August 2007, slowing his rehab. He is unlikely to return before May.

RHP Matt Clement (shoulder surgery in September 2006) is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day, pitching coach Dave Duncan said at the start of spring training.

RHP Dewon Brazelton (stiff right shoulder) was limited to playing catch early in spring training.

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