Tagged: Spring Training

Spring Training Trip 2010

This week I made my first pilgrimage to the festival known as Spring Training.  There is no better excuse to get out of town, find some sun and get a taste of things to come.

I had my first ballpark hotdog of the season within minutes of arriving at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida.  It was a little taste of heaven.  Grilled.  Spicy mustard and sweet relish.  Yuuuum!  
Roger Dean Stadium is a nice place to see a ball game.  It is the size of a minor league park, so all the 6000+ seats are close to the field.  The atmosphere is more relaxed and loose than during regular season games.  Players take more time to sign autographs and interact with the fans.  If you want autographs, spring training is the place to be.
Here is a picture of the Cardinals’ clubhouse:
The flag in the picture reminds me of a particular gripe I have concerning the Star-Spangled Banner.  There are many rules dictating how we should fly Old Glory.  There should be rules about how the National Anthem is sung.  
First, it should not be drug out like a funeral dirge.  I do not care how lovely your voice is, nobody wants to hear you hold notes for excessively long times because you want your five minutes in the spotlight instead of three.
Second, nor should it be sung like a ditty in a lounge act.  Keep it sharp.  Keep it tight.  If you do that, then you can have your big moment of embellishment at the end.
Third, we all stand for the anthem because it is the rule.  A proper anthem, sung with heart and gusto, should make people jump to their feet and be ready to go and fight!  They should want to cheer with patriotism at the end, and not simply because we are glad it is over.  
I would rather hear someone sing it badly with heart, than a beautiful voice that misses the point.
But, I digress…
You can read the stats, scores and analysis elsewhere.  I will give you what we all really want: pictures!
I suppose we should start with this guy:
Sure hope he makes the club!
Here is Ryan Ludwick at the plate.  With all the talk about Pujols and Holliday, Ludwick gets left out of the conversation a bit.  He is a Silver Slugger, and I expect in this lineup, he will get some pitches to hit.
One of the things I was most looking forward to was watching my favorite catcher, Yadier Molina, play.  At his first at bat, he did not disappoint, sending a ball into the left-field corner and sliding into second, safe with a double.
Sadly, that slide did him in for the time being.  Here he is at second after the slide.  I have looked at this picture trying to decide if I can see the pain. His stance seems uncomfortable.
Molina left the game after running to third and pulling up when Oquendo was waving him home.  Strained oblique.  I got to see him play less than two innings.  Bummer. The next time I saw him was a couple days later in the dugout, next to Oquendo:
Due to a bruised knee, I did not see much of Colby Rasmus either.  I will be interesting to see what he does in 2010 with a year of major league experience under his belt.
Felipe Lopez is back with the club.  I hope he does as much damage for the Cardinals as he did against the Cardinals last year.  Lopez was my only “away from the park sighting” of a player.  I saw him with his family at the pool.  No, I did not talk to him.  I am shy and did not want to intrude.  Here he is at the plate, wearing number 8.  I still think of that number as Troy Glaus.
Speaking of Glaus, last year due to his injury, the Cardinals had an opening at third base.  This year, they do, too.  David Freese won the job last year, then lost it due to injury.  He seems on track to win the job again this year.
The contest for the last couple of roster spots is a tight one.  Joe Mather seems to be a strong candidate, particularly since Rasmus is hurt and Mather can play center.  Mather had a 2009 season plagued with injury and illness.  
The other two strong candidates are in the picture below:  Nick Stavinoha and Allen Craig.  Stavinoha has the advantage of some major league experience, but Allen Craig has put together two strong spring trainings in a row, as well as a great Triple-A season in 2009.  Cr
aig first caught my eye playing for AA Springfield two years ago.  I liked him immediately, and I am pulling for him to make the club.
What a difference a year makes.  Last year, Brendan Ryan was just trying to make the club.  This year he is the everyday shortstop.  He played acrobatic defense last year and hit around .300.  I love it that he is still wearing the socks!
Much to my pleasure, there is another Cardinal wearing the socks this year.  Our newest starting pitcher, Brad Penny.  Brad Penny had an excellent outing on Saturday.  Our rotation is really looking tough this year.
Here is another shot of Penny before the game with backup catcher, Jason LaRue.  I was happy to see LaRue re-signed this year.  It is so nice to have a backup of that quality.


Hmmm…who else did I see?  Oh yeah, this guy.  Chris Carpenter was in excellent form on the day I saw him pitch.  He ready to go.  Opening day, maybe?  Last year, I got so sick of the term “a healthy Chris Carpenter”.  This year, it has been nice to think of him as a lock, rather than a question mark.
On the day Carpenter pitched, I sat next to a couple friendly old fellows.  They were testing me.  Asking me questions.  Some I knew.  Some I tanked, but that was okay because then I got to learn something. Here are the two I got right:
The game was low scoring, so one of the guys says, “Only a few runs and hits.  Pretty boring game, huh?”  
I said, “No.  This is great.  I love pitching.”  
I could hear the approval in his voice when he said, “Good for you.”
The other guy asked me a question that I am sure he did not think I would know the answer to.
He says, “Do you know the first two words to ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’?”
I immediately guessed the trick.  “You mean the first two words to the verse, right?” I said and began to rack my brain.  I had looked this up once.  I knew I knew it.  Finally, the words flowed.
“Katie Casey was baseball mad.  She had the fever and had it bad.”
I got it!  I liked the verses to the song because they are girl that wants nothing more than to be at the ballpark.  I was pretty sure it was written about me in a former life.
But…back to the players.
In the way of former Cardinal sightings, I offer you Brian Barden.  Brian tagged teamed with Joe Thurston at third last year before a little guy named Mark DeRosa came along.  Why did we not re-sign DeRosa?
And, I enjoyed watching this exchange between the NL MVP and the guy that would likely be the NL MVP, if Pujols went to the AL.  Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez have a friendly chat behind second base before the game:
Under the category of “players that I remember making a splash at the World Baseball Classic”, I offer you, Frank Catalanotto.  He played very well for the Italians.  I particularly remember his defense.  Although, he had a double off Carpenter, so maybe it was his bat.  The Mets fans around me said he was competing for the last roster spot.  
This was a trip I will never forget and intend to repeat!  I was so happy be at the ballpark again.  To see the green grass.   To be in the sun.  And, to be hot.  I was actually hot for the first time since September.  
If you go, I recommend eating at The Food Shack and The Lazy Logger Cafe.  Both were excellent.  I also recommend taking the tour of the Jupiter Lighthouse.  105 steps up, but worth the view.  
But, possibly my favorite sight of all was my toes buried in the sand:

Mission Accomplished: Skip Schumaker at Second

off for the Cardinals, second baseman, Skip Schumaker!

Thumbnail image for Schumaker

until a month or two ago, no one would have dreamed of hearing those words
Opening Day 2009.  Or, ever.  Least of all, Skip Schumaker.

TO 2008

Skip Schumaker came in to Spring Training with a crowded class of
young talented outfielders
.  He needed to find his
niche, the skill that differentiated him from the pack and would earn him a roster spot and keep him in the lineup.

bats left-handed.  Great!  Problem solved.  Wait, not so fast. 
St. Louis may be the one place
where being a left-handed outfielder will not give you an advantage
.  Instead, you just get in line with the likes
of Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan and Colby Rasmus.

So, Skip Schumaker looked around and saw the Cardinals
needed a lead-off hitter
.  He worked
his tail off and won the spot.   He had a great 2008 season.  Finishing with 8 HR’s, 46 RBI’s, 8 SB’s, 87
runs, batting .302.  He was healthy,
too.  Not many Cardinals could say that
last year.

only criticism thrown Schumaker’s way was that he struggled against
left-handed pitching,
only hitting .168. 
His average against right-handed pitching was an amazing .340.  So, over the off season, Schumaker went back
California thinking the only thing
he had to work on was hitting lefties.

the last two off-seasons, Schumaker has worked on his swing with the now
reclusive, Mark McGwire.
also works with Matt Holliday, Chris Duncan and Bobby Crosby at an undisclosed
location in
California.  Oh, it might be disclosed, but I did not
track it down.  I am not a very good
stalker.  So, we were all looking forward
to seeing if Schumaker had figured out left-handed pitching over the winter,


Skip Schumaker came in to Spring Training with an even more
crowded class of young talented outfielders.
or six serious contenders for three spots. 
A nice problem to have if you are a manager.  Not so nice for major league ready players
that might find themselves back in

the crafty Manager looks around.
  Sees the crowded
outfield and turns his gaze toward second base. 
Hmmm…all of outfielders hit better than anybody we have that can play
second, maybe we could bring an infielder in.

might have forgotten to mention this to Schumaker, because when asked a
question about it at Fan Fest, Schumaker basically laughed off the idea.  He said that he played shortstop in
college, but there is a good reason he is an outfielder.

soon as he realized the idea was legitimate, Schumaker immediately had his dad
hit him ground balls.  In the rain.  He arrived at Spring Training camp early to
get in as much work as possible with Jose Oquendo before Oquendo would leave to
manage Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.  No one works harder than Skip Schumaker,
perhaps this is why LaRussa chose Schumaker to make the transition.

the world of work, I call this “punishment by performance”.  There are always those people at work
that are the most productive and competent. 
How do we reward them?  With more
work, of course, because we know they can do it.

great “experiment”, as the transition was first billed, drew criticism.  When you have a pitching staff that does not
rely on the strike out, but pitches to contact and counts on the ground ball
out, it is critical to have a middle infield that can field cleanly and turn
.  The early errors made by Schumaker
were not comforting, in particular the errant throw that pulled Albert Pujols
dangerously into the path of the baserunner. 
Schumaker has a good outfield arm. 
Harnessing the cannon for the short throw to first has been the
hardest part.
  Fortunately, we do
have a Gold Glover at first base with great range to pick him up.

year on a televised game, fellow outfielder, Joe Mather, was asked to read the
lineup on air.  He described Skip
Schumaker as “the most intense guy on the field.”
  When I go to a baseball game, I enjoy getting
there early and seeing the players go though batting practice and their warm-ups.  It is most telling.  I knew what Joe Mather was talking about, not
because I had watched Schumaker play, but because I had watched him
prepare.  My favorite thing is that he finds
a quiet spot away from the others, often with a bat in hand.  He seems to clear his mind, visualize success,
lock and load.  Watching Schumaker
prepare is like watching a thunderstorm form overhead that is going to unleash
its wrath on the next town over.

comparisons could be made between Schumaker’s move to second and Rick Ankiel’s
conversion from a pitcher to an outfielder. 
Ankiel’s story is an amazing one, made even more legendary by the
fact that Babe Ruth made that transition as well.
  But, Ankiel got to do it in the minors, under
the smaller lights with less of a sense of urgency placed on him by
others.  (I have no doubt he placed a
huge sense of urgency on himself.) 
Schumaker got a month in Spring Training at the Major League level to
make it or break it. 

has made it.
  On Opening Day, we will hear the words:  “Leading off for the Cardinals, second
baseman, Skip Schumaker. The beauty of his performance this spring is that
even with all the extra work in the field, he has stayed strong at the plate
batting .301
.  Sadly, because Spring
Training stats “don’t matter”, I could not find splits to see if he is hitting
lefties better or not.

transition has not been seamless.  He has
made errors, and he will make errors.  “Average”
in the field and a repeat of last year at the plate is the expectation.  Nobody expects Schumaker to win a Gold
Glove.  At least, not this year.
  If he can be an “average” infielder in a
month, I can only imagine what he might be in a year.

Photo Credit: Skip Schumaker preparing for a game against the Astros in 2008 by me. 

A Positive Spring and An Almost Perfect Game




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!

I Have Good News and Bad News

I have good news and bad news.  Let us start with the good news.


09spring_logo250x147.gifGood News from Cardinals Spring Training

The Cardinals played an exciting game yesterday in Jupiter, FL against the Boston Red Sox.  The good news is Chris Carpenter pitched four scoreless innings.  He is pitching strong and healthy.  After his injuries, it is great to see him back to 2006 form, because we all know how 2006 went down.


In other good news, Josh Kinney came in a pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts.  He picked up the win when Joe Mather hit a 2-run walk-off homer.  Cardinals win 4-2.


Thumbnail image for WBCLogo.pngBad News from the World Baseball Classic

This is not the bad news:  The World Baseball Classic has taken over my life.  I loved the marathon of games last weekend.  Baseball from before the crack of dawn in to late in the night is pretty cool.  During the week, the games overlapped and I mastered the art of watching two games at once.  However, last night, I did enjoy the fact that there was only one game to focus on, and I am going to enjoy the off day today.  But, I will be anxious for the games to start again on Saturday.


In the one WBC game last night, Cuba faced Mexico.  Although Cuba had pulled ahead 7-4, it was a game, until the 7th.  The announcer might have said:  “Now pitching for Mexico, newly signed Cardinals lefty, Dennys Reyes.”  It would have been in Spanish, so I do not really know.


So, Reyes takes the mound.  It was like a very sad song that goes something like this:


First Verse:  First two batters hit hard up the middle.

Chorus:  Wild pitch, both runners advance  (the pitch was a foot over the umpire’s head)

Second Verse:  Double to left, two runners score

Bridge:  Reyes has been hit hard.  Now he hits back.  If a quarterback hits a guy in the numbers, it is a good thing.  If a pitcher hits a guy in the numbers, it is a bad thing.  Reyes nailed Leonys Martin right between the two and the six on his back. Ouch!

Chorus:  Wild pitch, both runners advance (again over everyone’s head)

Repeat Chorus:  Wild pitch, both runners advance.  Lead runner scores. (this one was at the batter’s feet…just to mix things up)

Tag:  The next batter walks.


Finally, Reyes is yanked, but the bleeding continues for Mexico.  The inning ends due to the mercy rule when Cuba is up 16-4.  Only one out was recorded.


I know, I know.  It is only one inning.  It is early and Reyes, newly signed, has not been in camp and is not in season form.  He was pitching in dismal wet conditions.  But still, it was not something an optimistic Cardinal fan needed to see.  


Announcer, Charlie Steiner said it best, “Boy, Dennys Reyes has nothing.  Not tonight.”  And, he is all ours for two years.

Baseball Bender

I just peeked at my calendar for the weekend.  I would like to tell you it was full of interesting social engagements.  Wine-tasting.  Jazz concert.  Museum opening.  Or, at least a kegger.  Opening a bottle of wine, putting on Harry Connick, Jr. while browsing Art.com is as close as one gets to high culture in rural Oklahoma.  A kegger could be had, but that is not the sort of thing that needs a calendar entry.


What I found on my calendar was baseball and lots of it.  With the World Baseball Classic and Spring Training underway, baseball will be on all day, all weekend.  There is so much baseball that games actually overlap.  Tomorrow afternoon, I will be listening to the Cardinals Spring Training game, while watching USA take on Canada in the first round of the WBC.  After the long winter drought, I am suddenly overwhelmed by the possibility of an entire weekend of baseball.  


There is plenty of talk that the WBC games really do not mean anything.  Neither do Spring Training games, for that matter.  Maybe, they do.  Maybe, they don’t.  Nonetheless, I will be watching, because it is baseball.  And, it is on.  All weekend long. 


So, like an alcoholic in need of a drink, I am going on a baseball bender this weekend.  But, I think I can handle it.  I do not think it will be too much.  Unless, of course, my copy of MLB 2K9 shows up in my mailbox tomorrow as Amazon.com says it should.  In that case, I am going to have one raging baseball hangover on Monday.

Spring Training – Week One

09spring_logo250x147.gifAh, spring!  A time of hope and renewal, where anything is possible and the sky is the limit.


Good News

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

IzzyRay.jpgTwo 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


bull_durham_1988_685x385Starz.jpgThis would not have been a controversy at all, if Pineiro had spent some time in Bull Durham’s “Crash Davis School of Clichés”. 



You remember the scene that went something like this:





Crash Davis: It’s time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: 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.”
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play… it’s pretty boring.
Crash Davis: ‘Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down

Ebby Calvin LaLoosh:  (Writing) …one day at a time

Crash Davis:  I’m just happy to be here.  Hope I can help the ballclub.  I know.  Write it down.  I just want to give it my best shot and the good Lord willing, things will work out.



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.

Spring Training News – Let the Competition Begin

09spring_logo250x147.gifPitchers and Catchers reported to work on Saturday, but they were not the only players 
 working out at the Cardinals camp in Jupiter,
Florida.    Since the moment Jason Isringhausen faltered in 2008, the biggest question in Cardinals Country has been, “Who’s going to close?”  The oldest question is, “Will Chris Carpenter ever return to the rotation?”


Now, there are other questions.  With both Miles and Kennedy gone:  “Who is going to play second?”  With Troy Glaus rehabbing from surgery until May: “Who is going to play third?  Then, the glut of able-bodied outfielders begs the question:  Who will fill those outfield spots, who will be on the bench, and who will be back in AAA Memphis?”


Barring injuries, the only certain positions are Albert Pujols at first, Yadier Molina behind the plate and Khalil Greene at shortstop.  Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick will most likely find themselves some spot in the outfield on opening day, and Skip Schumaker will lead off somewhere.


So much uncertainty means competition.  Big time competition.  The players know it, and they are there early to get any edge they can.  Everybody in the running for 2B, 3B or an outfield spot is already in camp working out.  No one is taking anything for granted.


Many of the 2009 Major League teams will be defined by the free agent they signed or did not sign in the off-season.  The 2009 Cardinals will be defined by the strength of their farm system, a system that has come through in the past.


I like it.  I like it a lot.  Most fans would be more comfortable with fewer questions and more proven veterans, but I like the kids.  The young, hungry, talented kids with something to prove.  The 25 men on the opening day roster will be young warriors.  They will have earned their spot.  They will know what it takes to win.