Goin’ to Kansas City.
Kansas City, here I come.
They’ve got some crazy little
And you know I’m gonna go be one.
Off to See Some Inter-league Play
On my drive to Kansas
City, I listened to MLB Homeplate on XM Radio. There were endless debates over inter-league play. It’s bad. It’s good. Love it. Hate it. Love it, but let’s tweak it. Always use the DH. Never use the DH. Switch the use of the DH to the NL parks. Make the inter-league records determine the home field advantage for the World Series. And, on and on and on.
I could not care less about all of that. I am a fan of inter-league play for one reason and one
reason alone: The Cardinals play in Kansas City. Short of an inter-league game that would take them to Arlington, it is as close as the Cardinals ever get to me. Still, it’s a six-hour drive.
I lived in Kansas
City for a number of years and have friends and family
to visit, which makes the I-70 series weekend very special for me. I got to meet my brand week week-old nephew. I love hanging out with my fam.
The home of the Kansas City Royals, Kauffman Stadium or
“The K”, is a special place for me. I saw my first major league game there. I was probably nine or ten. I did not really know baseball back then. I do not remember who we played. I do not remember who won. I did know who George Brett was, and I knew when I walked into The K, that it was the biggest place I had ever been, and I liked being there.
I went with my sister her fiancé and some of his
family. We sat near right field. We played a game where each person drew an outfield position. Each time the Royal playing your position caught a fly ball, everybody else paid you a dollar. I had right-field and the other team must have been stacked with lefties because I made a killing.
It was poetic and special that I would be back at The K
with my sister on Friday. She does not understand my attraction to this game, but she is one person in my life that does not look at me like I am crazy when I take off cross-country to go see a game. And, I love that about her.
Welcome to the New K
The outside will always look a bit like a place the Jetsons’
would have gone to watch a game. It is a throwback to the early 70s when we were in love with astronauts, men walked on the moon and I drank Tang for breakfast.
The field area at The K has always been spectacularly
beautiful, with the signature outfield fountains. It was a gem in it’s day. However, as new parks are built, the old girl had been left in the dust. Little luster remained on the hunk of forty year old concrete.
No longer. Major
renovations were completed over the winter, and the old girl has a whole new look. The fan experience in this park is excellent.
The scoreboard seemed more fabulous that ever.
Before the renovations, there were no seats between the
foul poles. Unless a home run ball took some sort of funny hop, it could not be caught here. Now the outfield is full of seats and activity.
Although there were plenty o’ Cardinals fans in the seats,
I do believe I saw much more Royals blue than last year during the I-70 series. Good for you, Kansas City! However, the fans in blue (except for the ones in powder blue retro
Cardinals jerseys) would not have much to cheer about.
Game 1 Davies vs. Thompson
The Cardinals came out hitting the Royals well. Single, single, two-run single. But, in the
third, they broke out the cannons.
In the first, the Royals pitched to Pujols and were
punished with a 2-RBI single. This time they walked him. Enter the slumping Ryan Ludwick. Although the words “grand slam” were bouncing around in the back of my head, I quieted them and thought how nice it would be if Ludwick just got a nice simple base hit. And, he did 393 ft. into the brand new outfield seats.
The Cardinals weren’t finished handing out souvenirs to
that section. Rick Ankiel and Khalil Greeene went back to back with solo shots. All sluggers have had their issues at the plate lately. Nothing like a little long ball to get them going.
I like the move of Khalil Greene to third base. After seeing the athleticism that Brendan
Ryan and Tyler Greene can bring to the shortstop position, I think one of them should be playing that position. On a team with the pitching philosophy of “pitch to contact and let your defense do the work”, they need to play their best defenders.
Also, because of the philosophy, that puts extraordinary
pressure on the middle infielders to be practically perfect in every way. Perhaps, that is part of the pressure that was getting to Khalil Greene. Perhaps, he can relax a bit at third. It seemed to work in his rehab starts in Memphis. And, it seems to be working now.
I did not want to say this out loud too soon for fear of
jinxing it, but I think it is safe to say that Skip Schumaker has turned into a very fine second baseman. With Schumaker’s athletic ability and intense work ethic, I really believed the transition would work. I just did not know it would work so well. He looks
like he was born to it.
Davies was pulled in the third and Thompson pitched a
gem. Cardinals win!
Game 2 Bannister vs. Carpenter
With a rain delay of
about an hour and a half, it looked like it might be a long day at the ballpark. However, Bannister and Carpenter were like to pilots grooving in the jet stream trying to make up time on a cross-country flight. Length of game: 2:37.
Many might argue that Albert Pujols is the most intimidating
Cardinal. If I were a National League pitcher, I might agree. But, the Cardinal I find most intimidating is Chris Carpenter.
He is big. He is tall. His voice
is deep. He has amazing stuff, and he is all business, all the time. You often see Pujols smile or share a laugh. Not Carpenter. I am sure he has a light-hearted side, silly, fun-loving side. I have just never seen it, and that’s fine by me. If he scares the bejesus out of me
just sitting in the bleachers, I can only imagine the fear he inspires in those
who must stand in the batter’s box.
This was really the best game of the series. Although the Cardinals let the whole game, it
was close until the ninth. The Royals threatened to get the bats going in the 8th. Carpenter was pulled after a 2-out double. The third out was four batters, one walk, one error, one run and two pitchers away.
In the ninth, a string of base hits by Ludwick, Duncan,
and Molina, was topped off by a Khalil Greene home run. The four run inning turned the formerly 3-1 game into a rout.
Game 3 Meche vs. Wainwright
I enjoyed the game with family on Friday. Saturday was spent swapping baseball stories with friends. Both were great, but Sunday was for me. I walked up to the ticket booth and purchased
one of the last seats in outfield section 105. I wanted sit in one of the new seats. I wanted to sit where the home run balls landed.
The 1:00 pm start on the first day of summer was as hot as
they come. Despite application of sunscreen, I would leave with a souvenir sunburn. But, the weather was no hotter than Albert Pujols’ bat.
I have run out of words to describe El Hombre. Special.
Amazing. The best player in baseball. The words fall short. While he is capable of anything, he still
finds a way to exceed our expectations.
When Albert Pujols came to the plate in the 4th
with bases loaded, I tucked away my pencil and scorecard. I was ready to catch the ball. The grand slam ball. I thought, “Albert, hit it to me.”
But, he missed. The
grand slam ball landed about 15 feet to my left and 10 feet back. I expected a home run, but I did not expect the 423 feet monster shot. He’s such an over-achiever.
The game had been close, but the grand slam put the
Cardinals out of reach. In a continuation of that inning, the Cardinals sent 12 batters to the plate and
scored 8 runs. I began to feel sorry for the Royals. Especially, the catcher,
Olivo. I was drenched in sweat just sitting there. I could not imagine
working in the heat while wearing catcher’s gear.
In other news, Khalil Greene hit his third home run in
three days. He was rewarded by a plunking. Maybe, intentional. Maybe not. Either way, the Royals paid. The pinch runner, Thurston, was the first to score on the grand slam.
Random Images from the I-70 Series
Colby Rasmus at the plate. How much to we love our little Rookie of the Year Candidate?
On Friday, the Royals catcher, Olivo, hit a long fly ball to deep left field. I quickly tried to get a picture of Ankiel making a spectacular catch. Instead, I got a blurred image of his attempt and the very sad shot below of him looking at where the ball landed inside the Cardinals bullpen:
Astros and Cardinals last met, it was August, 2008. The Astros were on the rise. The Cardinals, disabled with injuries, were
on the downhill slide. I journeyed to
the Juice Box in Houston, only to see my Cardinals get
week, the Houston Astros journeyed to Busch stadium, and the St. Louis Cardinals
returned the favor. We all like to talk
about hitting, but we all know that pitching wins games. The good news is: We have pitching!
Cardinal pitcher, Joel Piñeiro, carried
his Spring Training success into his first start of the year, going 6 2/3, giving up two runs. I was hard on Piñeiro
before. He would get into jams, not
check his emotions and self-destruct.
Both in the exhibition game in Memphis and
his first start of the season, Piñeiro is in perfect control–both of his
pitches and his emotions.
The bullpen combination of Josh
Kinney, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan did the rest. Granted, Motte got into trouble again, but
was not allowed to fail as McClellan came in with two on/one out and retired
the two batters he faced. Cardinals win
Adam Wainwright had a rough start.
He pitched five shutout innings and got the win. Yep, that’s a rough start for Wainwright. Mostly, he threw a lot of pitches, but he got
the job done. A bullpen combo of Jason
Motte (pitching a very nice 6th this time), Dennys Reyes (three
up-three down) and Brad Thompson (pitching two innings, but giving up two runs)
finished the game.
For 4 1/2 innings, this game was a
pitching duel between Oswalt and Wainwright. Oddly
enough, Oswalt looked better, yet the Cardinals were up 1-0. In the bottom of the 5th, the
Cardinals broke it open. The kids set
the table: Joe Thurston (1B), Brendan
Ryan (Sac bunt), David Freese (pinch hit RBI 2B), Skip Schumaker (walk), Colby
So, with bases loaded Roy Oswalt
faced Albert Pujols. Thus far, Oswalt
had been successful against Pujols, who had hit into a line-out double play and
popped up. It was a classic dual
between a great hitter and a great pitcher, but in the end, the great
hitter found a pitch to drive into Big Mac Land for a grand slam. It was not a bad pitch. It is just when you pitch to Albert
Pujols, there really are no good pitches.
Not finished, Pujols punished
reliever Wesley Wright by hitting 3-run bomb.
A seven RBI day for Pujols, which ties a career high for him. The Cardinals did a great job of setting
the table. Pujols feasted.
Quickly, a tight pitching dual
turned into a rout, as the Cardinals win 11-2.
In Kyle Lohse’s second start of
the season, the Astro’s leadoff batter, Kazuo Matsui, reached on a base
hit. No other Astro would reach until
the ninth. Kyle Lohse retired 24 Astros
in a row. Two batters reached in the
ninth, but are stranded. Kyle Lohse
pitched a 3-hitter, complete game shutout.
Of note, in the fourth, he retired the heart of the lineup (Pence,
Berkman and Lee) on five pitches.
Astros pitching was tough, with
starter Wandy Rodriguez only giving up three runs. Should have been enough to win, but not
today. Cardinals win 3-0.
The 2009 Season:
Just a week ago, the 2009 season
began, and we starving baseball fans have feasted. Already, we are peeking at the standings, and
most are surprised by how week one has shook out. It looks like many teams are channeling
their inner-Rays and trying to be the next team to go from worst to first. Here are the leaders:
AL East – The Toronto Blue Jays lead
with a 5-2 record, followed closely by the Orioles, just a half game back. The three favorites, the Yankees, Rays and
Red Sox, are in the cellar.
AL Central – The Detroit Tigers lead
with a 4-3 record, with the White Sox and Royals only a half game back. The
Twins follow 3-4, and the Indians finally won today are holding the bottom
AL West – The Seattle Mariners,
energized by the return of Griffey, lead 5-2.
The mourning Angels and Rangers trail 1 1/2 games back. Oakland is off to a slow start with a 2-4
NL East – The Atlanta Braves and Florida
Marlins are tied for first, two full games ahead of the Mets and World
Champion Phillies. The poor Nationals
still have not notched a win.
NL Central – The St. Louis Cardinals
with their 5-2 record lead the Cubs by 1 game.
The Pirates are 1 1/2 back. Reds
and Brewers are tied with 2-3 records.
Thanks to the aforementioned pitching, Houston is at the bottom with a 1-5
NL West – The San Diego Padres
lead the west by one game over the Dodgers.
Rockies are 1 1/2 back. The D-backs and Giants are tied for last with
a 2-4 record. This could change quickly as the Giants head to L.A.
As for the Cardinals, week one of
the season was very much a success. With
very few exceptions, the pitching has been solid. The position player side of the roster has so
many moving parts, so much flexibility.
Tony LaRussa is known to be a man of many lineups, and this roster is
very conducive to his style.
I have enjoyed watching how he
manages to get everyone playing time. The
outfield rotation. The third base
rotation. The infield rotation. Substitution.
Pinch hitting. Pinch
running. By doing this, he also keeps
all his players fresh. Well, everybody
except Yadier Molina, who is the only player that has played every inning.
Watching the young players has
been exciting. Colby Rasmus, David
Freese, Brian Barden, Brendan Ryan and Joe Thurston (who is batting .500).
Once again, we were the team that
everybody counted out. Once again, we
are in the mix.
news: It is Opening Day. Summer is here!
Someone forgot to put Opening Day
on Mother Nature’s calendar. It is still
winter in St. Louis.
I was home from work today.
Bad news: The
reason I was home was because I was sick.
It was a two Kleenex box day.
I got to see the home opener in real time between the St. Louis
Cardinals and the Pittsburg Pirates.
Bad news: Pirates
Good news: We
got the first loss and blown saves out of the way. We can concentrate on winning now.
pitching five scoreless innings, starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, will take
the heat for walking his last two batters.
Lefty reliever, Trevor Miller, will take the heat for letting them
score. Rookie Jason Motte will take the
heat for being one strike away from a save, but instead giving up the game
news that will make Cardinals fans shake their heads, former Cardinals middle
infielders had big opening days elsewhere.
For the Orioles, Cesar Izturis hit .500 including a home run and ended
the day with 2 runs and 2 RBI’s. Felipe
Lopez matched those numbers, hitting two homeruns for the D-Backs, one from
each side of the plate. Go figure.
all go throw ourselves from the St. Louis Arch or toss ourselves in to the Mississippi river in despair or to simply make our
nose stop running, let us take a few moments to review a few things that might
get lost in the Opening Day grumblings:
- Kyle McClellan, despite a
rough Spring Training, pitched a scoreless inning
- Khalil Greene notched both
his and the Cardinals first RBI.
Welcome to St. Louis, Mr. Greene.
- Hometown rookie, David Freese,
recorded his first big league RBI on a sacrifice fly, scoring speedy pinch
runner, Joe Thurston.
- Adam Wainwright reached base
in both of his at bats. Once on an
error, which led to a run. Once on
a double. You cannot say he did not
help himself any way he could.
- Albert Pujols batted .750
with two singles, a double and an intentional walk.
- Ryan Ludwick had a .400 day,
hitting the first bomb of the year
- Skip Schumaker, coming off
the bench, is officially batting 1.000 against lefty pitching. Schumaker also stole the first Cardinal
base of the year.
- Chris Duncan is .333 with a
double and a walk. The walk led to
a run scored by pinch runner Joe Thurston.
this is one of 162. We are not supposed
to win them all. Baseball is where the “you
can’t win ’em all” phrase comes from. So,
put the razors away. Step back from the
edge. Take a deep breath. In with the good air. Out with the bad air. Put it in a bubble and blow it away. The Cardinals are going to be just fine.
SPRING TRAINING UPDATE
While taking a couple days off from the World Baseball Classic, I realized that I had been severely neglecting my Cardinals. It is an easy thing to do when only about half the games are broadcast on the radio, even fewer are televised and most all take place while I am at work.
Work is like a sacrifice fly. I do not get on base, but I score the funds to live in an enclosed space, eat ballpark hot dogs and wear clothes adorned with the birds on the bat.
Just because the opportunity to savor Spring Training games has been sadly lacking, do not think I have not been paying attention to my beloved Redbirds. Thanks to the fine beat writers at stlcardinals.com and stltoday.com, I get the daily scoop.
Blessedly, for the most part, I like what I hear. The starting rotation is shaping up. The headline is a healthy and sharp Chris Carpenter that has yet to give up a run. Kyle Lohse has pitched the most innings and has a 3-1 record. Joel Pineiro has a low 1.29 ERA. Adam Wainwright is has good command of his fast ball. Todd Wellemeyer has been burned by the long ball, but I know he will work that out. How do I know? Well, I will tell you in a bit.
Jason Motte has excelled in the bullpen going 4-4 in saves vs. save opportunities, with an ERA of 1.08. Josh Kinney is 2-2 in saves with a 1.29 ERA. Chris Perez has struggled with shoulder soreness, but he still has time to come around. Ryan Franklin, the bullpen veteran, is coming along nicely. As is lefty, Trevor Miller.
At the start of Spring Training, positional player questions were plentiful. (Try to say that 5 times fast). Now, it seems we have options. Many young players have made a strong case for themselves. Joe Mather seemed a lock for the temp job at third base. Now, Brian Barden, batting .419, is coming on strong.
The innovative idea to take one of the plenteous outfielders and turn put him in the open slot at second base is working out. Skip Schumaker is making a go of it at second. He had some errors, mostly on throws. He seemed to have a little too much arm for the position. But, he is turning double plays and getting the job done. All the extra work in the field has not taken away from his hitting. He is batting .345.
Also garnering attention as a possible utility infielder is Joe Thurston. He has some speed with two stolen bases. Brendan Ryan is another possibility. One more infielder worth mentioning is Craig Allen. Allen played at Double-A Springfield last year. I watched one Springfield game last year and Craig stood out. He is projected to be at Triple-A Memphis this year, which is rather sad since he is batting .444 and slugging .667. What more could a guy do in Spring Training?
The final question mark is tattooed on the forehead of one young highly touted prospect. Fine, Colby Rasmus’ forehead is tattoo free, but the question gets asked over and over and over: When will Rasmus get the call-up? The jury is still out. Rasmus got off to a slow start, but after a little sit down chat with the skipper, he is hitting very well.
Overall the Cardinals are 14-6, which puts them in second place in the Grapefruit League. I know, it means nothing. But, it is positive. Very positive. Which is the opposite of a negative like this one: Houston‘s 3-16 record. It makes for a happy, hopeful spring for Cardinals fans.
The hardest thing to do in baseball is hit that little round leather orb with the wooden stick. If that is true, then MLB 2K9 is very realistic. I had a little time to play today, and I finally figured out how to swing, but offensively, I stink. I have mastered the groundout to third, as well as the groundout to short. Through no fault of his own, Yadier Molina struck out more times today than he did all season last year. I am ridiculous.
My fielding is getting better. Of course, the only way to go is up when you start with 16 errors in one game.
However, I can really pitch. Todd Wellemeyer is going to be just fine this season. I know this because Welly and I pitched an amazing game today. Complete game, no-hitter, with 23 K’s. Yep, it is a new Major League record.
Our first pitch slider was un-hittable. Then a changeup would usually get strike two. Finally, the payoff pitch: a little high, inside fastball to finish the hitter off. We were dominant. We were efficient, finishing the game on 82 pitches.
But, we still lost. Our pinpoint control vanished just long enough to allow a walk, a stolen base and two wild pitches, which scored the runner. I think Molina could have blocked the wild pitches, but he was mad at me for making him look so ghastly at the plate. Pirates win 1-0. Maybe, we will get ’em tomorrow.
World Baseball Classic
I enjoyed a couple days off, but I am excited for the finals. With no baseball on TV this afternoon (well, there was a cubs game, if that counts), I am embarrassed to admit I watched a Lifetime movie. I am a sucker for John Corbett, no matter how bad the movie. Baseball will be back on tonight to save me from myself!
Ah, spring! A time of hope and renewal, where anything is possible and the sky is the limit.
So much good news has filtered out of the St. Louis Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Florida! Adam Wainwright looked good in live batting practices. So, did a HEALTHY Chris Carpenter. Of course, when pitchers look too good in live BP, I worry that there’s something wrong with our hitting. It’s only the first week, so maybe, I worry too much.
The Cardinals also made it through the first week without a player logging a season ending injury. Woo-hoo! The two pitchers (Mitchell Boggs and Matthew Scherer) that experienced soreness early in the week are healing nicely.
Redbird Migratory Paths
Two former redbirds have roosted in the Tampa Bay Rays camp: Adam Kennedy and Jason Isringhausen. If the Rays repeat this year, they may both look at their last rocky days in St. Louis as a blessing in disguise. Seeing Izzy not in a Cardinals uniform is beyond weird. As the all-time Cardinals saves leader, he has earned his place in Cardinals history. It is “unfortunate” (a word Tony LaRussa used) that Izzy could not finish his career with a strong year in St. Louis.
Cooler Heads Did Not Prevail
The controversy of the week involved Jose Oquendo, Cardinals Third-Base Coach and Manager of Team Puerto Rico, not choosing Joel Pineiro for Team Puerto Rico’s starting rotation. For Team Puerto Rico, the starters will be Javier Vazquez (Braves), Ian Snell (Pirates) and Jonathan Sanchez (Giants). Looking at last year’s numbers, I could not see a clear cut reason why these pitchers, except for Vazquez, were picked over Pineiro:
Javier Vazquez 12-16, 4.67 ERA, 61 BB, 200 K’s 208.1 IP
Ian Snell 7-12, 5.42 ERA, 89 BB, 135 K’s 164.1 IP
Jonathan Sanchez, 9-12, 5.01 ERA, 75 BB, 157 K’s 158.0 IP
Joel Pineiro 7-7, 5.15 ERA, 35 BB, 81 K’s 148.2 IP
Joel Pineiro did pitch well in the 2006 WBC (2.08 ERA, 4 BB, 5 K’s, 8.2 IP). So, perhaps there is another reason. The manner in which Pineiro took the news, venting his displeasure to reporters, claiming he was “disrespected”, and giving in to his emotions made me wonder if Oquendo’s pick had more to do with temperament than performance. Pineiro is an emotional player, and when things start to go badly in a game, his emotions can get in the way.
Or, perhaps it was Pineiro’s mindset. Maybe because he and Oquendo are teammates and he started in the in the 2006 WBC, he thought he was a lock for the rotation. He already purchased tickets for his family to the WBC. He thought Oquendo was joking when he first suggested that Pineiro would be in the bullpen rather than the rotation. Did Pineiro take too much for granted?
Coaches typically do not appreciate players who assume too much. One of the few starts I got in all my years of playing basketball came when the coach overheard some of the starters use the word “indispensable” in regard to their value to the team. Of course, after about five minutes of my stinking up the court, they were in and I was back on the bench where I belonged. Still, we learned a valuable lesson. Work hard. Be ready. Assume nothing.
In the end, it is Jose Oquendo’s team and his decision. Pineiro has every right to feel “disrespected” or disappointed or upset, but it is not cool to unleash those emotions outside the clubhouse and express your displeasure with your coach to the media. If he wants to be respected, then he should know that his comments made him look like a spoiled, petulant child rather than a man worthy of respect that he insists he is due.
Crash Davis School of Clichés
You remember the scene that went something like this:
: It’s time to work on your interviews.
: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
: You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: “We gotta play it one day at a time.”
: Got to play… it’s pretty boring.
: ‘Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down
: (Writing) …one day at a time
Following Crash’s guidelines of “boring is good”, I tried to rework Pineiro’s statements.
Original Statement: “[Oquendo] said if I went, it was going to be in the bullpen. Everybody knows that’s not my role. I was very disappointed, very heartbroken…I felt disrespected. I mean, everybody knows there’s only been two pitchers in Puerto Rico which has 8-10 years [as a] consistent starter, which is Javier Vasquez and myself….everybody knows if I go out there as a bullpen guy, I’m going to get setback here…if I would have been there as a starter, it would have been my normal exhibition game starts…But, after I was informed that I was not going to be a starter, I was not happy about that.“
Boring Statement: “Oquendo said he had a spot for me in the bullpen, but not as a starter. If I went as a starter, I could prepare for the season the same as I would here. Unfortunately, I can’t do that pitching out of the bullpen, so I made the tough decision to stay here, work hard and be ready to go in April. I am disappointed that I will not be representing my country in the WBC, but Puerto Rico has other great pitchers to take my place. And, I’m happy to be here. I hope I can help the ballclub. I want to give this season my best shot and the good Lord willing, things will work out. Instead of playing in big games this spring, we’ll be playing in big games in October.
Of course, if he said that, there would be no controversy, and what would I write about? This may all work out for the best for Pineiro. He was both injured last year and not particularly sharp. His hold on the fifth spot in the Cardinals rotation is tenuous at best. He should be hearing the footsteps of capable young arms gaining on him, ready to take his spot.
In one of his statements he said, “I felt, I’m a veteran guy. I’ve been around long enough to know that I should be there representing my country. I deserve that respect. That’s the way I look at it.” A sense of entitlement, does not typically get one the respect they feel they deserve. Actions do. If he wins a dozen games, gets his ERA under 4.0 and learns how to control his emotions so he can pitch himself out of a jam, then he will have my respect, the respect of his teammates, and, I dare say, Oquendo’s too.
The winter was long, dark and cold. The hotstove was not so hot. Some old friends moved on. Some new faces moved in.
We sat in the dark in anticipation of the dawn. The dawn that comes todoy. Finally… (cue the violin music)
At last….. my love has come along
my lonely days are over
and life is like a song
Oh yeah, at last
The skies above are blue
And here we are in heaven
For you are mine
-Mack Gordan/Harry Warren
While other girls are hoping for roses, chocolates or jewelry from their Valentines, I only want diamonds….baseball diamonds. So, this Valentine’s Day, My Love is coming through for me. Yes, my Cardinal pitchers and catchers are reporting to Spring Training today in Jupiter, Florida. The off-season is over. Winter is over. My lonely days are over….
There were many heralds of spring this week.
The deadly tornados that ripped through my state. (See photos here.)
The crocus in my mom’s yard….
(No, you are right. That is not a crocus, and it is not in my mom’s yard. That is last year’s daffodil from my yard. Mom’s crocuses did bloom this week, but they croaked before I could shoot a picture.)
The sandals that would not stay in my closet on a 70 degree day.
(Fine. I am busted. AGAIN. I wore sandals, but I could not find these in my closet. I might have accidentally left them at Neiman Marcus since they cost more than my house payment)
And, finally the words, “Pitchers and Catchers: Report Today”. And, the “card” telling me my Valentine’s gift had arrived. It is not “Play Ball”, but it is close.
Spring is here. Baseball is here. And, life is like a song.
Here is little overview of some of the guys reporting today.
Yadier Molina (C) – Actually, he’s now Gold Glove Catcher, Yadier Molina. At only 26 years of age, he has 4 1/2 years of major league experience. He gets better every year. Last year, he had a break out year offensively, but did not throw out as many runners. The young and unfamiliar pitching staff may have contributed. What will be better this year? More pop in the bat? More runners caught stealing? I can’t wait to see.
Jason LaRue (C) – Most teams struggle to field one solid defensive catcher. The Cardinals have two. LaRue is everything a team could ask for in a backup catcher. He is a veteran who understands his role and is always ready to go. He does not hit for average, but he has a bit of power.
Adam Wainwright (RHSP) – In the absence of Chris Carpenter, Adam has been the staff ace. Oh, what 2008 might have been, if not for the “pop” in his finger that kept him out of the rotation for roughly two months. Having Waino healthy for the whole season is one of the keys to Cardinal success.
Kyle Lohse (RHSP) – Hopefully, “this year’s” Kyle Lohse will be as good as “last year’s”.
Todd Wellemeyer (RHSP) – Welly rounds out the rotation’s top three. However, he has stated that he would love to pitch in the All-Star game, so this pitcher is not satisfied to be part of the rotation. He wants to be the best.
Chris Carpenter (RHSP) – The big question mark. He proved last year in the few innings he pitched that he still has the stuff. Hopefully, his body is healed, rested and healthy enough to support that deadly arm. If he can return to his previous form and make his starts, he makes this rotation lethal.
Joel Piniero (RHSP) – Piniero had his ups and downs last year. When he pitched well, he got no run support. When he had run support, he sometimes self-destructed. The potential for greatness is there.
Brad Thompson (RHRP/RHSP) – Last year, Thompson was a valuable spot starter and long reliever. He is one of the few guys still around that was with the Championship 2006 team. (Pujols, Molina, Wainwright, Carpenter and are the others.)
Kyle McClellan (RHRP/RHSP) – The role of last year’s Cardinal Rookie of the Year is uncertain. If Carpenter is not healthy, he is likely to be in the rotation. If not, he will be in the bullpen.
Mitchell Boggs (RHSP/RHRP) – Boggs made six starts and two relief appearances for the Cardinals last year. He won three and got the crap beat out of him in two. I will probably be watching him pitch in Memphis next year. I challenge him to prove me wrong.
Ryan Franklin (RHRP) – Sometimes he closes. Sometimes he sets up. But, with Russ Springer gone, he is the veteran of the bullpen. I am thinking setup guy in 2009.
Jason Motte (RHRP) – This catcher turned pitcher came up in September 2008 throwing fire. Eleven innings, five hits, one earned run, .82 ERA. This guy has a legitimate shot at the 9th.
Chris Perez (RHRP) – Perez’s arm is another flame thrower. He got some very valuable experience last year in the closer role. He saved 7 out of 11, with a 3-3 record and a 3.46 ERA. Not bad for a rookie. He is another contender for the 9th
Josh Kinney (RHRP) – Kinney came back in September 2008 after Tommy John surgery. He pitched seven innings, walked one, struck out 8, gave up 3 hits and NO runs. People are not talking him up much as a closer, but he is in running.
Jaime Garcia (LHRP) – This young leftyspent some time in St. Louis last year. Got his first save. Got his first win. Got his first loss. Sixteen innings, 8 walks, 8 strikeouts and a final ERA of 5.63. Great potential. Tony will probably want two lefties. I am betting on Garcia and Miller.
Trever Miller (LHRP) – If the Cardinals had passed on Miller, Ryan Franklin would have no one in the bullpen that could discuss the 70s with him. Miller could sing the Johnny Cash song, “I’ve been everywhere, man.”, but his last tour of duty was with the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays. His numbers do not give Cardinals fans a warm fuzzy feeling, but he will most likely be on the opening day roster.
Blake Hawksworth (RHP), Charlie Manning (LHP), Royce Ring (LHP) and Matthew Scherer (RHP) round out the 40-man roster. It will be interesting to learn about these guys. Also, on the guy to watch on the list of non-roster invitees is Jess Todd (RHP). Last year, He won the Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award.