off a triumphant sweep of the Houston Astros, the St. Louis Cardinals traveled
to Arizona to go Diamondback hunting. The Snakes put up a pretty good fight, but the
Cardinals won the series 2-1. The Cardinals are
leading the Central, a full game ahead of the Cubs. Yet, with Carpenter injured again, it feels
like we are losing.
Carpenter, if you are reading this (which, of course, you are not), I want you
to stop now. Fans, continue on:
Carpenter needs to believe that he can comeback and have a full healthy
season. I want him to believe that. However, as fans, we need to be
realistic. The fragility of Carpenter has
been proven over and over. Injuries are
not a matter of “if”, but “when”, “how severe” and “how long”.
few innings he has taken the mound, both this year and last, have been
beautiful. The thing that amazes me most
is the man can be out for months and months, but when he comes back, he throws
fellow fans, we need to thing of Carpenter as gravy. Or, dessert.
Anything he does this year will be a bonus. A treat.
Something to be savored, but not counted on. The rest of the starting rotation has to be
the meat and potatoes. Fortunately, they
are proving that they can be.
#6 – I actually called it
Chris Carpenter made it to the clubhouse at the top of the fourth on Tuesday,
speculation began about who would be called on to start in his spot. Names were tossed about: Kyle McClellan, Brad Thompson, Mitchell
Boggs. However, a different name came to
my mind, and I thought I must be wrong since no one seemed to be saying it.
email to a friend this morning, I gave the name of the Memphis Redbird who I
thought would get the call–just to go on record. When I saw the Chris Perez and Mitchell Boggs
call ups today, I knew I had missed it.
not. Later, I checked St. Louis
Post-Dispatch website, and there he was:
P. J. Walters. Walters will be
joining the Cardinals rotation on Friday against the Cubs, which will give an
extra day of rest for Lohse, Wellemeyer and Pineiro.
I saw P.
J. Walters pitch in Chris Carpenter’s spot in one of the Cardinals’ exhibition
games in Memphis. And, he pitched well,
giving up only one run, which was unearned.
Walters also had a fine start against the Oklahoma City Redhawks, going
seven shutout innings, giving up only 2 hits and 1 walk.
24, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 11th round in 2006. He spent most of 2008 in Triple-A
Memphis. He had a great Spring Training.
He will make his Major League debut at Wrigley Field going against Carlos
Zambrano. It does not get much bigger
than that. Welcome to the bigs, Mr.
on the D-Backs Series
Despite the double loss in Tuesday’s game, there were many positives that came out of this series. Felipe Lopez was not one of them.
year, Felipe Lopez’s major league career was in the waste basket. The Nationals put him on waivers. How bad is your year going when possibly the
worst team in baseball kicks you out?
Cardinals picked him up, dusted him off and he became a new man. He hit like crazy in a Cardinals uniform. He seemed to earn a spot in St. Louis.
Yet, he did not get one. The
Diamondbacks picked him up.
this series, Lopez was very much the rattlesnake we turned our back on. He struck and struck and struck. Hitting the ball again and again. Making great defensive plays. He was a Cardinal killer.
me wrong, I like Lopez. I am glad he is
having success. I just wish he would go
have it against the other National League teams, and not so much mine.
start, Todd Wellemeyer looked like, well, Todd Wellemeyer. That is the Todd Wellemeyer that was named
the National League’s Pitcher of the Month in May of last year. Not, the Todd Wellemeyer that has struggled
in Spring Training. The slight change in
his delivery seemed to do the trick.
Great to have him back on track!
outing rounded out a five game winning streak by Cardinals starting pitching. It
was five beautiful days where, in the best possible way, it was impossible to
tell which pitcher is the staff ace.
Wow. Game winning home run in his first game
against the team that originally drafted him and waivered him. In addition, he made contributions both
offensively and defensively to keep the Cardinals in Tuesday’s game. While we look rather longingly at Felipe
Lopez and wonder what might have been, D-Back fans are scratching their heads
trying to remember why they let Barden go.
a day off on Monday, Molina got a workout behind the plate. In particular, catching seven different
pitchers on Tuesday when Carpenter left after the third.
On top of
that he was an offensive force, taking great at bats ending in clutch hits,
getting on base and even racking up a critical stolen base that put him in
position to score. In two games, he has
racked up two runs, four hits, four RBI’s and three walks. He was on base five out of five times in
Wednesday’s matinee with 3 hits and 2 walks.
the Cardinals look like a great team, with a plethora of tools and moving
parts. As a whole, they have been sharp
and effective. Of course, the
competition has been the Pirates, Astros and Diamondbacks. Not to discount these talented clubs, but
they are not the cubs.
Cardinals go to Wrigley for a four-game series with the Chicago cubs. Their mettle will be tested. Come Monday, we will know.
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!
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.