July 2008

Deadline passes quietly

Just got confirmation from Mozeliak that nothing got done before the Deadline.

-M.

Late night stuff: Schumaker, Ohman

* Skip Schumaker came out of the game with a hamstring cramp. He’s
still a Cardinal, and he should be available to play tomorrow.

His comment:

It’s hot as hell out there, and obviously I didn’t
hydrate enough. I slid into second and just locked up, like a baseball in my
hamstring. As soon as I straightened up, I was fine.”

* Don’t get too ahead of yourselves on the Will Ohman frenzy. My friend and colleague Mark Bowman reports that Ohman to STL is not only not a done deal, but is highly unlikely to happen.

-M.

Carpenter in, Flores out

In order to activate Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals have optioned Randy Flores to Memphis.

-M.

Sunday tidbits: Ank sits

Greetings from Shea, where I won’t mind if I never cover another game. Hurry up, Citi Field!

* Rick Ankiel is out of the starting lineup with an abdominal strain, which he sustained last night. Not much word on the severity yet, whether he could pinch-hit or anything like that.

* I haven’t gotten a final word on Chris Carpenter’s bullpen session today, but by all accounts, it’s a formality. He’s starting Wednesday.

* The weather is OK for now, but the reports are that it could be hit-and-miss all afternoon. Something popping up here or there.

* TLR reiterated today that he thinks that both Isringhausen and Franklin are “distracted” by questions about roles and whatnot. I asked him what could be done, and he said talk it through with them. Derrick Goold followed by asking whether a flat-out declaration might accomplish that, and TLR made one.

“When Franklin’s fresh, he’s the guy that gets the ninth inning. We’ll try to keep him as fresh as we can. He’s the best guy we have for that role.”

-M.

Carp Wednesday

Pending a successful bullpen session tomorrow, Chris Carpenter will start Wednesday in Atlanta.

-M.

Just say no

“Just my thoughts, man, right or wrong…”

(i.e., what follows is my opinion, my opinion only, no statement on behalf of anyone else, etc etc etc)

The Cardinals must resist the temptation to use Adam Wainwright in relief. It just doesn’t make sense.

The difference in value between an elite starter and even an excellent reliever is huge. And make no mistake, Wainwright has established himself as not merely a quality starter, but an elite one. You don’t mess with that. You take advantage of it, because there just aren’t many guys who bring what he brings.

Besides, simply by going in the rotation, Wainwright will essentially take the place of one reliever every five days.

When Chris Carpenter returns, it’s clear he’ll take the No. 5 spot, most recently held by Mitchell Boggs. When Wainwright returns, the Cards have three viable options to bump from the rotation: Joel Pineiro, Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer. Obviously Kyle Lohse will continue starting.

Pineiro has averaged 5.9 innings per start. Wellemeyer has averaged 5.8. Looper has averaged 5.7. Wainwright? Try 7.05 innings per start. Putting aside effectiveness, the increase in innings makes a difference in itself. Wainwright likely won’t go seven in his first start or two, but assuming he’s recovered, he’ll be up to that level before long.

And there’s also a difference in effectiveness. Wellemeyer in particular has struggled recently. Since he returned from his elbow trouble, he has a 5.51 ERA, has averaged 5.4 innings per start and the Cardinals have gone 1-5. Wellemeyer was outstanding early this year, but it is clear that he hasn’t fully returned to effectiveness since the injury. It’s not unreasonable to think that pitching fewer innings, as a reliever, might benefit him greatly.

Oh, and one other thing: Wainwright doesn’t want to go back to the bullpen. It’s not as though he’d make a big fuss if the move were made, but you can bet he wouldn’t be happy about it.

-M.

A token of respect

Tonight’s seventh and eighth innings made something clear, if it hadn’t been clear already. In the eyes of the Cardinals’ field staff, Kyle Lohse has established himself as a frontline guy.

Of course, the party line is always, ‘Whoever is starting today is the No. 1 starter.’ And, yeah, you definitely want your starters thinking that way. But the way that TLR and Duncan actually handle their starters tells another story.

Most of the time, a TLR/DD starter will be lifted when he gets into trouble in the late innings. After all, these are the guys who are practically synonymous with bullpen specialization. Even some good starters, even some hot starters, receive this treatment more often than not.

Witness somebody like Wellemeyer in the first two months of this year, when he was dealing — they chose to err on the side of getting him out too early, rather than too late, in a winning game.

But once in a while, a guy earns lots of rope. He gets the chance to try to finish a game when a CG is within sight. He gets the chance to work out of trouble. Matt Morris was in that category. Woody Williams at times was in that category. Obviously Chris Carpenter is in it. By the end of last year, Adam Wainwright earned his way into it.

Now it appears Kyle Lohse may be in that group. Lohse got in trouble in the seventh in a close game — and the bullpen never stirred. He got into even more trouble in the eighth, with his pitch count over 100, and stayed in even when the tying run scored and the go-ahead run got on base.

One common TLR refrain when he lifts a pitcher who was going well is, “I wasn’t going to let him be the losing pitcher.” That is, he’s pitched so well it would be unfair if he took the loss. Well, Lohse has now apparently crossed over into the category where he’s the horse, and it’s his game.

The point of this, by the way, is not for me to make a value judgment. I’m not suggesting that staying with Lohse was the right move or the wrong one. Just making an observation that I suspect will hold true as the weeks go forward. They trust him now. For the time being, Lohse is Their Guy.

-M.

Tuesday afternoon tidbit: Duncan on DL, Wainwright on mound

Greetings…

* Chris Duncan is on the disabled list with what has alternately been called a bulging disc and a pinched nerve in his neck. Joe Mather has been recalled from Memphis and is present and available.

* Adam Wainwright threw off a mound today for the first time since his finger injury. He anticipates a quick path back to the active roster, possibly as soon as 2 1/2 weeks (ie, the series at Wrigley). Also, for the conspiracy theorists, he dismissively laughed at the notion of returning in relief.

* Chris Carpenter threw his normal between-starts bullpen today and even took batting practice.

-M.

I'd rather be lucky than good

I come to you from the main press box at Yankee Stadium, and things are warming up at T-minus three hours till game time. The players have arrived, and they’re signing stuff, trading stuff and getting their free iPods and other goodies. The media have arrived and staked out our work spaces. And at this moment, it appears the gates have opened to fans, and the AL stars are taking batting practice.

I’ve already had a pretty full day. Along with fellow dot-commers Alyson Footer, Anthony Castrovince and Corey Brock, I recorded a “roundtable” video program at MLB.com’s studios in Chelsea. Then I picked up some Fat Witch brownies (hi, Erin!) and completed the Manhattan Espresso Tour with a shot at Ninth Street Espresso’s location in Chelsea Market.

From there it was on to The Stadium, with stops for plenty of photos between when I arrived on the subway and when I actually walked through the press gate. Made a visit to Monument Park, my first time ever going out there, and yeah, it was very cool.

One thing I’ve noticed all day — everybody is taking photos. Media, stadium and league officials, security and police, everybody. This event is a big deal.

So I came upstairs and set up in the main box, where I’m extremely lucky to be stationed tonight. I’ve never seen an All-Star Game from anywhere other than a workroom, so this will be special.

The highlight of the day so far for me, though, came shortly thereafter. I ran across some Cardinals officials, and knowing that one of my assignments tonight is a story on starting the countdown to the 2009 game, I asked one official if he had a few minutes to spare.

But he did much more than spare a few minutes — I was invited along on their tour of the stadium. While a large delegation of Cards representatives saw all the things they’ve done to Yankee Stadium to prepare it for the All-Star Game, I got to tag along. All the nooks and crannies, all the rooms they converted into special-purpose spaces for just this week. Very, very cool, and simply a product of some perfect timing.

Now it’s time to start looking ahead to the game, and this may be my last post tonight on OYNAG. That’s because I’ll be live-blogging the game for MLB.com. Come on over to AllStarGame.MLBlogs.com, starting at about 6 pm CT, for frequent updates throughout the evening.

-M, off to buy souvenirs.

Wow. Just, wow.

I was on Chase Utley duty tonight in the Derby. My story was about Utley, his exploits on field and on the airwaves. And Justin Morneau won the Derby.

But really. There was one topic tonight. Josh Freakin Hamilton. Holy cow.

Down here in the workroom in the nether regions of The Stadium, all of us non-main-press-box scribes crowded around a 13-inch TV and watched Hamilton put on a show. And we reacted just like anybody else. No hardened cynics here. Shouts of “WOW” and “No WAY” and plenty of unprintable things. One fellow MLB.com writer said, “That’s one of the only times I’ve ever been in _awe_ of something someone did on a baseball field.”

So after watching that, I headed over to the NL clubhouse to chat with Mr. Utley about his evening. As several of us were standing outside the clubhouse, a number of players passed by. Dan Uggla walked past, and without anyone saying a word to him, he just said to no one in particular, “That’s not fair.”

Few minutes later, same thing with Ryan Braun. He walks past the mass of reporters, and just starts marveling aloud — not in an interview or anything, just a function of how impressed he was — “That was incredible. I’m just glad to be a part of it. I don’t know what to say.”

After all of that, I finally got in the scrum to talk to Utley. He talked a smidge about his homers, apologized for his on-air indiscretion, then, of course, talked about Hamilton. Because everybody was talking about Hamilton.

I was fortunate enough to finish my story before the final round, so I was able to go out and be among the crowd for the final. And the atmosphere was remarkable. The crowd was trying to will Hamilton to win. They were chanting his name, standing up, hollering — they were INVESTED in it. I’ve been to HR Derbys before, but never seen a crowd that cared that much about the outcome of one. This guy just really captured a crowd at one of the greatest stages in sport.

Really, really fun night. Can’t wait for tomorrow.

-M.

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