June 2009

Friday early tidbits: Walters up, Barden down

* The Cardinals went back to 13 pitchers today, recalling P.J. Walters from Triple-A Memphis and optioning Brian Barden to Memphis.

* Got some updates from FSN today, a few changes to the TV schedule: the June 20 game at home against Kansas City will move up to a 3:10 p.m. CT start and will be on FOX. The July 23 makeup game at Washington will start at 6:05 p.m. CT and will be on FSN Midwest. The Aug. 1 game vs. Houston has been moved back to 6:15 p.m. CT and will now be an FSN Midwest game. And the Aug. 3 game vs. Milwaukee has been switched to KSDK (channel 5) but is still set for a 12:15 p.m. CT start.

* Albert Pujols is leading in the “fan poll” for the Home Run Derby. It’s a non-binding vote, but…

-M.

Monday tidbits: Thurston going west, Greene south

It’s a hazy, humid day in downtown St. Louis, but after this morning’s storm, it at least looks like we’re going to get a game started. The forecast looks nice for the afternoon, with the next round of storms evidently holding off till tonight. So that’s nice.

Here are the tidbits, with a major assist from associate reporter B.J. Rains:

* When the Cardinals head to Florida after the game this afternoon, Joe Thurston will fly west to be with his pregnant wife. It’s expected that doctors will induce labor in California tomorrow, and Thurston will get on a plane Wednesday evening in order to join the team in Florida on Thursday.

* Khalil Greene, meanwhile, is making a shorter trip. Greene is headed south to Memphis, where he will begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment for the Cards’ Triple-A affiliate. He is on the disabled list due to social anxiety disorder.

* TLR did not sound all that inclined toward any imminent promotion for Joe Mather. “He’s got work to do there,” the manager said when Mather’s name was brought up. Mather is clearly coming around, going 8-for-20 with four XBH in June.

* Blake Hawksworth is probably available to pitch again tomorrow, but not today.

* Tyler Greene is at third base. TLR on the infield configuration, with Schumaker at 2B, Ryan at SS and Greene at 3B: “He played it in Spring Training. When these guys play, I think evidently that’s the better combination, to play him at third. He fits third base better than Brendan does. But Brendan could do it too if he had to.”

* The pitcher is back to the 8th spot after a one-day experiment the other way. Quote: “I go back to what I think normally is the thing to do. When you’re trying to get people on base ahead of Albert, I don’t know who would argue that Brendan Ryan doesn’t have a better chance to get on base than Thompson.”

* The Cardinals worked out two Draft prospects this morning. With John Mozeliak and members of the scouting department looking on, Indiana junior catcher Josh Phegley and Notre Dame junior outfielder/infielder A.J. Pollock.

According to the MLB.com scouting reports, Phegley is an offense-first catcher with legitimate hitting skills, but some question his future as a catcher. He was named first-team all-Big 10 this year and batter 344/456/633 with 17 home runs in 221 at-bats.

Per that same source, Pollock is “one of the better pure college hitters” in this year’s Draft but doesn’t have much power and doesn’t project to have much down the road. He was converted from shortstop to the outfield and is still learning but is believed to have potential to be a quality flycatcher. He put up a 365/443/610 line for the Irish this year with 21 steals in 25 attempts.

Today’s playlist:
Pet Shop Boys: “Suburbia”
Mute Math, “Spotlight”
Cold War Kids, “Hang Me Up to Dry”
Keane, “Spiraling”
Elefant, “Misfit”

-M.

Saturday afternoon lineup and tidbits: Hawksworth up, Todd down

It’s a gorgeous Saturday afternoon/evening in downtown StL. Let’s get on with the tidbits…

* Blake Hawksworth was recalled from Triple-A Memphis today, with Jess Todd being optioned back to Memphis. It sounds very much as though Hawksworth would have been called two days ago, but he wasn’t available because he’d started so recently. Now, Hawksworth is on his regular fifth day, and available to pitch immediately.

Hawksworth steps in as the long reliever that Todd was not conditioned to be.

“Whenever there’s an inning that needs to be pitched, or two innings, or five innings,” TLR said when asked about Hawksworth’s role. “It’s exactly what we do with Brad [Thompson]. He can pitch in a game we’re winning. He can pitch in a game we’re losing. He can pitch at any time. He may have to make an adjustment to his warmup. He’s a typical starter who has a starting routine. But he’ll make the adjustment.”

In 10 starts at Memphis, Hawksworth was 5-4 with a 3.92 ERA. More encouragingly, and more tellingly, he had 51 strikeouts against 19 walks in 62 innings, and he’d only allowed three home runs. Over his last five starts, he had 33 strikeouts and six walks.

* Jason LaRue is catching again tonight, but TLR said that it has nothing to do with who’s pitching. He said Yadier Molina is getting an extra day to recover from being hit in the head by Todd Helton’s bat on Friday night.

“His bell got really rung yesterday by Helton,” La Russa said. “It stung him. So I’m going to give him a day. Yadi was catching this guy today. But I thought when you put everything together, I’d rather give him a day to clear his head.”

Molina is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday. TLR said that Molina had been checked out and was found not to have a concussion.

* The starters remain unchanged for the next two days. Joel Pineiro is on track to start Sunday’s game, with Thompson going on Monday. And remember, Monday is a day game.

* Today’s lineup vs. RHP Aaron Cook:
1. Schumaker 2B
2. Ankiel CF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Ludwick RF
5. Duncan LF
6. LaRue C
7. Thurston 3B
8. Wellemeyer P
9. T.Greene SS

TLR said that Ankiel is in the two spot in large part because he’s had success against Cook.

Today’s playlist, with a Colorado flavor:
Dressy Bessy, “Side 2″
Flobots, “Handlebars”
Big Head Todd and the Monsters, “Bittersweet”
Jill Sobule, “I Kissed a Girl”
U2, “Gloria” (live at Red Rocks, of course)

-M.

Thursday night tidbits

We start with the personal, so either humor me or skip down a couple of paragraphs. Today is my dad’s birthday, so I want to wish him a very happy birthday and let the world know that I have the best dad in the entire world. Thank you for everything.

Tomorrow, meanwhile, is my wife’s birthday, so I won’t be at the ballpark. We’ll be celebrating the amazing Mrs. Dude’s special day. I also have the best wife in the entire world, and she deserves huge thanks and appreciation for everything she does as well. So, yeah, life is good.

Anyway, on to the tidbits. I’ll be back at the park on Saturday.

* I covered the pregame news in these two articles. TLR had a lot to say on the topic of acquisitions, and it really was an interesting chat. I got a very different vibe as compared to last summer in Philadelphia, where he basically put out a message that he was seeking help for his roster. Today, I got the impression that he really believes things are shaking and something significant may get done. Fascinating session.

* A couple of stats for you… Albert Pujols has at least one extra-base hit in each of his past six games. He also has reached base by hit or walk at least twice in 15 consecutive games. Going back to 1954, that is the second-longest such streak by a Cardinal (according to the amazing BaseballReference.com and their even more amazing Play Index). The only longer one was by Stan Musial, who had 16 straight from April 17-May 7, 1958. Keith Hernandez also had a 15-game streak in 1980.

* TLR, on whether there are parallels between Carpenter and Dave Stewart: “They’re true No. 1s in the sense that they want that responsibility of leadership. They’re going to compete to the last breath all the time. And when they’re not pitching, they’re very into the rest of the tema. Not just the starting pitchers but the rest of the team.”

Tonight’s playlist is one for Dad:
Emmylou Harris, “Boulder to Birmingham”
John Prine, “Souvenirs”
Rolling Stones, “Dead Flowers”
Led Zeppelin, “Hey Hey What Can I Do”
Steve Earle, “Copperhead Road”

-M.

Lohse lifted

ST. LOUIS — Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse was removed from the team’s game against the Reds on Wednesday night due to a recurrence of right forearm discomfort.

The club officially said that Lohse was pulled because of “tightness” in the area. It’s the same place where Lohse was hit by a pitch in his last outing, causing him to be bumped back in the rotation twice.

Lohse threw 39 pitches, and after his last offering, a 2-1 pitch to Reds infielder Jerry Hairston that went for a ball, the game was delayed. Head athletic trainer Barry Weinberg and manager Tony La Russa came out to check on Lohse, and he was quickly lifted.

He gave way to Blaine Boyer. Lohse permitted two runs, one earned, in two-plus innings, with a strikeout and no walks. He was starting for the first time since May 23.

Wednesday evening tidbits

I’m quite sure I saw something for the first time just a couple of minutes ago: a vendor selling hot chocolate at Busch Stadium in June. Curious. It’s overcast and gray, and the video board in the bullpen says it’s 62 degrees right now. Strange days indeed.

I don’t have a lot of tidbits for you today, because the manager’s session was a little less meaty than some days. Got a few things, though.

* Joel Pineiro remains on track and confident that he’ll be able to take the ball on Sunday against the Rockies. For now, Thompson is the contingency plan. Ideally, though, by the time Thompson would be available to relieve, they’ll have an even clearer read on Pineiro.

* TLR on staying with 13 pitchers: “Playing a player short has been good for us. There’s been a minimum of [undesirable] innings pitched by relievers.”

* TLR acknowledged that he’s noticed Joe Mather’s recent return to form.

“I saw the quotes from [Memphis manager Chris] Maloney,” he said. “It sounds like he’s got some bat speed bat. Yeah, I pay a lot of attention to that.”

However, he stopped short of saying that once Mather is right, he’ll be called up right away.

“It depends on what’s happening here too. He’s not going to take Stavinoha’s job right now. It depends on what you need.”

Tonight’s playlist is mostly loud and uptempo, in hopes of helping me shake the haze that I feel like I’ve been walking around in all afternoon:

Muse: “Stockholm Syndrome”
Megadeth: “Peace Sells”
Rage Against the Machine: “Testify”
System of a Down: “Revenga”
Chevelle: “The Clincher”

-M.

Wednesday lineup; tidbits to follow

Lineup vs RHP Johnny Cueto:
1. Schumaker 2B
2. Duncan LF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Ludwick RF
5. Ankiel CF
6. Molina C
7. Thurston 3B
8. Lohse P
9. Ryan SS

-M.

Monday tidbits: Glaus update, and lots more

Greetings on a warm night at Busch Stadium. Summer arrived in St. Louis today.

* John Mozeliak just briefed reporters on Troy Glaus’ condition. The club had a conference call today that included Mozeliak, the athletic training staff and Keith Kocher, the physical therapist with whom Glaus is working out in Arizona.

Glaus has been cleared to begin a throwing program, with other baseball activities to follow. Mozeliak referred to the call as “encouraging,” but also said he doesn’t really have any more optimism regarding Glaus than he did last week. The rough timetable for Glaus, as of now, is a return to Major League action sometime between mid-July and the beginning of August, but that’s very rough.

Perhaps the most important thing to come out of the GM’s chat with the scribes, though, was that the news doesn’t really affect the club’s plans regarding the offense. They’d like to add someone who can play third base — ideally someone who can also play elsewhere if and when Glaus comes back, but nonetheless someone who can play third base in the short term. They’re not planning to put all their eggs in a “When Glaus Returns” basket.

* As noted in an earlier post this afternoon, the rotation is set for the coming days. Pineiro has been scratched from Friday’s start due to back spasms, with Brad Thompson taking that game. Kyle Lohse, who has been out due to soreness in his right forearm, will be back in the rotation Wednesday, followed by Carpenter, Wainwright and Wellemeyer. On Sunday, they hope Pineiro can take his next turn.

* Ryan Ludwick got the night off tonight, which naturally is going to send lots of people to wailing and gnashing teeth. It’s a scheduled night off after three straight games for a guy who has been on the disabled list. I’m OK with it; I’m sure some of you are not.

* Jason LaRue once again catches Todd Wellemeyer, despite TLR’s repeatedly stated disdain for the concept of the personal catcher.

Here’s La Russa’s comment: “The personal catcher, that’s not going to happen. But he’s had a couple of good games [with LaRue] and you want to give him every edge. So there’s no reason, when everything lines up, to push Yadi.”

* Colby Rasmus is in center with Ankiel in right. I asked whether that was an indication that the manager’s assessment of the two players’ relative merits in center field had changed. He reacted strongly in the negative.

“The days that Rasmus doesn’t play, he’ll play center,” La Russa said. “Why would it change how I view? Rick’s not a good center fielder anymore?

“It gives him one less thing to worry about, one side less to worry about. It’s a good way to bring him back. But if Colby’s not playing, he plays center. And in the future, he could play center and Colby go back to the side.”

* The batting also came up, and specifically Chris Duncan’s place in it. A writer asked about the difference in Chris Duncan’s production in the 4 spot, versus elsewhere. The manager’s response:

“There’s not a big difference, I don’t care what the stats say, where Chris hits. He’s a big guy, he’s strong, they don’t throw the ball down the middle to him. They’re probably a little more likely to challenge him if he’s hitting second.”

No playlist, because I’m just too buried with stuff to take the time to put one together. It’ll be back tomorrow.

-M.

 

Monday lineup and early tidbits

More tidbits to follow, but first the two key ones:

* Brad Thompson will start tomorrow, with Pineiro pushed back — they’re hoping for Sunday.

* Kyle Lohse will start Wednesday.

And the lineup vs Cincinnati RHP Edinson Volquez:
1. Schumaker 2B
2. Rasmus CF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Duncan LF
5. Ankiel RF
6. LaRue C
7. Thurston 3B
8. Wellemeyer P
9. Ryan SS

-M.

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