April 2007

Rolen scratched

Scott Rolen has been scratched from the lineup as a result of an upper back spasm. He woke up in pain, tried to get loose and see if he would be able to play, and just couldn’t get to a point where he was able to be in the lineup.

Scott Spiezio, who is definitely not feeling very good, takes his place, batting fourth and playing third base.

More to come.

-M.

From the couldn't-make-it-up-if-you-tried file

I think people take hallucinogenics in order to induce experiences like this. I just travel covering a baseball team, and sometimes they find me. Not necessarily cheaper, but hopefully fewer long-term side effects. Anyway.

This afternoon, after lunch and before the ballgame, I crossed the Clemente Bridge to visit the Starbucks that lies within walking distance of PNC Park. It was chilly crossing the river, but after they ran out of coffee in the 2nd inning here last night, it was undoubtedly worth it. As I returned to the ballpark, coming off the bridge and approaching the actual grounds of PNC Park, I spotted an odd sight.

A gentleman was leading around an animal of some sort. At first, from a distance, my brain registered emu or ostrich. Nope. Llama. (hi, Dustin!) The man was showing off his llama, and why not — said llama not only had on bunny ears and some Easter-y colored garments, he also was wearing Pirates duds. All on a llama.

I like animals. So I slowed down to admire the llama. Very pretty animal, no doubt about it. And the gentleman asked me if I would like to donate to Pittsburgh Childrens Hospital. I’ll be honest — seeing a dressed-up and well-behaved llama at a baseball park was assuredly worth two dollars to me. So I stuffed a couple of ones in the pouch the llama was wearing on his side. He’s named Pepe. Sir Pepe, more accurately. Apparently a llama of noble descent. And his fur was indeed very soft, as I got to give Sir Pepe a little scratch on the back of his neck. (I did make sure to wash my hands afterward.)

And then I walked on, and the gentleman shepherding the llama continued on. So either I got scammed out of two dollars — and if so, let’s be honest here, it was totally worth it, or the Pittsburgh Childrens Hospital has a show llama on retainer as a fundraiser. Either way, that’s just something you don’t run into every day.

God bless Pittsburgh, city of "It’s time to shoot some hot dogs," the Franco Harris/George Washington statues… and Sir Pepe the llama.

-M.

Keisler to start Tues., Carp likely to DL

As usual, there will be more detail on all of this when my notebook goes up. But in the meantime, here are the morning updates from the pregame chat with TLR:

* Randy Keisler will start in Carpenter’s place on Tuesday. It would be his fifth day, after he went on Thursday in Memphis’ opener.

* The corresponding move likely will be to place Carpenter on the DL. He flew with the team out of Houston, then headed back to STL last night. He’s being checked out by Paletta today.

* Scott Spiezio is ill; he apparently has something resembling food poisoning. It’s uncertain whether he’ll come to the park or stay back at the hotel.

-M.

Lucky Seven, the-sky-is-falling edition

Here’s the first Lucky Seven ever posted with the Cardinals 0-3. For what that’s worth.

1. People seem pretty dissatisfied with the outfield so far. What’s the solution? Call up Rodriguez and play him regularly? Commit to Ankiel? Remember that , if Anks is called up, you’re pretty much committing to playing him every day because he needs the ABs. Make a trade, and if so for whom? (Milwaukee has excess OFs, to name one option, but remember if you trade to get an OF, you remove one chip for a possible trade for bullpen help). Play Schumaker every day, or otherwise re-jigger the playing time of the guys currently on the roster? Sit tight and have faith that things will work out? Nothing is off limits, but remember that any action has real-world consequences.

2. Same question, but about the bullpen. If you don’t like it, what do you propose they do about it? Or do you think the bullpen is just fine? Any well-considered viewpoint is invited.

3. Grade Wells’ and Looper’s first starts. Why did you like or not like what you saw? What do you want to see them do going forward?

4. What’s your take on the overall level of play by the Cards to this point? Championship hangover? Distracted by ceremonies and whatnot? Just not a very good ballclub? Playing decent but a couple of key points have turned against them? A good team that simply had a bad series? Basically, what do you make of games 1-3 in terms of things like defense, baserunning, quality of at-bats, etc.?

5. What player impressed you most in the first few days of the season from games OTHER than the Mets-Cards series?

6. As a follow-up to last week, what’s the best city in America for a weekend getaway? The catch is this — you can’t name any of the three most obvious (to me): New York, Chicago and San Francisco are all off limits.

7. Also as a follow-up to last week, what’s the last fiction book you read that you would heartily recommend to someone?

-M.

Clearing out my figurative notebook

Your faithful correspondent is not going to Houston, which is frustrating (well, professionally frustrating; personally, it’ll be wonderful to have a weekend with Mrs. Dude!) but necessary for a variety of reasons. Back on it in Pittsburgh for the opener there.

Anyway, with that, I wanted to clear out a bunch of stuff that I’ve had in my head in recent days. Some ball, some not.

* Please welcome Daniel Berk, who will be the associate reporter on StLCardinals.com this year. I’m excited to have him on board. He’s had some good experience already, and I think he did a very nice job over this opening series. Conor Nicholl, who did a more-than-solid job in the same role last year, is now the associate at royals.mlb.com, and I wish him well. I’ll be reading him.

* I’ll go into more detail about these teams later, but my I Have A Feeling teams this year are all in two divisions: Diamonbacks (I’m with Joe Sheehan, these guys might be really, really good), Rockies (above .500, worth watching), Rangers and Mariners.

* Picks for 07: Mets, Cards, Dodgers, D’backs in NL; Yanks, Sawx, Indians, Rangers in AL. MVPs Pujols and V.Wells, CYs Oswalt and Santana. Other teams I expect to be very much in the mix are MIL, ATL, the entire AL West, the entire AL Central except KC.

* For those of you in St. Louis, if you can grab a ticket, go check out the Frozen Four this weekend. College hockey is the best game nobody knows about. It’s extremely fast, a skating-based game. Yet it’s also physical, but without being dominated by goons. In-person college hockey is wonderfully entertaining stuff.

* Regarding the Jimmie Johnson-Jeff Gordon finish: anybody who expects ANY driver to give room when they’re battling for first place with 50 laps to go at a short track hasn’t watched much racing. It’s one thing to expect your teammate, or anybody, to give way when it’s for 10th place midway through the race. When you’re racing for first, late in the race, there’s no such thing as "blocking." It’s all racing for the win.

* Regarding the Car of Tomorrow: if it’s harder for the drivers to drive, that’s good. Cars that are hard to drive equal more entertaining racing. Go back and check out the races from as recently as the 80s, when the cars were big boxes and everybody was sliding around on bias-ply tires. Good stuff.

* Been on a run of good music acquisitions lately. Alternating constantly between the new Modest Mouse, the new Kings of Leon (huge step forward, and I’m loving it) and the new LCD Soundsystem (thanks for the recommendation, Jacob, really good stuff, and it’s what I’m listening to right now).

Anyway. I’ll have a Lucky Seven this weekend, and maybe some other stuff too, so don’t just bail on me over the weekend. And for Pete’s sake, all of you please be good to each other. Please?

-M.

Carp update

I’ll flesh this out later tonight (or earlier in the morning), but wanted to get it out there now:

Carpenter will play catch on Friday in Houston, with the idea being that he will throw a bullpen on Saturday and start Tuesday. The swelling in his elbow has dramatically subsided and the range of motion is back, so he’s feeling optimistic. Essentially, he’s going about things as though he will start Tuesday. If there are any setbacks, obviously the plans will change. But the way he’s proceeding is so as to pitch on Tuesday against the Buccos.

-M.

Carp to miss a start

Chris Carpenter has some inflammation in his right elbow and will skip his scheduled Friday start. He has not been placed on the DL.

For the time being, everyone will be bumped up a day. Wainwright will start Friday, Reyes Saturday, Wells Sunday, Looper Monday and then they’ll have a decision to make on Tuesday. A story will be up on the site before long, and we’ll flesh it out further as more info becomes available.

-M.

The Ballpark

So, to my eye, and in conversations with other folks around here, the ballpark just feels nicer this year. The press box is dramatically upgraded, which we appreciate, but that’s not the only thing. It’s all the little things. The championship bat handles above the video board, the video board itself, and plenty of other stuff.

It just feels like this is the finished product of new Busch Stadium. And it feels like a nice ballpark.

For those of you who attended on Sunday night, what say you? And any others who attend over the coming days, please offer your opinions too. I’m much higher on Busch III today than I was six months ago.

-M.

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