Search This Blog

Followers

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gibson scoffs at rest 'issue'

By RICK HUMMEL
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Nov. 03 2009
PHILADELPHIA — One of the biggest issues raised during the World Series this
year has been the philosophy of employing starting pitchers on three days'
rest, which, in today's game, basically has gone the way of the dinosaur.

While the New York Yankees have had the baseball world abuzz by using CC
Sabathia and A.J. Burnett on three days' rest — with the potential of asking
Andy Pettitte to do the same and Sabathia to do it again — the Philadelphia
Phillies and manager Charlie Manuel have taken the more cautious approach.
Manuel wouldn't let Cliff Lee, who started Monday night's Game 5 for the
Phillies, talk him into pitching Sunday on three days' rest. The Phillies lost
to fall into a 3-1 hole.

The greatest starting pitcher in World Series history, Cardinals Hall of Famer
Bob Gibson, wondered from his home in Omaha, Neb., what all the fuss was
about.

"What's the big deal?" Gibson said Monday night. "I don't get it. I don't think
it's going to kill somebody.

"A pitcher can't pitch with three days' rest? Some of those guys make $8
million a week."

Gibson made nine starts in three World Series, winning seven of them and
pitching exactly 81 innings — 10 innings in one game, eight in another and
twirling complete games in the other seven.

Burnett didn't fare as well for the Yankees on Monday night. He was pulled in
the third inning after the first four batters reached base and was charged with
six earned runs in his start.

In the Cardinals' 1967 World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox, Gibson won
three games, starting Games 4 and 7 on three days' rest after opening the
Series.

In 1968, Gibson again pitched Games, 1, 4 and 7 with the latter two on three
days' rest as the Cardinals lost to the Detroit Tigers.

Earlier, in 1964, Gibson stretched his arm to the limit as the Cardinals
strained to win the National League pennant. On the last Friday of the season,
he worked eight innings in a 1-0 loss to Al Jackson and the New York Mets. He
then pitched four innings of relief on the last Sunday, gaining the win as the
Cardinals finally nailed down the flag, and three days later started Game 2 of
the World Series and worked eight innings in a win against the New York
Yankees.

On three days' rest, Gibson pitched a 10-inning win in Game 5 and then, on two
days' rest, pitched a complete-game victory in Game 7.

Even Gibson admitted, though, that five games in 17 days was a bit much.

"I didn't feel really dynamite after that," he said.

But, under normal circumstances, he doesn't see any problem with starters
working with three days' rest in postseason play.

"I don't imagine you'd want to do that all year," Gibson said. "But for
playoffs and World Series ... if you can't do it then, when the hell can you do
it? I don't quite get it.

"I just think they make a little too much about it. I don't know who it is — if
it's the media or what."

While Manuel discussed the rest matter with Lee, Gibson said he never had any
such conversations with managers Johnny Keane and Red Schoendienst.

"Nobody ever sat down with me and said, 'Would it be OK if I pitch with three
days' rest?' I told them, 'I'm going to pitch every fourth day.'

"I would have been disappointed if I hadn't."

CARDINALS STOLE FOUR AT ONCE

Johnny Damon's two steals at once for the Yankees on Sunday night was nothing
compared to what the Cardinals' Vince Coleman and Willie McGee pulled off in
the first inning Aug. 1, 1985, at Wrigley Field.

With Coleman at second and McGee at first, the two lit out on a double steal
with Scott Sanderson pitching. Coleman beat catcher Jody Davis' throw to third
but overslid the bag after touching it. Since third baseman Ron Cey had the
ball in his hand, Coleman decided going back to third had no virtue and set
sail for home.

A rundown ensued, with McGee trailing the play. Sanderson and Davis ultimately
got themselves out of position and Cey, nicknamed the Penguin, ended up
futilely chasing Coleman to a now unoccupied home plate. McGee wound up at
third.

"I knew I couldn't get back to the bag," Coleman said then. "I was still in
no-man's land. So my reaction was to go to the next base."

After conferring by phone with Seymour Siwoff of the Elias Sports Bureau,
official scorer Randy Minkoff awarded each runner two steals.

SIGN STEALERS?

Larry Bowa, a Los Angeles Dodgers coach who used to play for and manage the
Phillies, wondered on ESPN radio Monday if the Phillies were stealing signs at
Citizens Bank Park, prompting an unusual number of conferences involving
Yankees catcher Jorge Posada and Sabathia on Sunday.

"There are rumors going around," said Bowa on radio, "that when you play the
Phillies, there's a camera somewhere or bullpen people are giving signs, and
catchers are constantly changing signs."

Bowa concluded, "Any edge you can get, you take advantage of it."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Cardinals and new generations

By PH8 on STLToday.com

There was an excellent letter to the editor at STLToday.com yesterday that I felt obliged to share with you, not only because I think it’s a fitting tribute to this past season’s Cardinal team – despite the unsavory finish – but also because it sums up a lot of the sentimentality I feel toward the Cardinals as well.

I struggled to find one snippet I could quote here that would sum up the whole thing, so instead I’m going to pull out tinier bits and then you’ll just have to go read the whole thing yourself via the link above.

As a kid I remember my mom and dad putting everything on hold to watch playoff games.



This town did not just “happen” to be a great baseball town, it’s made of generations and generations of families putting life on hold to watch the Cardinals.

Yep, and actually, as I think I’ve mentioned here before – I still have the 1982 World Series program on my bookshelf. A gift from my father that I will always cherish (even if he didn’t take me to the game). You can bet I gave him my extra ticket in 2004 though, and I have the program from that one too. And save the rhetoric about the “best fans in baseball” because I’m not barking up that tree here. “Best fans” or not, it’s hard to argue that St. Louis is a great baseball town.

What we can be proud of (and Mr. Dewitt can be thankful for) is the legacy of love for the Cardinals that we have once again fostered. Because of my behavior over the last week my children will put their lives on hold for October baseball when they have families of their own. And although we do not get to watch ‘Albert Pujols do everything’ this post season, I can be proud that this great American past time has once again made a deeper notch into the hearts and minds of the next generation.

As someone preparing to welcome a new member into Cardinal Nation in the coming months, this really hits home. It’s how I grew to love the Cardinals, it’s how my folks grew to love the Cardinals – hell, it’s how my wife grew to love the Cardinals, if by default.

Every Cardinal fan on the planet was hoping for, almost expected, a trip to the World Series this year. That didn’t happen. Yeah, I’m (we’re) bummed. But gosh were they fun to watch in August. And in April. And every other dang month of the season. I’ll live and die with every Pujols at-bat and ninth inning pitch again next season, with a new fan in my lap. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it.

When do pitchers and catchers report?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chopping Wood For The Hot Stove

By Cardinal70

It's a cold, rainy morning here in Arkansas, which finely matches the mood of Cardinal Nation after the quick exit from the postseason. There's this kind of limbo that goes on when your team is out of the playoffs early. There are still games going (though the LDS have been pretty anticlimatic this year, save the fact closers can't seem to get the job done) but your team isn't a part of them. You can't go full bore into discussions and rumors of next year just yet, though.

What you can do is a little retrospection. At least, that's what Tony LaRussa did yesterday. I saw very little of this series, unfortunately, but I have to agree with LaRussa, I expected a better game on Saturday that what happened. Like I say, I didn't see a single pitch of that one, but just looking at the score and comments, it didn't seem like they had much fight in them. To score just one run in a game Vicente Padilla is pitching just doesn't seem right, though par for the course for this year's version of the Cardinals.

The link above notes that Troy Glaus, Rick Ankiel and Joel Pineiro are not likely to return next year. None of these are huge surprises. The focus on Mark DeRosa has knocked Glaus out of the picture, though many of us would be just fine with DeRosa walking and David Freese taking over the job. Either way, though, Glaus really isn't in the plans, especially after the injury problems this year.

Pineiro has really pitched too well for the Cardinals to keep him. They have Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse already locked up and management has continually said they want to plug in at least one home-grown arm into the rotation in 2010. With John Smoltz around, most likely back if he decides he wants to pitch again, there's not much room left to keep Pineiro. Besides, we saw what happened the last time he signed after a contract drive.

Ankiel....oh, Rick. Amazingly, the separation between Ankiel and a fan base that has followed him, nurtured him, rooted for him through the good and the bad and the good is not likely to be as painful as was expected six months ago. A .233 average and a propensity for the strikeout will do that. As Pip notes, Rick leaves St. Louis with exactly the same number of strikeouts as a hitter as he had as a pitcher. I've always been a fan of Rick, but he doesn't make enough contact to make him worth a bench slot and the outfield is probably going to be full in St. Louis for some time to come.

Today actually will be a busy day around the front office, as a lot of the recap meetings and initial thoughts for next year will be happening. Don't expect a whole lot of public news out of that, though, unless LaRussa or Dave Duncan decide not to return. Bernie Mikalsz addresses that along with some other questions and he comes to the conclusion that I had, that TLR isn't leaving after that performance. He couldn't go out on that note and be able to rest in retirement, I don't think. It wasn't the loss, it was the lack of competitiveness.

Someone who probably won't be back next year, though, is hitting coach Hal McRae. Besides the fact that the offense just never clicked, even with Matt Holliday and DeRosa in the lineup, there's this quote from John Mozeliak:

"It did seem the way we were approaching things at the plate, obviously it wasn't successful," Mozeliak said. "When things aren't going right, you've got to change. Did we make the right adjustments or not? As we sit here today, we had not."

I'd suggest McRae start updating his resume, because that is not a vote of confidence.

The stove may not be heated yet, but the preparations are being made. It could be another active offseason for St. Louis, so you better get ready.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cardinals' sideshow is quite an event

By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
08/28/2009

As you begin to trace the zephyr stream that has led the Cardinals onto this high perch among the National League's best and hottest teams, the trail eventually will lead you to some rather unlikely places.

The most obvious trail surely leads us to the spectacular personnel moves that still have the entire NL buzzing. For other clues to the Redbirds' late-summer success, you must, of course, search in the vicinity of the top of the starting rotation, where the Big Three of Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Joel Piñeiro have proved to be nearly unbeatable since the start of July.

But here's exactly where we veer from the obvious.

It was early Tuesday afternoon at Busch Stadium, when it was still full of the echoes of a near-empty ballpark. Batting practice was just cranking up, and the hitters were all just working up a good sweat when you saw all of the Cardinals starting pitchers come marching out of the bullpen slowly walking across the right-field grass. They were spread out, shoulder to shoulder, strutting together in a scene reminiscent of one of those classic, slow-motion scenes you see in old NBA championship highlight films.


It was 'Carp' and Wainwright, Piñeiro, John Smoltz and the injured Kyle Lohse and Todd Wellemeyer, and they had just completed one of the most significant, yet rarely noticed rituals for the starting staff — the daily bullpen side session.

Every team in baseball has a daily side session for its starting pitchers. But few teams do it quite like the Cardinals. Along with pitching coach Dave Duncan and bullpen coach Marty Mason, every starting pitcher comes out to observe his fellow starter's important between-starts shakeout session.

"When I first got here a few years ago and did my first side session, I went into the bullpen to start working, and 'Carp' and 'Waino' and all the other guys were out there too," Piñeiro said. "I was like, 'Oh man, why are they out here?' I was thinking, 'Shoot, why can't I just get out there, do my thing and be done as quick as possible?'"

It didn't take Piñeiro long to appreciate what was going on. It was the ultimate team thing. The Cardinal pitchers are big on sharing information and dispensing knowledge. This is one of the most interactive pitching staffs in baseball, with everyone practicing the simple philosophy of paying it forward.

As well-trained as Duncan and Mason's seasoned eyes are, it's so much better when an athlete also can hear vital information coming from the astute observations of another craftsman. "At first I thought it was weird," Piñeiro said, laughing.. "But now I love it. Those side sessions are great because the other guys are just picking up on stuff. They detect the slightest thing that you are doing."

So the side session that many pitchers probably use as a mundane workout to just stretch out the arm between starts, takes on a greater meaning with this Redbirds staff. It is a heightened film study session without any need for a laborious film breakdown, because the other pitchers are the ones breaking down even the most subtle tendencies of their teammates.


It all began a number of years ago at the suggestion of Duncan, when he asked veterans Matt Morris, the late Darryl Kile, Woody Williams and Carpenter if they would mind participating in the bullpen sessions on a daily basis. "We became a group inside a group," Carpenter recalled. "You had 'Dunc' and Marty down there, but you also had a bunch of extra eyes down there trying to learn, but also trying to help, and it just caught on. You get to watch and learn different things from different guys.

"Never mind that it can help you. You can help the other guys, too. And with the quality of pitching we have here, you can watch, you can ask questions, and everyone can learn."

Smoltz, the 42-year-old graybeard who has done it all and seen it all, couldn't believe how unselfish and generous — and also how darned observant — his new teammates could be. In his first side session a week ago in San Diego, Smoltz got an eye-opening experience on the value of the Cardinals all-for-one, one-for-all collective. He thought he had already worked out all the mechanical issues that led to his early-season struggles. But what Smoltz quickly learned with the help of the collective eyes was how badly he was tipping his pitches, too.

With each pitch Smoltz threw, Carpenter, Wainwright and the other starters were basically identifying each pitch before he threw it. "When 'Carp' and the other guys were down there and they knew every pitch I'm throwing, I didn't have to look at any film of what I was doing wrong," Smoltz said. "I knew if they figured it out that easily out there, then I had to be doing the same thing in a game."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pujols’ 5,000 At-Bats into History

Five thousand at-bats into his career, baseball great Babe Ruth had already shattered home run records and set the gobsmacking standard with his 60 homers in 1927. He had also been a two-time 20-game winner as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

Five thousand at-bats into his career, the Splendid Splinter Ted Williams had his .406-average season and two Triple Crowns. Five thousand at-bats into their careers, Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg had three seasons with at least 150 RBIs and Iron Horse Lou Gehrig had started his famous streak and had three seasons with at least 170 RBIs.

Otherwise, 5,000 at-bats into his career … Albert Pujols is right there with them.

The St. Louis Cardinals first baseman and reigning National League MVP had the 5,000th at-bat of his career in the first inning of Thursday’s victory. He grounded into a double play. But what he has done in the previous 4,999 at-bats of his career puts him in elite company. He walks with giants like Williams, Gehrig and Greenberg — all of whom share something that Pujols does not: They played their careers in the American League. What could arguably be the best 5,000 at-bats to start a career in the National League is where today’s 10@10 begins …

1. Pujols’ 744 extra-base hits in his first 5,000 at-bats rank fourth all time, and are the most ever by an NL player in his first 5,000 ABs. Last night, on MLB Network they ran down the top five extra-base totals in baseball history through the first 5,000 ABs in any career:

* Babe Ruth … 863 XB hits
* Hank Greenberg … 762 XB hits
* Lou Gehrig … 761 XB hits
* Albert Pujols … 744 XB hits
* Ted Williams … 743 XB hits

2. Attempted to run the numbers on each of the above hitters and what they had when they reached their 5,000th at-bat. Easier said than done in one morning. So, here’s what I did: I got their totals as close to 5,000 AB as possible. Greenberg, for example, had a career total of 5,193 at-bats. The others had natural breaks relatively close to 5,000 ABs. For context, then, here are where the above five hitters were across the back of their baseball cards as close to 5,000 ABs as possible with the numbers I had handy this morning (and remember slash lines go BA/OBP/SLG):

Ruth … 4,958 AB … .349/.480/.709 … 416 HR … 1,269 RBI

Greenberg … 5,193 AB … .313/.412/.605 … 331 HR … 1,276 RBI

Gehrig … 5,135 AB … .342/.442/.636 … 299 HR … 1,285 RBI

Pujols … 5,003 AB … .333/.426/.628 … 358 HR … 1,082 RBI

Williams … 5,096 AB … .347/.484/.634 … 324 HR … 1,264 RBI

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The 'leaked list' of baseball players allegedly linked to steroids

1.Nomar Garciaparra
2.Manny Ramirez
3.Johnny Damon
4.Trot Nixon
5.David Ortiz
6.Shea Hillenbrand
7.Derek Lowe
8.Pedro Martinez
9.Brian Roberts
10.Jay Gibbons
11.Melvin Mora
12.Jerry Hairston
13.Jason Giambi
14.Alfonso Soriano
15.Raul Mondesi
16. Aaron Boone
17.Andy Pettitte
18.Jose Contreras
19.Roger Clemens
20.Carlos Delgado
21.Vernon Wells
22.Frank Catalanotto
23.Kenny Rogers
24.Magglio Ordonez
25.Sandy Alomar
26.Bartolo Colon
27.Brent Abernathy
28.Jose Lima
29.Milton Bradley
30.Casey Blake
31.Danys Baez
32.Craig Monroe
33.Dmitri Young
34.Alex Sanchez
35.Eric Chavez
36.Miguel Tejada
37.Eric Byrnes
38.Jose Guillen
39.Keith Foulke
40.Ricardo Rincon
41.Bret Boone
42.Mike Cameron
43.Randy Winn
44.Ryan Franklin
45.Freddy Garcia
46.Rafael Soriano
47.Scott Spiezio
48.Troy Glaus
49.Francisco Rodriguez
50.Ben Weber
51.Alex Rodriguez
52.Juan Gonzalez
53.Rafael Palmeiro
54.Carl Everett
55.Javy Lopez
56.Gary Sheffield
57.Mike Hampton
58.Ivan Rodriguez
59.Derrek Lee
60.Bobby Abreu
61.Terry Adams
62.Fernando Tatis
63.Livan Hernandez
64.Hector Almonte
65.Tony Armas
66.Dan Smith
67.Roberto Alomar
68.Cliff Floyd
69.Roger Cedeno
70.Jeromy Burnitz
71.Moises Alou
72.Sammy Sosa
73.Corey Patterson
74.Carlos Zambrano
75.Mark Prior
76.Kerry Wood
77.Matt Clement
78.Antonio Alfonseca
79.Juan Cruz
80.Aramis Ramirez
81.Craig Wilson
82.Kris Benson
83.Richie Sexson
84.Geoff Jenkins
85.Valerio de los Santos
86.Benito Santiago
87.Rich Aurilia
88.Barry Bonds
89.Andres Galarraga
90.Jason Schmidt
91.Felix Rodriguez
92.Jason Christiansen
93.Matt Herges
94.Paul Lo Duca
95.Shawn Green
96.Jeromy Burnitz
97.Adrian Beltre
98.Eric Gagne
99.Guillermo Mota
100.Luis Gonzalez
101.Todd Helton
102.Ryan Klesko
103.Gary Matthews
104.Oliver Perez

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ken Boyer - The Cardinals underappreciated All-Star

By Rick Hummel
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
06/21/2009

In the late 1950s and early 1960s when I was growing up in Quincy, Ill., my best friend, Denny Campbell, and I almost daily played the APBA tabletop baseball game. He always had to manage the Cardinals, so I always provided the opposition.

I sat on the floor at his house and he sat at his desk, just far enough away to the point where I couldn't actually see him roll his two dice and I would have to take his word for it, as far as the result was concerned. Almost without fail, he would roll double sixes for his favorite player, Ken Boyer, signifying a home run.

After a highly unusual stretch of home runs by Boyer, I became suspicious, but when I arose to see what his dice looked like on the desk, they always said "66."

The late Ken Boyer wasn't quite that good, but he was good enough to be the only player whose number has been retired at Busch Stadium who isn't in the Hall of Fame — and probably won't be.


Boyer, the big, strong (6 feet 2, 200 pounds) third baseman, played in 10 All-Star Games, batting .348 with two home runs. Because they are facing premier pitching in every at-bat, many All-Stars don't come close to their lifetime averages while playing in the July classic, but Boyer seemed to thrive on the big stage.

The older parts of the reading public will not soon forget his third-inning grand slam off New York's Al Downing in Game 4 of the 1964 World Series at Yankee Stadium to rally the Cardinals from a 3-0 deficit and provide a 4-3 victory. That evened at two games apiece a Series the Cardinals eventually would win and stifled the Yankees' momentum — built from Mickey Mantle's gargantuan, game-ending homer the day before off a Barney Schultz knuckleball that didn't knuckle.

Boyer was the National League's Most Valuable Player that year, driving in a career-high 119 runs. He wound up hitting 255 of his 282 home runs for the Cardinals, for whom he played from 1955-65, before moving on to the New York Mets, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. His career ended in 1969 with Boyer finishing at .287 with 1,141 runs batted in.

Boyer also earned five Gold Gloves at third base and was the National League counterpart defensively to the great Brooks Robinson in Baltimore.

But, perhaps because he died (of lung cancer) so young at age 51 in 1982 — the Cardinals, en route to the World Series title that year, wore black armbands for the last month of the season in Boyer's memory — Boyer's legacy seems small compared to the Hall of Famers who are represented in the outfield at Busch Stadium.

Not so to those who played with him.

"THE CAPTAIN"

Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, a rival of Boyer's for years, said, "What you didn't realize was how good a third baseman he was because he was a good hitter.

"And ... he played the game the way it should be played in those days. You walk across the white lines and nobody's your friend. When it's over, it's a different ballgame."

Perhaps part of Boyer's legacy is that, for so much of his time with the Cardinals, he wasn't their best or most well-known player. That honor correctly belonged to Stan Musial, and Santo said that Boyer "absolutely" was overshadowed by Musial.

"There's no doubt about it," Santo said. "But, in my opinion, (Boyer) would be in the Hall of Fame."

Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon was the right fielder on the 1964 World Series champions. And after Charlie Smith, acquired from the Mets for Boyer after the 1965 season, didn't really pan out, Shannon became the ultimate successor to Boyer as the Cardinals' third baseman.

Besides Boyer's estimable accomplishments on the field, he had another responsibility. "He was the captain," Shannon said. "He was the leader of that ballclub."

Indeed, when few baseball teams had leaders so dubbed, Boyer often was referred to simply as "The Captain."

Most who saw him play would agree that Boyer, who was born in Liberty, Mo., was an understated player. For instance, he didn't have to dive for a ball that often because with a quick first step, he already was there.

He didn't seem as if he was running fast, but he chewed up huge chunks of ground as he circled the bases.

"He wasn't a guy for show, at all," Shannon said. "He wasn't flashy.

"Everything he did, he did smooth. He just did the job. And if you look up his stats, those are pretty good stats.

"He was like the Clydesdale of third basemen. He was a great big, strong guy who had a lot of grace. He was the prototype third baseman."

PLAYING THE GAME

Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst was a teammate of Boyer's, a coach on teams Boyer played on, and then finally his manager in 1965, Boyer's last year with the Cardinals. Schoendienst, too, admired Boyer's ability to perform without need for histrionics.

"He caught the ball, threw (the hitter) out, put his glove down and then came out to hit. Boom, boom, boom," said Schoendienst. "It was nothing where he would do flip-flops or anything.

"That's just the way he played the game. The way he came up was probably the way he played on the schoolyard. He knew the game. He knew where to throw the ball and when to throw the ball."

Shannon thought that if Boyer had been able to appear in more than just one World Series "it would have really helped" his national acclaim.

But the Cardinals really contended for the National League title in only one other year, 1963, when Boyer played for them. That was the year the Cardinals ran off 19 victories in 20 games in late August and early September as they tried to reel in the league-leading Dodgers with announcer Harry Caray proclaiming nightly, "The Cardinals are coming, tra-la, tra-la."

Boyer sparked that surge by hitting .347 in the 20-game stretch, driving in 20 runs and hitting six homers. The Dodgers then came to the old Busch Stadium on Grand and Dodier and swept three from the Cardinals and went on to the league and World Series titles.

Boyer is the only Cardinal in history to have hit for the cycle twice — in 1961 and 1964. To illustrate the speed he had, Boyer, who also played center field in 1957, stole 105 bases in an era when there wasn't all that much basestealing going on. For instance, the Cardinals didn't steal more than 100 bases in a season from 1932-65.

"He was probably the best third baseman we've had here," said Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson. "He moved really well and had great range.

"And he ran well. He wasn't going to outrun guys in a 100-yard dash, but ... a couple of steps, and he was off to the races. A lot of guys run fast but it takes them awhile to get going."

BOYER THE MANAGER

After Boyer retired in 1970, he returned to the organization as a coach and minor-league manager before taking over from Vern Rapp as manager of the Cardinals in April 1978. Boyer couldn't do much with that team, which lost 93 games, but then directed the Cardinals to an 86-76 record in 1979.

The next year, Boyer lost control of his team and was fired, oddly, between games of a doubleheader in Montreal on June 8, with the Cardinals sporting an 18-33 record. General manager John Claiborne had meant to dismiss Boyer before the doublehader even began but was delayed by flight issues.

Whitey Herzog, who met the team in Atlanta the next night to take over as Cardinals manager, was born in 1931, like Boyer, and though he never played with him as they came up through the minor-league ranks and into the big leagues, was keenly aware of Boyer's reputation.

"He was The Captain," Herzog said. "He hit that home run in the World Series. And I know he was a hell of a fielder."

After Boyer went to the Mets in 1966, Herzog, then a coach on that team, remembered sharing a New York apartment with Boyer when the Mets were home. When the Yankees were home, Clete Boyer, Kenny's younger brother, and Roger Maris lived in the apartment. Maris would come to the Cardinals the next season.

Herzog, not liking the makeup of that Cardinals club he took over that June 1980 night, said, "Kenny Boyer was a hell of a player, but as a manager maybe he was too laid-back. He didn't have the makeup to get rid of some of those (troublemakers)."

HALL OF FAME ELUSIVE

Perhaps Boyer's relative lack of success as manager hurt his Hall of Fame chances. Or the fact that he has been dead for so long.

But Boyer never drew higher than 25.5 percent of the writers' vote when 75 percent was needed. In fact, he was off the ballot for five years, because of lack of support, but Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg led a movement to have Boyer's name restored to the ballot and he did much better, but not nearly well enough, in the 10 elections he had remaining.

In the Veterans' Committee, where Boyer's candidacy rests now, he normally makes the final 25 or even 15 but then falls well short of election.

Schoendienst said, "When I had a chance, I always voted for him. Look at his record and other records. He's right there.But like I say, he wasn't a flashy player. If he'd put on a little show or something ..."

Ken Boyer wasn't about show. To those who played with him and against him, he was about playing the game right. And that's one of the reasons No. 14 never will be worn again by a Cardinals player, whether Ken Boyer ever makes the Hall of Fame or not.

Monday, May 11, 2009

La Russa is must-see TV

La Russa is must-see TV

By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
05/10/2009

After the Cardinals lost to the Reds on Friday night, it was time for another episode of Tony TV.

If you were watching the game on Fox Sports Midwest, and you're a fan who cares about strategy, then you probably were wondering why Joe Thurston tried to steal second base in the ninth inning.

The Cardinals were down by two runs. The tying run was at the plate. Thurston was thrown out, and a potential rally was doused. The Reds held on for a 6-4 victory.

Did Thurston run on his own, or did manager Tony La Russa order the steal attempt?


Natural questions. Joe Strauss, covering the contest for the Post-Dispatch, asked the question. And as always, the reporter-manager exchange was carried by Fox Sports Midwest.

La Russa clearly didn't like the question. He was curt and irritated, but he did provide an answer. And Strauss used it in his game story. And from that, readers were able to determine what had happened on the Thurston play.

All in all, no big deal.

But I knew what was coming.

There is always a strong reaction to Tony TV.

Sure enough, the e-mails came flying in.


Here's one: "When are you cowards going to stand up to La Russa?"

And here's another: "Why don't you guys leave La Russa alone after he loses a tough game? Nobody cares about your dumb questions."

A similar point, counterpoint took place among posters at Bernie's Press Box on STLtoday.com.

It probably will come up on the sports-talk radio shows, too.

For some reason, the La Russa vs. Media sessions are a source of considerable fascination among Cardinals fans.

On one side, there are the fans and observers who think the reporters are wimps because we sit there quietly when La Russa is being pushy or ornery. I call these folks the Jerry Springer crowd. They conclude that a reporter is a wimp unless he's yelling at La Russa or asking questions in an insulting, confrontational manner. These are the people who want to see us — metaphorically speaking — throwing chairs, the way it's done on the Springer show. This mind-set is apparently the byproduct of a dumbed-down culture.

On the other side, there are folks who don't think we should address La Russa at all. They don't know why we're allowed to speak to him, and they assume that we have sinister motives. If we ask a question about a failed move, then we're accused of trying to incite him. Of course, these dunderheads are usually the first to complain when they read a game story that doesn't include a direct explanation of La Russa's strategy. The hypocrites want to have it both ways.

I hate to break it to you, but these postgame Q&A gatherings are standard stuff and I've been in hundreds of them during my career. Managers make themselves available after games. Sometimes they're in a good mood; sometimes they're in a crabby mood. It depends on whether they've won or lost. But it's part of their routine, 162 times a season. La Russa makes $4 million a year. I think he can handle it.

Other readers or viewers want to know why we don't ask more "tough" questions or press La Russa with follow-up inquiries. Here's my answer: I save it for later, so I can use the quotes for the piece that I am writing. I realize that the post-game news conference is being televised, so why provide material for other media? I'd rather have it for my column or blog.

Every now and then, there's an old-fashioned argument. I got into one silly confrontation with Tony after a game in 2007, and the TV cameras were rolling. But that's rare. And after our blowup on TV, we went to his office and discussed it. Everything was fine. But the TV cameras weren't there for that.

And some readers — bless them — think La Russa is too hard on the scribes and they believe he's being a bully without just cause. I'll have to stick up for La Russa on this count. TLR is the most intense competitor I've ever covered. He hates to lose. It ruins his evening. I wouldn't expect him to be amiable after a defeat. If I ever saw La Russa being Smiley Face after dropping a game, I'd think that something was wrong with the man.

It's Tony being Tony.

It isn't pleasant, but I don't take it personally. Besides, he hangs around Bob Knight and Bill Parcells, so what do you expect — Mister Rogers?

The next day, La Russa is fine. He'll even joke about it. La Russa has acknowledged that his wife, Elaine, has advised him to lighten up because his crankiness doesn't play well on TV.

Whitey Herzog was friendly to the scribes, but could be rude after games. But fans never saw Herzog barking at the media because the sessions weren't carried on live television.

So I blame this on the power of TV, and the normal business between La Russa and reporters is blown way out of proportion.

We've become part of some weird reality television show on Fox Sports Midwest.

Tony TV.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wall 1 Rick Ankiel 0

Catcher Jason LaRue, racing from the bullpen to the left-center field wall, was one of the first St. Louis Cardinals to reach Rick Ankiel as he lay on the warning track Monday night. He had a view of the catch, the stumble, the crash and then he was part of the dash of teammates to Ankiel’s side.

“The most significant part of what we all I saw, I think, is that is shows Ank doesn’t play with any fear of running into the wall. He’s going to make the play. He plays without fear. He’s a gamer.”

In the eighth inning, Ankiel made a running catch of Pedro Feliz’s drive to left-center field. After snagging the line drive, Ankiel stumbled as he transferred the ball to his throwing hand and rammed headlong the padded wall. Ankiel was strapped to a backboard and taken to a nearby hospital, where scans of his head, neck and back did not reveal any fractures. His recovery was “positive” as of Tuesday morning, according to an official.

“The only thing I know was that he was conscious when he got there. He was conscious when they took him off the field,” LaRue said. “That’s a huge sign. That was what we needed to see.”

There was a sense of relief in the Cardinals clubhouse late Monday as word reached a few players and the manager that initial exams of Ankiel were positive. Same will certainly be true this afternoon if he arrives at the ballpark as expected.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cards Preview: National disaster?

Cards Preview: National disaster?
By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Thursday, Apr. 30 2009

THE STAKES: By taking two of three games at Atlanta, the Cardinals improved to
15-7 -– which is the best record in the National League. These four games
against the 5-15 Nationals present an obvious opportunity to keep rolling
despite their myriad injuries.


OF SPECIAL INTEREST: The Nationals are leaning on two former Cards -– washout
Kip Wells and oddball Julian Tavarez -- to shore up their flagging bullpen.
Washington relievers have posted a 5.51 earned-run average so far this season.

Wednesday night Tavarez banked his first save since 2006. "Nothing against the
guys in the 'pen, but the guys who've been around, they see us different --
when Kip Wells is in the game and myself in the game,” Tavarez told the
Washington Post.


PITCHING FOR THE CARDS: Mitchell Boggs (1-0, 1.17 ERA): The reigning Pacific
Coast League ERA champion is filling in for the disabled Chris Carpenter. He
has won four of his seven career big league starts, including a solid 8-2
victory over the Cubs his last time out.

Can he earn a permanent rotation role down the road? Or will he fall into a
middle relief role instead? The next month could define his career course.

(Boggs’ big league resume is still thin. The only current National he has faced
is Adam Dunn, who is 0 for 1 with a walk in two plate appearances against him.)


PITCHING FOR THE NATIONALS: Daniel Cabrera (0-2, 4.42 ERA). He might be the
biggest pitcher in the major leagues, but he certainly isn’t the best. This
will be the Cards’ first look at him; only Jason La Rue (0-for-2) has faced him
before.

Cabrera is a basic fastball-slider pitcher who must pound the ball down in the
strike zone to succeed. He shows his curveball and he almost never throws a
change-up.


LINEUP INTRIGUE: With Khalil Greene battling a sore arm and Brendan Ryan out
with a strained hamstring muscle, the Cards brought shortstop prospect Tyler
Greene up from Memphis for his first big-league look. He was hitting .296 with
a .412 on-base percentage, so Tony La Russa should be able to put him right to
work. Tyler impressed La Russa during spring training, so there is a comfort
level there.

Brian Barden can also play shortstop when Khalil Greene sits, but that could
detract from his valuable platoon with Joe Thurston at third base. These
injuries also put more focus on second baseman Skip Schumaker, who is gaining
traction at his new position.


BULLPEN INTRIGUE: With Kyle McClellan unavailable Wednesday night, the Cards
needed Chris Perez and Jason Motte to come through. And they did, although Ryan
Franklin (7 for 7 in save opportunities) needed to step up with a four-out save
to preserve that victory.

Give Adam Wainwright credit for toughing out six innings against the Braves and
allowing the Cards to bypass struggling middle man Trever Miller. La Russa
turned the game over to reliable Dennys Reyes in the seventh inning instead and
the 'pen delivered three shutout innings.


DOWN ON THE FARM: The Cardinals aren’t surprised that Matt Pagnozzi is hitting
below the Mendoza Line at .160. He has never been much of a hitter and the
organization values him as a defensive catcher who works well with pitchers.

But Joe Mather (.123), David Freese (.148), Jarrett Hoffpauir (.164) and
catcher Bryan Anderson (.171) are also off to poor starts. Redbirds hitting
coach Mark Budaska must feel like Dr. Phil these days.

“You just have to keep them confident,” Budaska told the Memphis Commercial
Appeal. “Come out and do some early work with them, and tell them to be ready
and aggressive on good pitches because they all have good swings. It's not
usually a mechanical problem at all. It's usually what you get to hit, and how
you manage the pitches you get.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Home-grown approach serves Cardinals well

Home-grown approach serves Cardinals well
By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Tuesday, Apr. 28 2009
So much has gone wrong for the Cardinals in 2009.

The team opened the season without an established closer after whiffing on free
agent reliever Brian Fuentes, who took less guaranteed money to pitch in
Anaheim.

Ace starting pitcher Chris Carpenter made a compelling comeback from assorted
arm and shoulder injuries, only to tear his oblique muscle swinging a bat.
Since the team allowed reliable Braden Looper to depart as a free agent, this
was especially painful.

After letting valuable infielder Aaron Miles leave as a free agent, the Cards
waived second baseman Adam Kennedy and ate the last $4 million on his contract.
Skip Schumaker moved in from center field to take his place, despite having
zero professional infield experience.

Third baseman Troy Glaus aggravated his shoulder injury between seasons, then
suffered a major setback in his rehab. Would-be replacement Joe Mather didn’t
hit a lick during spring training.

Another possible replacement, David Freese, suffered a foot injury during an
offseason car wreck. He missed a bunch of spring training, then struggled
during his first look at big-league pitching.

Reliable set-up man Russ Springer left as a free agent. Would-be replacement
Josh Kinney suddenly lost command of his pitches.

Outfielder Rick Ankiel battled the Mendoza Line for much of April and didn’t
hit his first homer until the 23rd. He resorted to growing a tremendous
mustache to break the slump.

Todd Wellemeyer, a 13-game winner last season, won just one of his first four
starts this season while posting a 6.14 earned-run average. He seemed to forget
all Dave Duncan taught him.

Middle reliever Brad Thompson started badly. So did soft-tossing replacement
P.J. Walters. Lefty Trever Miller had a crummy start, too, and newcomer Blaine
Boyer proved ineffective.

Given all that, you might have expected the Cards to start the season 6-14.

Instead, the Cards are 14-6. How could this be?

Credit manager Tony La Russa, of course, for mixing and matching his lineup and
bullpen until his found roles that worked for everybody. Circumstances gave him
much to do this spring and that’s just how The Skipper likes it.

(Bobby Cox likes rolling out the same guys every game, but that has never been
Tony’s thing. He loves deploying journeymen like Brian Barden and Joe Thurston,
hungry players who hustle and play multiple positions. He loves moving pieces
on the chess board.)

But the real story has been the organizational strength the Cards have
developed over several years. That strength is buying the injured Cards time to
heal and general manager John Mozeliak time to explore all his options.

On sports talk radio and in the Internet forums, fans pound “Mo” for his
relative inactivity in the face of adversity. He made some good moves last year
when injuries decimated the team, but mostly he relied on players within the
organization.

The Cards faded late last year, but not before speeding the development of
several home-grown players.

Now you are seeing the payoff. Schumaker and Kyle McClellan, two breakout
players from last season, are playing big roles. Ankiel and Chris Duncan, back
from surgical repairs, are bracketing Albert Pujols in the lineup.

Rookie Colby Rasmus has to be the best fourth outfielder in the majors. Chris
Perez and Jason Motte are strengthening the bullpen. Brendan Ryan has matured
into a useful infielder. Mitchell Boggs is filling a hole in the starting
rotation.

The plan is working. An assortment of bad breaks put this plan to a severe test
this spring; so far, it has held.

Going forward, Mozeliak will have to deal from this strength when the right
opportunities arise. This team still needs another veteran starting pitcher,
preferably a lefty, to complete the rotation. The bullpen will need another arm
if something better doesn’t surface from Memphis soon.

But the accumulated depth has given Mozeliak the luxury of dealing on his own
terms instead of scrambling after help. Fans may keep doubting this approach,
but so far in '09, nobody can argue with the results.

Cards Preview: Test for Lohse

Cards Preview: Test for Lohse
By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Tuesday, Apr. 28 2009
STLtoday.com sports columnist Jeff Gordon previews the Cardinals game every
Monday through Friday, exclusively in the Cardinals Update newsletter.


THE STAKES: The Cardinals have caught the Braves in an offensive funk. Atlanta
averaged just 3.7 runs per game on its recent nine-game trip, then left runners
all over the place Monday night. Timing means a lot in baseball. The Cards have
a real opportunity on this trip, since they head to Washington next to face the
horrible (4-14) Nationals.


OF SPECIAL INTEREST: The Cards feared Kyle Lohse would miss his next start -–
or several starts -- after tweaking his right knee while covering first base in
his previous outing. But he recovered quickly, to Tony La Russa’s considerable
relief. Lohse tests that wheel in this game.


PITCHING FOR THE CARDS: Lohse (3-0, 2.42 ERA). Braves outfielder Garret
Anderson saw plenty of him in their American League days and liked the view. He
has a career .360 mark against Lohse, with a 1.007 OPS. Chipper Jones (5 for 9,
homer, five RBIs) has been a nemesis, too. Yunel Escobar is 3 for 6 against
him. Jeff Francoeur, on the other hand, is just 1 for 10 against Lohse.


PITCHING FOR THE BRAVES: Jo-Jo Reyes (0-1, 7.94): Teams want to load lefties
against the Cards, who are short of righthanded power with Troy Glaus
sidelined. But Chris Duncan has hit .320 against lefties this season to defeat
that strategy. Leadoff hitter Skip Schumaker (.286) is also getting more
comfortable.

Against Reyes, Albert Pujols (4 for 7, homer, two RBIs), Khalil Greene (2 for
4, homer) and Yadier Molina (2 for 6, double, RBI) have had notable success
against Reyes in their careers.


LINEUP INTRIGUE: Rick Ankiel seems all the way back now. He decided Monday’s
game with a pair of RBI singles. La Russa would love to play rookie outfielder
Colby Rasmus in front of the home folks, but the .294 hitter was relegated to
late-inning defensive work Monday with Ankiel and Duncan producing runs.
Neither Ankiel or Rasmus has done great against lefty pitching, so that makes
tonight’s lineup a tougher call for La Russa.

Khalil Greene’s defensive slippage earned him a day off -– and Brendan Ryan
played spectacular shortstop in his absence. Looking forward, could Ryan and
Tyler Greene (hitting .284 at Memphis) fight it out for this job and Khalil
becomes a free agent?

The Brian Barden Insanity continued. His pinch-hit single Monday boosted his
season average to .438. Sports hernia surgery can do wonders for a man. The
red-hot utility infielder likely will start against the lefty Reyes.


BULLPEN INTRIGUE: The back end of the 'pen remains settled. Chris Perez
contributed an impressive punch out. Kyle McClellan barely survived the eighth
inning Monday, but he toughed out the “hold” when La Russa opted to rest lefty
Dennys Reyes. Ryan Franklin remained flawless as the closer (for now).


DOWN ON THE FARM: Brad Thompson’s third start for Memphis was more typical of
his career work. He allowed four runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, boosting
his Redbirds ERA to 3.45. On the plus side, veteran lefties Royce Ring (1.08
ERA) and Charlie Manning (1.00) continue to post decent numbers.

Might the Cards add another veteran lefty to their bullpen mix at some point?

Offensively, the Redbirds continue to struggle. Offensive prospects Jon Jay
(.224), David Freese (.148), Joe Mather (.129) and Jarret Hoffpauir (.170)
appear to be in no rush to earn promotions to The Show.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Like it or not, La Russa gets credit here

Like it or not, La Russa gets credit here
Bernie Miklasz bjmiklasz@ post-dispatch.com 314-340-8192
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Apr. 26 2009
It's only April, not September, and baseball's long expedition always exposes
the counterfeit contenders.

So it is probably a bit premature to inform Cubs fans that they're only two
games out in the wild-card side of the National League standings. It is
probably too soon to declare that first place in the NL Central is pretty much
out of the question for the Cubs.

But the Cardinals are off to an impressive start, perched atop the division
with a surprising 13-5 record after Saturday's 8-2 demolition of the Cubs. The
Cardinals will go for the three-game sweep on Sunday at Busch Stadium.

It's not as if the opening month was set up as a carefree joy ride for the
locals. The Cardinals began the 2009 schedule with no established third
baseman, no set closer, and an outfielder playing second base.

After that launch came the detours: the Cardinals lost

rotation ace Chris Carpenter to the disabled list on April 14. They've
squandered three victories by immolating leads carried into the eighth inning.
They've committed 19 errors, the highest total in the majors.

All of that, and somehow it adds up to 13-5 and an early lead in the NL
Central. Having this Albert Pujols fellow batting third is a plus; a lightning
bolt of a grand-slam on Saturday jacked his April totals to seven homers and 25
RBIs.

After the game, I told manager Tony La Russa that he'd be foolish to retire and
walk away from the Cardinals as long as he can write the name "Pujols" on the
daily lineup card.

Every manager would covet Pujols as a weapon of choice, but it goes beyond
that. La Russa is scribbling a lot of other names onto those lineups. And he
wins with them, too.

I realize that La Russa will always have his critics, and they'll never declare
a cease fire. And that's fine. Your local heavyweight sports columnist (ahem)
has gotten into the occasional snit with the intense manager over the last
13-plus seasons.

But by now, isn't it obvious that the guy is pretty good at what he does?

No, it's not all about him, either. When I pursued this angle after Saturday's
game, an uncomfortable La Russa wanted to deflect compliments. He credited his
players, his coaches, the trainers, the equipment guys, the scouts, and key
front-office types.

Indeed the La Russa staff, anchored by pitching coach Dave Duncan, is terrific.
General manager John Mozeliak catches shrapnel from fans, but Mozeliak has
found some excellent bargains — Ryan Ludwick, Brian Barden, Joe Thurston —
during a phase of payroll reduction. (Walt Jocketty was the GM when Ludwick
signed, but Ludwick was scouted and recommended by Mozeliak.)

But La Russa's hard-driving personality and his two pillars of competition —
effort and execution — have created a winning culture here. And that's
undeniable.

Since La Russa became the manager in 1996, only Atlanta has won more
regular-season games in the NL, and only the NY Yankees have won more
postseason games. During this decade, the Cardinals lead the NL in
regular-season victories and have the most postseason wins by an NL team. Their
33 postseason victories since the start of the 2000 season are 14 more than the
NL team (Arizona) with the second-highest total.

One of the reasons for La Russa's success is that he consistently squeezes the
most from his roster. And he's doing it again this season. Not counting the
pitcher's spot, La Russa has used 18 different lineups in 18 games.

So far La Russa has gotten a combined .366 batting average, 17 RBIs and 14 runs
scored from Barden and Thurston, who are splitting time at third base. The
trauma of losing regular Troy Glaus to shoulder surgery has been lessened by
the surprising RBI production coming out of the third-base spot. So far in the
NL, only the Cubs and Dodgers have culled more RBIs from third basemen than the
Cardinals.

And these highly effective patch jobs are nothing new. Think of all of the role
players, bit players, who have delivered some of the best baseball of their
careers or experienced a revival — while working for La Russa here.

That roll call would include Barden, Thurston, Thomas Howard, So Taguchi, Aaron
Miles, Joe McEwing, Scott Spiezio, Abraham Nunez, Miguel Cairo, Marlon
Anderson, Craig Paquette, Eduardo Perez, Felipe Lopez, Bo Hart and John
Rodriguez. And I'm sure I've left a few out.

And La Russa's top lieutenant, Duncan, has done the same on the pitching side,
getting improved results from the likes of Kent Bottenfield, Woody Williams,
Garrett Stephenson, Jeff Suppan, Kyle Lohse, Jason Marquis, Todd Wellemeyer,
Daryl Kile, Chris Carpenter, Braden Looper, Andy Benes, etc.

I believe this is one of the reasons why ownership has trimmed payroll; La
Russa and Duncan are victims of their resourcefulness. It is now expected that
they'll get overachieving performances from players who come to St. Louis with
thin resumes or deteriorating form.

Whether he wants it or not, La Russa gets a lot of the credit. And I'll be
happy to argue with him over that.

Albert Pujos earns new nickname

By Derrick Goold
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Pujols jokes that peers call him “The Invisible Man” for the way he steals bases and swipes extra bases on hits. He’s got a well-earned reputation for tagging up from first on fly balls if he thinks he has a chance to surprise the outfielded and take second. Last summer, he did what remains an unthinkable act — he scored from second on a groundout to Colorado’s second baseman. I was explaining how this happened to another writer Sunday and all he could do was shake his head: “He really is the best, isn’t he?” This past week Pujols stole a base in three consecutive games. He had never stolen two bases in two consecutive games before. But it’s not like he hasn’t stolen bases before. In 2005, he stole 16. La Russa said there’s one reason why Pujols may be stealing again: Health. Sore feet and that nagging hamstring ache kept Pujols fairly visible during the past couple seasons. “He’s feeling good running again,” La Russa said.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Perfect Player" Keys Cardinal Victory

As Cardinal fans, we've seen Albert Pujols for the last eight-plus years. We've seen him do astounding things at the plate, whether it's walk-off shots or multi-homer games. We've seen him be aggressive on the bases, famously scoring from second on an infield grounder last year in Colorado. Now, apparently, we are seeing the evolution of him from Ted Williams to Rickey Henderson.

There's a reason Tony LaRussa called him a "perfect player" after the last game with the Mets and Buster Olney tends to agree. Whatever needs to be done to win the game, Pujols is going to try to do. And, lately, that means adding to his repertoire the stolen base. Once that ball Ryan Ludwick hit passed the second baseman, there was no question Pujols was scoring. Ryan Franklin locked it down and that was that.

There were a few others that had strong games. Joe Thurston smashed a two-run double and went to second on the throw, scoring on a single by Skip Schumaker. Franklin pitched a pretty solid ninth, with only the walk to pinch-hitting Milton Bradley blemishing the record. Ludwick had two hits, counting the game winner.

Really liked the way Kyle McClellan looked last night before Franklin came in. His spring struggles appear to be behind him and he's one of the few St. Louis can rely on coming out of the pen right now, it seems.

The person that made the most impact, though, was Adam Wainwright. Wainwright hasn't looked like the ace he was becoming last year so far in 2009. His command has been shaky and he's been good enough to keep the team in the game, but only by a thread. Last night, though, he looked more like Adam Wainwright. His breaking ball was moving quite nicely, he didn't walk but one, He wasn't able to get a decision due to a breakdown behind him, but he'll take that kind of game just about every time.

Can someone explain, though, what is going on with the Cardinal defense? We knew going into the season that it was a little shakier than it has been in the past. Still, there was Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, Rick Ankiel, likely Colby Rasmus, Khalil Greene, guys with good defensive reputations. So how come this team is leading not only the National League but the majors in errors? Seventeen in seventeen games.

If you said two weeks ago that Skip Schumaker would make a crucial error that would help blow a Cardinal lead, you'd have probably railed that the second base experiment just wasn't working and the Cardinals needed sure hands at the keystone. However, Schumaker makes this error after moving to left field to provide defensive support, replacing Chris Duncan.

The error virus seems to have infected everyone, with no real reason for it. Pujols has four, which is totally unlike him. Schumaker is supposed to be very strong in the outfield. Hopefully this is just a concentrated streak and things will hit the other end of the pendulum very soon.

The Redbirds opened the last Cubs series with a win as well. They hope to do better in the next two games than they did up in Chicago starting this afternoon. Mitchell Boggs goes against Sean Marshall. Marshall has done pretty well against the Redbirds in the past. If it wasn't for LaRussa's assertion earlier in the week in the Fox Midwest pregame that Ludwick was going to play five of the six games this homestand, only sitting out the second Mets game, I'd think he'd take a pass today with his .182 mark against Marshall. Rick Ankiel and Duncan seem to have good, if very small sample size, numbers against Marshall, so it's probably another day on the bench for Rasmus.

Boggs has a very small sample size against the Cubs, but the numbers are good for him. It'll be like a new experience for most of the Chicago batters since they've only seen him once. Hopefully he'll be able to show something to the national audience that will be tuning in on Fox!

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Boy Who Loves Baseball

by Michael Riehn
Last night my son wanted me to tell him a story. We were in our car, driving home from dinner, so I didn’t have the benefit of a book to read him. I had to make up something on the spot, and this is not one of my strong suits. He is 5 years old though, and is at a great age for being interested in my limited story telling ability. Kids at that age haven’t had much experience in the world and are interested in learning and/or anything you find exciting.

After quickly going through my standards (Boy Who Cried Wolf, David and Goliath), I was running out of ideas. Yesterday’s Cardinal game was fresh in my mind, so I told him the story about a little boy from the Dominican Republic who loved baseball. The boy’s name was Albert and he went from a player that nobody wanted (barely being drafted) and the last man picked out of Spring Training his rookie year, to one of the best players to ever play the game. My son loved this story, and wanted me to tell it again and again. It made me realize what a remarkable journey this player has had and how lucky we are to watch it.

Albert Pujols crushed 2 home runs yesterday for his 25th career multi-homer game, and is now on pace for 60 Home Runs, 212 RBI, 182 R, 130 BB, 20 SB with only 40 strikeouts on the season. The man puts up sick statistics that you only see from the game’s all time greats, and he does it every year. He has already accumulated a .344/.458/.719 slash line (BA, OBP, SLG) on the young season and is coming off a week long SLUMP where he hit under .200 for 7 days. For the 9th season in a row, we can sit back and enjoy the ride. Can a player that puts up these type of Hall of Fame statistics year in and year out be underrated?

With Albert, it is the little things that go unnoticed. When your superstar works the hardest on the team and is probably the team’s best hitting coach you have something even more special than the numbers can illuminate.

How do players constantly have better seasons when they join the Cardinals? Khalil Greene was terrible last year, but seems to be taking a new approach to hitting (more walks, not chasing bad pitches). Is it a coincidence that he followed Pujols around during hitting drills in Spring Training? There is no secret that Pujols has helped Yadier Molina’s game, who at age 27 may be turning the corner as one of the best defensive AND offensive catchers in baseball. Pujols sets a great example for everyone and gives up his time in order to bring out the best in his teammates.

Pujols has no speed, yet stole a base the last two games and is one of the smartest baserunners in baseball. How many times does he take the extra base on a bad throw or score a run when a speedier runner would have stopped? When was the last time he was thrown out? On Wednesday, Duncan hit a line drive at Delgado a couple of feet from the bag with Pujols on 1st base. He is probably the only player in the majors that doesn’t get doubled off in this situation. Albert has this uncanny sixth sense that you can’t teach. His mind is always in the moment and he rarely makes a mental mistake. Contrast this to Manny Ramirez, who is in my opinion the second greatest right handed hitter in the game today. They may hit alike and have affable personalities, but that is where the similarities end.

Pujols is one of the best fielding 1st basemen year in and year out. He currently leads the National league in UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and is on pace for a 14.3 UZR/150. This measures the amount of runs a player saves above an average player over 150 games (thus Pujols would save over 14 runs on the season… this is a lot). This doesn’t even take into count his throwing ability. How many times has he cut a ball off from the outfield and throws out a runner trying to stretch a base? Remember, this is the man that has needed arm surgery for 5 years, but plays through the pain.

He’s the most competitive player on the team, yet he’s the guy picking up his teammates after they make a mistake. Most great players have a difficult time having patience for their lesser teammates’ mistakes. Some of the best players in sports are also the most competitive. Legends like Michael Jordan, Ted Williams and Ray Lewis are famous for constantly putting pressure on their teammates. Players with competitive fire, have trouble turning it off and can sometimes go too far. This is not the case for one of the nicest players in the game. Players love Pujols, pitchers fear him.

You know what is scary about the 2009 Pujols start? As good as he’s been, he has actually been unlucky. He only has a .292 Batting Average on Balls in Play. This is a measure of the number of batted balls that safely fall in for a hit (not including home runs). Over Pujols’ career he averages a .322 mark (which is 30 points higher than he is currently averaging).

How good can this man be? Adding in his community work, family involvement and faith, he is the total package. With all due respect to Stan Musial, are we watching the greatest Cardinal ever?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

St. L ouis Cardinals' Jeff Luhnow faces an early test

Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Apr. 16 2009
The early departure of Chris Carpenter to the disabled list is regrettable but
predictable. He's a great pitcher when healthy, but the breakdowns have been
too frequent to ignore. Hoping that Carpenter would go through an entire season
without suffering an injury was the equivalent of playing the lottery.

Cardinals management took that gamble, and declined to sign a veteran starting
pitcher, even after some bargain opportunities materialized through the
winnowing of the free-agent market.

For instance, the Cardinals could have re-signed Braden Looper before he went
to Milwaukee for a 2009 salary of $4.75 million. The Brewers have an option on
Looper for 2010, but can buy him out for $750,000. And Looper is capable of
starting or relieving; his flexibility and durability are pluses.

But after Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt reduced the payroll, general manager
John Mozeliak had little choice but to stick with that big ticket on Carpenter.
If Carpenter holds up, it's a winning proposition. But if he didn't last, the
Cardinals would be left scrambling for starters.

And that's exactly what's happening. With no veteran protection behind
Carpenter, the Cardinals have promoted rookie P.J. Walters from Class AAA
Memphis.

Walters will make his major-league debut on Friday at Wrigley Field. That's a
tough first assignment.

Is Walters ready? People in the organization genuinely like him, including his
Winter League manager, Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo.

With Carpenter (strained side muscle) expected to be out for at least six
weeks, the Cardinals aren't likely to spend any money in pursuit of a starter.
They'll put their faith in the hyped player-development system instead.

This will be an instant credibility test for Jeff Luhnow, the VP of scouting
and player development.

Not that DeWitt wanted to dish out money for a veteran starting pitcher, but
the owner clearly felt fine about moving forward with no safety net under
Carpenter. DeWitt was assured by Mozeliak and Luhnow that the Cardinals had
attractive options at the minor-league level.

Walters, Mitchell Boggs, Adam Ottavino, Blake Hawksworth and Clayton Mortensen
were touted as solid Plan B possibilities should the major-league rotation take
a hit. And another graduate of the farm system — reliever Kyle McClellan — is
another alternative starter.

It's possible that Luhnow's confidence in his system will be validated here.
Cardinals fans certainly hope so; the team's ability to contend depends on it.
The Cardinals don't need Walters or the others to be spectacular or heroes; the
rookies just need to pitch well.

That said, the Cardinals are once again opting to cover a gap with youth
instead of more costly veterans. The same is true, at least in part, of the
effort to close out late-inning leads. (The courting of free agent Brian
Fuentes aside.)

DeWitt's Cardinals veered into a new direction several years ago — empowering
Luhnow and taking full control away from Walt Jocketty, the GM at the time —
and there's nothing evil about that shift in philosophy.

Unless you're demographically matched to have a New York, Boston, Chicago or
Los Angeles payroll, smart baseball people have little choice but to prioritize
the player-development system.

But here's the rub: At some point the prospects have to come through and play
important roles in upholding the franchise's winning tradition. They just can't
hold roster spots as fringe guys. A reasonable share of them must move to the
forefront and become front-line stars, the way Albert Pujols did in 2001, and
Yadier Molina did in 2005.

One of Luhnow's precious Fabergé Eggs, outfielder Colby Rasmus, appears to be a
special talent, worthy of the considerable hyperventilating that preceded his
arrival.

OK, so what about the pitchers? This is a vital area. Will Chris Perez or Jason
Motte develop into elite closers? When will the Cardinals' draft and farm
system harvest its first top-of-the-rotation starter since Matt Morris?

If the kids emerge and perform in a way that justifies Luhnow's enthusiastic
efforts in marketing and promoting them as legitimate links to a strong future,
then the Cardinals will grow and continue to win.

But if the youngsters don't have the right stuff necessary to fulfill Luhnow's
claims, the Cardinals will experience a substantial shortfall in talent.

One of the major challenges of a minor-league system is being pliable and
viable enough to present genuine solutions when a crisis strikes.

Losing Carpenter qualifies as an emergency.

And now we can reexamine the policy put in place over the winter. Rather than
invest in more expensive starting pitching to reinforce the rotation's depth,
DeWitt chose to invest in Luhnow.

So here we are.

We've arrived at the first 2009 checkpoint for Luhnow.

This is where hype meets the hard reality.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wellemeyer Recovers; Let's Talk About the Bullpen

Continuing the pleasant early trend of excellent starting pitching, Todd Wellemeyer recovered from a bad opening start with 7 innings of 1 run ball, enabling the Cardinals to take a 2-1 decision in the opener against Arizona.

This marks the fifth quality start in a row, which, naturally enough, led to the Cardinals fifth win in a row.

Albert Pujols and Brian Barden provided all the scoring with solo home runs in the third and eighth innings. D-Back starter Doug Davis was just as tough as Wellemeyer, scattering seven hits over eight innings. He made two mistakes. Wellemeyer made one, and wriggled out of a couple of other tight corners.

St Louis, San Diego, and Toronto currently share the best record in baseball at 6-2. You would have won a lot of money if you bet those three teams would have the best record in baseball at this point.

It's pretty obvious a major reason the Cardinals are off to a fast start is the starting pitching. Let's take a look at the relievers; are they holding up their end of the bargain?

From the first week, here's the usage grid for the first week.



Of course, if that were at all legible you'd see what I mean.

Couple of notes. What you're looking at is the inning the pitcher entered and how many outs they recorded. For instance, McClellan on 6 April entered in the seventh inning and retired one batter, then pitched the eighth.

Most of the high leverage innings so far have been thrown by McClellan and Franklin, the horses from last year's bullpen. Thompson has the lion's share of the innings (5 of the 18 bullpen innings through Sunday), but all of those have been in games the Cardinals won in a blowout, or lost in a relative blowout. Reyes seems to have worked himself into leverage situations. Miller hasn't been used since 8 April (and that includes last night).

The bullpen stats, which I don't post here, show an ERA of over 4.00 for the year; but that number is really driven by Motte's bad outing on Opening Day, and the fact Thompson has surrendered 2 runs in each of his last 2 appearances. I like Brad Thompson, but early returns indicate he's the worst pitcher on the staff; LaRussa is using him exactly as he should (long man/mop up man).

Anyway, I thought this would be an interesting thing to track throughout the year. Of course, if the starters continue to throw like Wellemeyer did last night, this will be a very boring exercise.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The First Cardinal Sweep Of The Year

Hey, wonder who the Hero of Saturday's game should be? Joe Thurston went three for four with an RBI and two runs, maybe him? Colby Rasmus may have had his best game yet, with two hits and a walk and a couple of runs, does he get consideration? Rick Ankiel went three for five, is that enough? Adam Wainwright threw five scoreless innings--does anyone remember that?

Of course not. Because when Albert Pujols makes a statement, he gets the Hero award. I was listening to the game as I came back from a family outing and knew the slam must have been a monster when Mike Shannon said immediately, "Grand slam!" No "Get up, baby, get up" means that it's a no-doubter.

The next at-bat, I was on the street in front of my house. Knowing I couldn't hurry and get in to see it, I slowed down because I just knew he was going to do it again. (Apparently, I wasn't that subtle about it because the wife commented on that fact.) Sure enough, another long ball. A wonderful day for Pujols, though that won't cut down on the machine theory. (Nice coincidence--the two anchors in that spot were anchoring Saturday night's SportsCenter, which led off with Pujols's big day.)

So who do you give the Goat to on a day when the team pounds out 19 hits and doesn't allow any runs until the ninth? Almost every starter got at least two hits, so I think you have to go with Brad Thompson, who threw two innings but did allow those two in the ninth, unimportant as they might be. All Heros and all Goats are not necessarily created equal.

One other thing that was notable about Saturday's game was that Jason Motte came into the game in the sixth. After Friday's game, Tony LaRussa made this a possibility and didn't waste time having it happen, especially in a game where there was no pressure. It seemed to be effective, as he struck out two in his inning and I believe at least one of them was on the breaking ball. A few more outings like that and they may try him again in the ninth.

If the Hero was obvious on Saturday's game, it wasn't that much more difficult to find one on Sunday either. There was at least one solid alternate choice, with Khalil Greene having his first three-hit day in over a year, including a run, an RBI and a steal in a close ballgame, but I think you have to go with Kyle Lohse on this one.

Lohse was tremendous and, coupled with his first start, has invigorated the fan base that was a little tepid on his resigning. After seeing Kaz Matsui single on the first pitch of the ballgame, I wasn't sure what the Cards were in for. Lohse didn't falter, though, and didn't allow another hit until the ninth. So, in the first week, we've seen a pitcher twice thrown one-hit ball through at least seven innings. That's a good sign for the pitching staff, isn't it?

The interesting thing is that Houston had a lineup of hitters that had pounded Lohse in the past, though that was mostly in the not-so-recent past. It lends some credence to the theory that Dave Duncan has really changed his style and approach, that last year's career year could be relied on instead of seen as a complete outlier. If the first two starts of this year are any indication, last year was a sign of a new Lohse.

I was a little surprised to see LaRussa leave Lohse in after a runner got on in the ninth. I was really surprised to see Lohse face Lance Berkman as the tying run. That could have ruined the afternoon real quickly had he tied into one. I'm glad that it worked out, but I think I might have been tempted to bring in Ryan Franklin or Kyle McClellan to finish that off.

The Goat for this game would be David Freese, I think. 0-3 with two strikeouts and three left on base. Granted, there wasn't much offense against Wandy Rodriguez, but that seems to be the worst line. Rodriguez is reliving '08 again, where he holds the Cardinals in check but still can't get a win.

Various other things to talk about before we look at the Arizona series that start tonight. Chris Duncan is doing much better against lefties this season, part of which he attributes to seeing them more often. That's one thing I don't like about LaRussa pigeonholing these guys so early. I know he's playing for the advantage, but you don't know a guy can't do it until he gets a chance to do it. Once he gets a chance to get adjusted to lefties, he might be able to be an offensive threat, something that Duncan seems to be developing into.

Motte seems to have learned something in his outing against the Astros. At least, if his comments to the paper are any indication, he has. He didn't go out there and try to blow past people. He used the sinker and the cutter to mess with timing, which is so vital. If he can throw a regular second pitch, he'll be dominant. Of course, that's what we've been saying since his callup last year, if not before.

The Cards finish the week 5-2, tops in the NL Central and not too far off the pace of the best record in the NL. Birds In The Busch thinks this week was pretty critical when you look at the rest of the month. If the Cards are able to win 75% of those games, we might have something special going here. More likely we'll have to be happy to win half of them, especially since you've got trips to Arizona, Chicago, and Atlanta in there.
Wellemeyer has been a point of concern so far this year. His spring training was pretty rough and he didn't look good in the loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday either. His numbers against the Diamondbacks as an organization or his career numbers against the hitters that he'll face tonight don't inspire much confidence either, even if those career numbers are pretty indicative of small sample size.

Wellemeyer noted in the paper that he was going to tinker with his hands, mechanics, etc. If he's successful, that may have something to do with it. When I hear tinker, though, I start worrying and thinking about a slide. Hopefully the Colonel will bounce back tonight.

Doug Davis, on the other hand, has struggled with the Cards as an organization but has decent career numbers against the current roster makeup. Albert's got a couple of homers off of him, which is not a surprise, but most everyone else has just been average.

Hopefully the Cards get off to a good start tonight and keep their winning streak going!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Didn't We Just Leave This Party?

Opening Day has come and gone for 2009. Cardinal fans will be forgiven if it seemed more like a continuation of 2008 than a new beginning.

As we return to another season, that means that the Heroes and Goats device returns for another year. Remember that this is just my personal opinion. It's not necessarily the person with the best or worst game, just the person that made the most difference (positive or negative) in my eyes.

For example, until the ninth, Josh Kinney was in the running for the goat. Walking the pitcher with two outs is just unacceptable and it led to Pittsburgh tying up the game, and they'd have likely taken the lead had Paul Maholm not been a little reckless on the basepaths.

Yadier Molina came under consideration as well. A rally-killing double play, a passed ball and a stolen base allowed (on a play where a stronger throw probably gets him) wasn't the way Molina really wanted to start his season.

However, with the ninth inning, there is no other place to go than Jason Motte. Allowing four runs after being staked to a two-run lead is just crushing, especially when last year's bullpen woes are taken into account.

Fungoes has a great illustrated piece on the problems Cardinal pitchers had in finishing off key hitters, mainly because they pitched to the hitter's strengths. You have to remember that, though they may play for a weaker team, Pittsburgh's hitters are still major leaguers. There's a reason they play in MLB. There are things they can do, so you should stay away from those things if possible.

Let me stipulate that yesterday's loss was crushing. Two outs, two strikes on Jack Wilson and the game gets away. All that said, let's not start screaming that the sky is falling. I was not shocked to log into CardsClubhouse last night and find a thread such as this. The football mentality of some fans, where one game makes or breaks a season and things are always so immediate, really can't be done in baseball. At least not if you plan on keeping your sanity.

For example, the Yankees went out and shored up their hitting and pitching by signing CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. Are you going to say their offseason was a total flop because Tex went scoreless and failed to drive in key runs and Sabathia didn't have his fastball yesterday? Are you comfortable in saying that the Yanks should pack it in for '09?

I'd hope not. And the same should apply to the Cardinals and Motte. All closers are going to blow 4-6 games in a season, most likely. If Motte can do that, it doesn't really matter when the games come, does it? In other words, what if he'd saved 6 games before blowing one like yesterday. Would you still call the bullpen makeover a failure?

It's not what you want to see out of a revamped pen, I realize. Motte knows that as well and says he's shaken off the loss. It's sad to see people booing him this quickly. The instant gratification of our society seems to have infected the Cardinal Nation as well. It went wrong and it's frustrating, but there's no need to take it out on the players, especially not after one game.

It wasn't exactly the greatest of days for Adam Wainwright, either. He didn't actually give up any runs (though Trever Miller allowed the runners he put on to score), but five walks in less than six innings? He seemed to be missing low in the zone a lot early in the game. The weather may have had something to do with it and hopefully we'll see a better command of the zone in his next outing.

On the positive side, the Hero of the game has to be Ryan Ludwick, mainly for his tie-breaking home run in the 8th that should have won the game for the Cardinals. Nice to see that the late surge in his spring has carried over into the beginning of the season. Consideration was also given to Albert Pujols for his three hits and a walk and David Freese for getting a sac fly RBI in his first major league game.

As I said on the radio show Sunday night, this might be one of the rare times where the second game lineup is more interesting than Opening Day. Colby Rasmus makes his major league debut tonight, and you have to assume that Freese will start at third and Skip Schumaker at second. There is going to be a lot of interest in seeing what Rasmus can do tonight. Hopefully people won't declare his career over if he goes 0-4.

Troy Glaus is heading to Phoenix to continue working on his rehab. You continue to hope that he'll return this year, but the longer he goes without an estimated return date, the more it seems likely that he may not. If he's back before the All-Star Break, it'd be a major accomplishment.

Tonight, Kyle Lohse takes the mound against Ian Snell. Lohse has had pretty good success against the Pittsburgh batters in his career, though there's not a huge sample size on any of them. Chris Gomez has hit him at a decent clip, but no one just has great power numbers against the Cardinal hurler.

We all know that Snell has troubles with Pujols, but he actually had more success against the MVP last year, so perhaps he's made some adjustments. Still, the Cardinals as a whole have done some damage against Snell in the past. Last year, at least twice they piled on runs in the first inning, only to go quiet and lose the game. Let's hope in this regard that 2009 actually is different and they can put the game away.

Friday, April 3, 2009

CARDINALS 25-MAN ROSTER 2009

04/03/2009

INFIELD

Albert Pujols, 1B

Skip Schumaker, 2B

Khalil Greene, SS


David Freese, 3B

Yadier Molina, C

OUTFIELD

Chris Duncan, LF

Rick Ankiel, CF

Ryan Ludwick, RF

ROTATION

Adam Wainwright, RHP

Kyle Lohse, RHP

Todd Wellemeyer, RHP

Chris Carpenter, RHP

Joel Piñeiro, RHP

BULLPEN

Ryan Franklin, RHP

Josh Kinney, RHP

Kyle McClellan, RHP

Trever Miller, LHP

Jason Motte, RHP

Dennys Reyes, LHP

Brad Thompson, RHP

RESERVES

Brian Barden, IF

Jason LaRue, C

Colby Rasmus, OF

Brendan Ryan, IF/OF

Joe Thurston, IF/OF

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Todd Wellemeyer


Joe Mather

Brian Barden

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cards' second base job up for grabs

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals released Adam Kennedy on Monday, leaving the second base job up for grabs with just a week to go before spring training.

Kennedy
Kennedy

The team requested waivers on Kennedy that will expire Wednesday, when he'll become an unrestricted free agent. Kennedy is due to make $4 million next season, the last year of a three-year contract. His new club would only have to pay him the $400,000 minimum while the Cardinals would be responsible for the rest.

Several players from within the organization will compete for the starting job at second base, including Skip Schumaker, who has spent his entire professional career as an outfielder.

The 33-year-old Kennedy came up with St. Louis in 1999 before being traded to Anaheim, where he was part of the 2002 World Series championship squad. He is a career .276 hitter in 10 seasons.

The Cardinals signed Kennedy as a free agent before the 2007 season and he hit. just .219. He improved to .280 last season but never seemed to mesh with manager Tony La Russa.

When St. Louis acquired Felipe Lopez in August, Kennedy requested a trade. Lopez played 23 games at second base down the stretch.

"We have exhausted all trade possibilities for Adam, and have decided that it was within both the club and the player's best interests to give Adam his unconditional release," general manager John Mozeliak said in a written statement. "As we move forward, we feel that it is best to try and fill the second base position with other players from within our organization."

That's a bit of a risk as St. Louis tries to get back to the postseason for the first time since winning the 2006 World Series. The Cardinals did not re-sign Lopez, who instead signed with Arizona in December. Aaron Miles, the versatile backup infielder who hit .317 last season, signed a two-year contract with the Cubs.

Schumaker hit .302 in 540 at-bats last season, splitting time at all three outfield positions, and would be a good fit as a leadoff hitter. But he could be the odd man out of a crowded outfield.

The Cardinals have Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick locked in for the outfield, along with Chris Duncan. And prospect Colby Rasmus could be ready this season. So La Russa has been open to seeing if Schumaker could handle second base.

Cardinals spokesman Brian Bartow said Schumaker is already in Florida working out in the infield. He said the team had no immediate plans to trade for a second baseman.

"Right now, going into camp, they're going to give people within the organization the chance to show what they can do," Bartow said.

The only returning Cardinals player with second base experience on the major league level is Brendan Ryan, who has played 40 games there during his two-year career. In 377 career at-bats he has hit .265 with four home runs.

Other candidates include minor leaguers Brian Barden, Joe Thurston, Jarrett Hoffmpauir and Tyler Greene. Greene, 25, was a first-round draft pick (30th overall) in 2005. Normally a shortstop, he hit .254 with 16 homers splitting time between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis last season.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cardinals' Non-Roster Invitees

Here are the Cardinals' non-roster Spring Training invitees, via a press release on MLB.com.

Pitchers Jess Todd, Adam Ottavino, Tyler Herron, Clayton Mortensen, Ian Ostlund, Fernando Salas, Francisco Samuel and P.J. Walters, catchers Bryan Anderson, Tony Cruz, Luis De La Cruz, Steve Hill, Justin Knoedler and Matt Pagnozzi, infielders Allen Craig, David Freese, Joe Thurston and Brett Wallace and outfielders Colby Rasmus and Jon Jay.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Glaus expected to miss 12 weeks

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Troy Glaus is expected to be sidelined for three months after arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder.

Glaus will begin physical therapy next week following Wednesday's surgery in Los Angeles. Glaus, 32, hit .270 with 27 homers and 99 RBIs last season, his first with the Cardinals.

Glaus finished in the top 10 among NL third basemen in RBIs, doubles, home runs and slugging percentage last year. He set a Cardinals team record for fielding percentage (.982) by a third baseman, a mark that led the league.

Glaus has a career batting average of .258, with 304 homers and 877 RBIs in 10-plus seasons with Anaheim, Arizona, Toronto and St. Louis. He is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $11.25 million in 2009.

It wasn't immediately clear why Glaus waited until late January to have the surgery, meaning he will likely miss Opening Day. Glaus appeared at the team's annual Winter Warmup event last weekend and made no mention of an injury or the need for surgery.

Glaus had two cortisone shots and missed a few games in September due to what was described as a strained right shoulder. But an MRI at the time showed no significant problems.

General manager John Mozeliak planned to address the matter during an afternoon news conference.

Without Glaus, it wasn't immediately clear who would start the season at third base for St. Louis. The Cardinals have two highly regarded prospects at third base in David Freese and Brett Wallace, the team's 2008 first-round draft pick out of Arizona State.

Freese, 25, is a St. Louis native who came to the Cardinals from San Diego in the Jim Edmonds trade in December 2007. He hit .306 with 26 home runs and 91 RBIs at Triple-A Memphis. Wallace, 22, hit a combined .337 with eight homers and 36 RBIs in Class A and Double-A after signing with St. Louis.

Backup infielder Brendan Ryan played five games at third base last season and 24 games in 2007. Outfielder Joe Mather played one game at third base in 2008.