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Friday, April 4, 2008

Cards Notes: Relief for Reyes

Cards Notes: Relief for Reyes
By Joe Strauss
r Anthony Reyes strikes out
April 3, 2008 -- Cardinals pitcher Anthony Reyes strikes out the side in an inning of relief work.
(Chris Lee/P-D)

After Anthony Reyes located the bullpen door Thursday, the novice reliever had no problem playing the part well.

Reyes struck out the side in order in the eighth inning of the Cardinals’ 3-0 afternoon win over the Colorado Rockies, sending away center fielder Ryan Spilborghs, Rookie of the Year runner-up Troy Tulowitzki and former batting champion Todd Helton on 21 pitches that included 16 strikes.

"It was fun. It was my first time this year. All those guys down there, it’s a different game in the bullpen," Reyes said.

The appearance was Reyes’ first since being retained as a reliever during camp’s last week.

"It’s a little different but it’s definitely manageable," Reyes said. "I’m just having fun with it. There are a lot of guys down there with experience to teach me the ropes. It’s going to be exciting."

Team elders Jason Isringhausen and Russ Springer counseled Reyes Wednesday on how to prepare for his new gig. Reyes goes through an elaborate routine before making a start, and his new compadres suggested ways he could tighten the procedure.

The relief appearance was only Reyes’ sixth in five professional seasons. Projected as an uncomfortable fit, Reyes looked anything but on Thursday. "Now I’m just focused on getting strike one and throwing as many strikes as possible. I’m coming a little more relaxed and a little more focused, I guess," he said.

Added Reyes: "It’s a different feel than starting a game compared to coming in the middle of it. That part is probably the toughest, trying not to get overexcited and trying not to overthrow. But it didn’t seem too out of control today."

Pujols nicked

First baseman Albert Pujols suffered a deep laceration of his right middle finger during a first-inning slide Thursday but remained in the game to provide two hits in his team’s win.

Cuticle was torn away from the finger when Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins inadvertently stepped on Pujols’ hand after the baserunner scrambled back to the bag during a rundown that at first involved catcher Jason LaRue. Pujols bluffed toward home to draw fire away from LaRue. When El Hombre reached for the bag, Atkins’ spikes found his middle finger, causing Pujols to cry out and briefly lift his hand from the bag.

"I didn’t want to lift it because I could have been tagged out," Pujols recalled. "But the pain … man, it was pretty bad."

The finger bled heavily as Pujols doubled over. Head trainer Barry Weinberg attended to the laceration and Pujols stayed in the game. Atkins later checked on Pujols before the inning ended. An X-ray was scheduled, but a re-examination after the game found insufficient cause.

It will take more than a digit boo-boo to keep Pujols out of Friday’s lineup. He owns Washington Nationals starter, lefthander Odalis Perez, going 13 for 20 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in regular-season play.

Johnson’s light throws

Lefthanded reliever Tyler Johnson will begin a light throw program Friday afternoon, one month after the club officially shut him down with what was termed a slight rotator cuff strain. Johnson said that he has experienced significant improvement since accepting a cortisone injection last week but has no idea how long the program would take.

"The shot definitely helped," he said. "Beyond that, we’ll have to see how it goes."

The club initially projected Johnson’s shutdown would last seven to 10 days. His longer absence from the mound makes it unlikely he will return before mid-May, at the earliest.

"It just know I’m hurt and it stinks," Johnson said about a lost spring training and his open-ended rehab.

Duncan swings

Left fielder Chris Duncan took batting practice Thursday but remained unavailable due to a left hamstring pull suffered during Tuesday’s season-opening loss.

"I’m available but I don’t think they want to push it," Duncan said after Thursday’s game. "We’re seeing something like four lefthanders in a row, so I’m not sure how much I’ll be in there this weekend. But it’s much better today. I feel like I could pinch hit without a problem."

The lefthanded-hitting Duncan would probably have been a nonstarter anyway tonight against lefthander Perez. Another lefthander, Matt Chico, is scheduled to start Saturday.

Here they come

Disabled starting pitcher Joel Pineiro positioned himself to start a minor-league rehab assignment next week by working five solid innings Thursday in extended spring. Throwing 68 pitches, Pineiro allowed two unearned runs on four hits, walking one against six strikeouts.

The club will monitor Pineiro’s Saturday side session before assigning him to Double-A Springfield, where he would start Tuesday against Midland.

Slowed by a "knot" below his right shoulder, Pineiro may be ready to return to the major-league rotation at the conclusion of the Cardinals’ upcoming road trip to Houston and San Francisco.

Mark Mulder is scheduled to make a start Saturday in extended spring, but the lefthander is deemed slightly behind Pineiro as he recovers from September rotator cuff surgery.

Bird bits

The Cardinals outscored the Rockies 12-5 in the three-game series. Starters Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson allowed only one run in 16 2/3 innings (0.53 ERA). The last time the Cardinals held a foe to five runs or fewer in a season-opening series was when they also allowed five to the San Francisco Giants. Bob Tewksbury, Rheal Cormier and Donovan Osborne started the series. … The Rockies finished the series only three for 25 (.120) with runners in scoring position. Of their 22 hits, 13 came with two outs. … Thompson’s fifth-inning single was worth his first RBI in 35 major-league at-bats. The club forgot to retrieve the ball. "I guess they look at the quality of my swing and figure that guy has to have an RBI by now," Thompson quipped.

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