Tuesday, March 25, 2008
McClellan appears to have made club
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — In October 2006, a young righthanded reliever made something of a name for himself by freezing New York Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran with a called third strike.
The locale Sunday was Tradition Field and not a league championship game in Shea Stadium, and the pitcher was not Adam Wainwright, but St. Louisan Kyle McClellan. The inning was the fifth and not the ninth, but the result was the same. McClellan froze Beltran with a called third strike to stop a Mets rally, and the Hazelwood West product took a giant step toward landing the final berth on the Cardinals' opening-day pitching staff.
McClellan, pitching in front of many members of his family who had made the trip, and his friends watching on television back in St. Louis, said, "I didn't really know what my chances were coming in'' this spring.
At age 23, McClellan never has pitched above Class AA and has been a reliever only one season. But this spring he has a 1.64 earned-run average in 11 innings, including 2 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday.
"What I wanted to do coming into spring was to do well and catch some attention," he said. "I've done that. Now, once you get that attention, you keep going. You don't want to be a guy who catches it for a little while and then it's gone."
But McClellan said, "If you had asked me if I thought I would be here the last week, I would have said, 'I don't think there's any chance.'"
Manager Tony La Russa said he didn't bring in McClellan as a test case against Beltran. La Russa said starter Todd Wellemeyer was coming out after 80 pitches and Wellemeyer reached 80 with two outs and two on in the fifth inning with the Cardinals protecting a 6-3 lead.
"I love those situations," McClellan said. "You focus more. If you come in and there's nobody on, it's easier to lose your concentration. There's no room for error. The only better thing is a one-run lead."
La Russa almost let it slip that McClellan is likely to be on the club.
"That's exactly the situation he's going to be challenged with," La Russa said. "And I thought he handled himself really well.
"It was an indication of the type of the situation he might be called upon to pitch in, if he's on the club."
Albert Pujols is a workout partner of McClellan's in the offseason in St. Louis.
"He's got a lot of heart," Pujols said. "He's got the stuff to be here in the big leagues and he just needs to trust his stuff and listen to (pitching coach Dave) Duncan."