February 2009

More Saturday tidbits — all pre-arb players sign

* Some good news came down this morning, as all 17 unsigned players agreed to contracts with the Cardinals on Saturday. The club did not renew any of the 17, instead reaching agreements. The names: Mitchell Boggs, Jaime Garcia, Blake Hawksworth, Josh Kinney, Charlie Manning, Kyle McClellan, Jason Motte, Chris Perez, Matt Scherer, Brian Barden, Tyler Greene, Jarrett Hoffpauir, Brendan Ryan, Brian Barton, Joe Mather, Skip Schumaker and Nick Stavinoha.

* The Cardinals also got good news on Clayton Mortensen this morning.
According to GM John Mozeliak, the MRI exam on Mortensen’s elbow came
back negative, a development which Mozeliak called “very encouraging
news.” Mortensen is out with elbow tendinitis.

* Albert Pujols is not expected to play in Thursday’s game against the Dominican Republic’s World Baseball Classic team. TLR’s official explanation was that Pujols will benefit from having consecutive days off (since Wednesday is an off day for the whole team), but also there’s definitely some concern that Pujols might get a bit too “amped up” for that game when perhaps his preparation isn’t far enough advanced to justify that.

* Gen. Hal Moore, the man at the heart of the story in the movie “We Were Soldiers” (and the book “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young”) will likely visit camp on Monday. TLR left flyers on every player’s stool this morning to ensure they all know who he is. Moore is just about an annual visitor to camp.

* TLR on Molina hitting second: “There was a hole there, the way the lineup was shaking out. He’s also a .300 hitter. And he stole a base yesterday — our most recent stolen base.” Obviously the last part was said tongue-in-cheek.

-M.

Saturday morning lineup/tidbits

Big day here at RDS, with Chris Carpenter taking the mound at 1:05 this afternoon.

* Today’s lineup: 1.Schumaker 2B — 2.Molina C — 3.Pujols 1B — 4.Ankiel CF — 5.Ludwick RF — 6.Duncan LF — 7.Greene SS — 8.Mather 3B — 9.Jay DH

* Brendan Ryan said this morning that he has not had a shot in his wrist, but that he has progressed to the next-most-intensive degree of anti-inflammatory medicine. It’s a six-day cycle and he’s on day three.

* Hyang-Nam Choi is listed as an available pitcher on the list today, and is on the roster as an NRI. He is wearing No. 93. Recent additions Mark McCormick (94) and Trey Hearne (95) are also available.

* Adam Wainwright is expecting to participate in the pro-am for next week’s Honda Classic, participating in a group that includes Kenny G, Joe Theisman and a pro golfer. Chris Carpenter may serve as Wainwright’s caddy.

-M.

Opening Day roster projection, first guess

This is one of my favorite traditions here at OYNAG, and it’s a little more difficult and interesting this year with all of the variables. So let’s get to it, and please feel free to contribute. The traffic has been unbelievable, but the comments have been sparse — y’all are always invited to participate, as long as you’re civil and respectful.

Starting pitchers (5)
Adam Wainwright
Chris Carpenter
Kyle Lohse
Todd Wellemeyer
Joel Pineiro

Relief pitchers (7)
Ryan Franklin
Trever Miller
Kyle McClellan
Chris Perez
Josh Kinney
Royce Ring
Brad Thompson

Catchers (2)
Yadier Molina
Jason LaRue

Infielders (6)
Albert Pujols
Skip Schumaker
Khalil Greene
Joe Mather
Brendan Ryan
Tyler Greene

Outfielders (5)
Rick Ankiel
Ryan Ludwick
Chris Duncan
Colby Rasmus
Brian Barton

Notes:
* Two days ago I told 101ESPN’s Brian Feldman, when he brought up the possibility of Barton making the team, that I just couldn’t see it. Now I’ve put it all together, and it looks much likelier than when I said that. BUT…

* One possible alternative is to replace Barton with another infielder. Essentially take 4 outfielders, 6 infielders and Mather who kind of counts as both. I can definitely see that.

* By far the hardest call at this point is the last bullpen spot. I just am guessing right now that if they have that many one-inning guys, they will take a long man in Thompson. But obviously Motte threw really well today, and he could be the Opening Day closer just as easily as he could be in Memphis.

* Next hardest is the last two infield spots. Ryan’s health will obviously be a huge factor here. If he’s out for a long time, it drastically cuts his chances of opening the season in StL. I think Mather will open the season as the 3B, and if Freese isn’t starting, I can’t really envision him on the roster. I just have a hunch about Greene, who right now is one of the early camp darlings, but I definitely would not rule out Barden. Thurston right now appears to be fourth in that race.

* I would not rule out the possibility of a LHRP signing before camp is out.

Now playing on the iPod: the wonderful “49 songs for 49 days” playlist that Mrs. Dude made for me before I left. “Without a Trace” by Soul Asylum is a really, really great song.

And one final thing: Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MatthewHLeach.

-M.

Friday afternoon tidbits: Ryan and Freese out for a while

It was far from a pretty game here at Tradition Field, but the visitors picked up a win. Rick Ankiel’s diving catch in center was pretty sensational.

* David Freese and Brendan Ryan are both “improving slightly,” according to TLR, but out for at least another several days. The mgr does not expect either infielder to play until after the off day on Wednesday.

* Todd Wellemeyer departed before we got a chance to talk to him, so I’m unable to bring you his take on his performance today. To my eye, it looked sort of meh. LOT of pitches for two innings, but it is February after all.

* Jason Motte and PJ Walters both pitched quite well, with Motte particularly impressive to my eye. Rough one for Adam Ottavino.

* Tomorrow is a pretty big day, with Chris Carpenter taking the mound against the Nationals. If nothing else, it’s nice to go to the park knowing what you’re going to write.

Today’s playlist:
Electronic: “Getting Away With It”
U2: “All Because Of You”
Bruce Springsteen: “Working On a Dream”
Spoon: “The Underdog”
Elvis Costello: “This Year’s Girl”

-M.

Thursday updates and clarifications

We’re under way at FtL Stadium, and Joe Mather just made the best play I’ve seen this spring — diving to his right to corral a hard shot from Nick Markakis, he throws from his knees and gets Markakis. Very impressive.

* Per John Mozeliak, Mortensen has tendinitis in his right elbow and will be re-evaluated tomorrow.

* TLR floated the idea of the Orioles loaning a pitcher or two to St. Louis, to benefit both teams. The O’s have 37 pitchers in camp, while the Cards are concerned about finding enough pitchers to cover all the innings. However, the idea has been nixed by the Cards before it was ever taken to MLB offices.

* Instead, the Cardinals are bringing two more pitchers into camp: Mark McCormick and Trey Hearne. Each has been facing hitters and should be able to slide right into game action when needed.

-M.

Thursday morning tidbits: Mortensen is sore

Hello from breezy Fort Lauderdale Stadium, which received a major upgrade this year: functioning wifi in the press box. Huzzah!

* Today’s lineup: 1.Thurston 2b — 2.Mather 3B — 3.Rasmus CF — 4.Ludwick RF — 5.Duncan 1B — 6.Molina C — 7.Barton DH — 8.Jay LF — 9.TGreene SS

* TLR said that Clayton Mortensen is dealing with a sore elbow and “is being shut down for at least one turn.” I’m following up to see what else I can find.

* Mitchell Boggs has advanced to throwing live batting practice, but probably is at least a week away from being able to pitch in games.

* Those two, plus the Matt Scherer injury, add up to a shortage of available pitching for the Cardinals. They are concerned and looking into alternatives, but it’s not entirely clear what the alternatives are at this point. I’ll have more on this topic later today.

* Tyler Greene’s start is the first earned start of the spring, i.e. the first time a player’s good game earned him playing time the next day. Greene is one of the early-early eye-openers of this camp.

Today’s playlist:
Black Crowes, “Twice As Hard”
The Four Horsemen: “Tired Wings”
Guns N’ Roses: “14 Years”
Metallica: “Sad But True”
Temple of the Dog: “Say Hello 2 Heaven”

-M.

Wednesday camp tidbits: Looking at the lineup

Pleased to report that in 98 minutes, they’ll be playing ball. Here are the tidbits from this morning…

* Yadier Molina isn’t playing today because he’ll play the next three games. The Cardinals want to maximize the time he works with the scheduled starting rotation before he leaves to play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Thus, today, with Blake Hawksworth and a bunch of kids pitching, LaRue gets the call, and the next three days with Lohse, Wellemeyer and Carpenter, it’ll be Molina.

* TLR acknowledged that Mather’s status with the club is reflected in his new Major League number. He didn’t promise Mather a spot, but made it clear that “Joey Bombs” is in good shape. Key quote: “I think whether it’s third base or someplace [else], I think Joe’s got a chance to make our club.” It may sound wishy-washy, but it’s an endorsement.

* We talked a good bit in the morning session about the cleanup spot, and what TLR wants from there. It’s Ankiel today, and ideally he prefers to have a lefty there because in general he likes going L-R-L-R as much as possible. He didn’t rule out Ludwick or Duncan there, but also emphasized his long-held belief that he doesn’t want guys TRYING to hit for power. Money quote: “I project the cleanup hitter as a productive hitter that can get a clutch base hit. Power is something that, if you’ve got it, you’ve got it. If you hit 25 home runs and you hit .220, you can’t hit fourth. You can hit 35 home runs and hit .220 — that’s only 35 hits.”

Today’s themed playlist:
Pearl Jam, “Go”
Rolling Stones, “Start Me Up”
Handsome Boy Modeling School: “First… And Then”
R.E.M.: “Begin the Begin”
Drive-By Truckers: “Opening Act”

-M.

Wednesday lineup: Mather bats 9th

Today’s lineup vs. Florida, start time 12:05 p.m. CT:
1. Schumaker 2B
2. Rasmus LF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Ankiel CF
5. Ludwick RF
6. Duncan DH
7. K. Greene SS
8. LaRue C
9. Mather 3B

Scheduled to pitch: Blake Hawksworth (starter), Fernando Salas, Francisco Samuel, Shaun Garceau, Royce Ring, Brad Furnish, Katsuhiko Maekawa.

Cardinals are listed as the home team at Roger Dean Stadium today.

-M.

Tuesday afternoon tidbits: Mather gets a big-boy number

Couple of late nuggets:

* Joe Mather has been issued No. 7, a significant improvement from the 62 he had been wearing. As always, nothing in Cardinals camp is accidental, and it’s hard to imagine them giving Mather a number like that if they didn’t expect him to wear it while riding around Busch Stadium in the back of a Ford.

* Brian Barden had the play of the scrimmage this afternoon, ranging deep into the hole at shortstop to backhand a ball and throw out Justin Knoedler. OK, it’s a catcher he threw out, but it was a very nice play. In his one tough chance, Skip Schumaker handled a ball nicely on a diving stop to his right LEFT (sorry, ack!), but made a somewhat errant throw (a tough throw, likely would have been scored a hit) on a ball hit by Joe Thurston.

* Didn’t see a lot of live BP (because there wasn’t much), but Chris Carpenter’s session looked a lot like his previous one. His command was a bit iffy, but his stuff was good — and the command got better as he went on.

-M.

Tuesday camp tidbits: Fehr and the lineup

Busy day here in camp. The clubhouse was closed to media from 8:30 am because of the annual Players’ Association meeting.

* Donald Fehr addressed media after he met with the players, and we’ll have a story up on the site about what he had to say to us.

* Left-hander Justin Fiske is in camp and throwing live BP today. He’ll provide some extra depth, as the field staff is a bit concerned about having enough pitchers to cover all the innings early in camp. Fiske went 4-0 with a 3.26 ERA, 96 Ks and 35 BB in 85 2/3 innings across three levels last year. He made 40 appearances, 10 starts.

* Tomorrow’s starting lineup, not in order obviously: LaRue C, Pujols 1B, Schumaker 2B, Mather 3B, K.Greene SS, Rasmus LF, Ankiel CF, Ludwick RF, Duncan DH, Hawksworth P.

* The Cardinals will hold a “coaches’ game” later this afternoon, with two 13-man teams (eight players in the field and 5 DHs on each side). Coaches pitch BP in these games, rather than pitchers. The losing side provides “beverage service” for the winners. In the past, the stakes were higher — winning team got to skip an unpleasant road trip — but this year it’s something smaller.

* Chris Carpenter throws live BP today, then a bullpen on Thursday before pitching in Saturday’s game. Also live today: Tyler Herron, Ryan Franklin and Clayton Mortensen.

Today’s playlist:
Rolling Stones, “Factory Girl”
Clash, “Safe European Home”
Material Issue, “Very First Lie”
Jack Johnson, “Mudfootball”
Pearl Jam, “Daughter”

-M.

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