February 2010

Sunday camp tidbits: Games are approaching

It was another unusually chilly day in Jupiter today. This is odd stuff, though it wasn’t cool enough to force any changes to the schedule this time.

* The Cardinals only have three more workout days before Grapefruit League games begin, and while the players are no doubt antsy to get games started, TLR would happily take another week of preparations if you offered it to him.
The Cardinals will take a good bit of infield practice in the next couple of days, and they’ll play at least one “coaches game.” They also will work out inside the stadium, rather than on the back fields, one day early this week as they build toward the exhibition schedule.
* Allen Craig worked out with the infielders today, which was a bit curious. TLR said, though, that Craig’s best opportunity to make this team remains as an outfielder. That’s truer than ever, of course, with the addition of Felipe Lopez.
“He’s throwing from the outfield, and he takes infield during infield practice, then he goes to the outfield for the popup drills that we’re going to do today,” La Russa said.
“I think there’s more opportunities for him in the outfield.”
* Speaking of the outfield, the manager wouldn’t fully confirm it, but Lopez’s addition may allow the Cardinals to take only four outfielders north. If they have him and Skip Schumaker and Julio Lugo all as options for at least spot duty in the outfield, the need for five designated outfielders is lessened. I’ll have my first roster projection of this spring sometime in the coming days.
* One of the most dedicated “FOTs” (Friends of Tony) has arrived at camp. Ron Wolf, the former general manager of the Green Bay Packers, is a big baseball fan and a regular visitor at Cardinals camp. He’s been around the past couple of days and likely will be around a great deal as the spring goes on.
Today’s playlist is all Jimmy Buffett, and in fact all songs that he played last night when I went to his concert down in Sunrise.
“Son of a Son of a Sailor”
“Boat Drinks”
“One Particular Harbor”
“Southern Cross”
“Tin Cup Chalice”
Terrific show, and what a wonderful closer in “Tin Cup Chalice.”
-M.

Sunday Spring Training photo gallery

Photos from today’s workout. Click on each thumbnail to view the full-size pic.

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Above: Brad Penny warms up before his live BP session; Chris Carpenter throws in live BP; Ryan Ludwick watches a teammate hit
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Above: Matt Holliday, Skip Schumaker, Felipe Lopez, Albert Pujols and Julio Lugo watch live BP; Felipe Lopez takes a practice swing while Albert Pujols looks on; Mike Matheny and Dave Duncan watch live BP; Pujols prepares to take a swing
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Above: Brad Penny throws a pitch in live BP; Penny chats with Yadier Molina and head athletic trainer Barry Weinberg; Ben Jukich throws in live BP; Lance Lynn and Fernando Salas warm up before facing hitters; David Freese prepares to swing in coach BP
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Above: Mark McGwire and Colby Rasmus chat; Jon Jay takes a couple of swings in coach BP; bench coach Joe Pettini gives baserunning instruction.
-M.

Friday Spring Training photo gallery

Photos from today’s workout, including several from Adam Wainwright’s live batting practice session with Skip Schumaker, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick. As always, apologies that my formatting is not more sophisticated.

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Above: Wainwright throws; Pujols and son AJ; Schumaker stands in; Pujols faces Wainwright, then Holliday steps in

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Above: Holliday takes a cut against Wainwright; Dave Duncan and Wainwright watch Ryan Franklin throw; Julio Lugo takes a practice cut before stepping in; Allen Craig throws soft-toss to Jon Jay; Wainwright looks on with Mike Shannon and John Vuch

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Above: Lohse throws; Bill DeWitt Jr. and John Mozeliak watch the workout; Colby Rasmus prepares to get in the cage; Lohse again; Yadier Molina takes a cut

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Above: Cardinals icons Red Schoendienst and Mike Shannon watch live BP; Schoendienst looks on as David Freese hits; Jaime Garcia throws

Friday camp tidbits: Pujols, Lohse, more

It was another unusually cool, but still pleasant, day today in Jupiter. Temps started around 50 and got up into the 60s, but we had a little less wind today.

Coming up on the site this afternoon/evening are several stories that I hope you’ll look out for: something on Jaime Garcia’s quest to make the rotation and why the odds are stacked against him; a piece on Brendan Ryan’s recovery; a piece on Adam Wainwright’s live BP session against four of the team’s best hitters; and a look at TLR’s comments on the commissioner’s blue-ribbon panel that he’s a part of.
On with the tidbits…
* TLR said that he likes what he has seen of Albert Pujols so far after elbow surgery and that the slugger seems to be in good physical shape.
“I don’t really watch the live pitching too much,” La Russa said. “I just don’t like our hitters against our pitchers. But in coaches’ BP, it looks like he’s swinging free.
“I tell you what I believe more than anything else: whatever he says, trust him. He’s got a ton of integrity and he’s very straightforward in what he says. so I just listen to him carefully and whatever he says, that’s what it is. he’s earned it.”
* Kyle Lohse looked good in his live batting practice today, though of course with the constant caveat that it’s still February. More important, Lohse has consistently looked healthy and unrestricted in all of his throws.
“So far, so good,” La Russa said.
* The Cardinals once again adjusted their schedule a bit due to the weather. With the early chill giving way to more pleasant conditions as the day went on, the start of the workout was pushed back. Typically, the team takes the field for stretching at 9:30 a.m. ET. Today it was 10 a.m.
* Also from the schedule: one box on the day’s schedule sheet, for pitchers’ shagging balls in batting practice, had the following notation: “3 yr rule.”
And it’s just what you might guess: pitchers with fewer than three years of Major League service time had to shag. Those with more, were excused.
* TLR said he’s still working out how exactly he’ll assemble the travel squads for some of the Cards’ Grapefruit League trips. The trips are longer this this year, with the short jaunts to Fort Lauderdale and Vero Beach no longer on the schedule. Port St. Lucie is the only trip that’s under 100 miles.
“The schedule, travel-wise, is more onerous than we’ve had here,” he said.
“I know we’re going to have to give that some shot and talk to some veterans.”
Today’s playlist:
White Stripes, “Seven Nation Army”
Radiohead, “Planet Telex”
Cure, “Watching Me Fall”
Living Colour, “Method”
Foo Fighters, “Erase/Replace”
-M.

Thursday camp tidbits: Carpenter, Ryan, Franklin

Chilly day here in Palm Beach County. Morning temps were in the upper 40s, and it was very windy. Thanks to bright sun, the afternoon has been nice, but it’s one of the cooler days I’ve experienced in my nine springs down here.

Anyway, here are your tidbits.
* As a result of the weather, the Cardinals changed their workout schedule on the fly this morning. The pitchers all got their scheduled work in, but some of the situational hitting and other drills for the hitters were scrapped. The staff didn’t want players standing around doing nothing in the chill and wind.
* TLR, unsurprisingly, refused to bite on a question about his Opening Day starter. It appears that Chris Carpenter is on track for the assignment, but per protocol, the manager wouldn’t confirm who will get the call on April 5 in Cincinnati.
“I’ve done it one way for years,” he said. “I don’t change it. You don’t announce it — we don’t announce it, other guys do.”
* As for Carpenter, he threw his first live batting practice session today and was pretty pleased with it.
“Right now, it’s [about] getting out there and getting my warmup, getting on a mound and I’ll get better each time,” he said. “More conditioning is what you’re looking for.”
* Hanging in Brendan Ryan’s locker this afternoon was a t-shirt that had been made especially for him. It read, “Growing old is manditory [sic]. Growing up is not.” Let’s just say it’s a perfect fit for Ryan.
* The Cardinals are shooting their annual promotional commercials this week. Ryan Franklin starred in one that was shot today, with youngsters Mitchell Boggs, Jason Motte and Blake Hawksworth playing non-speaking roles. 
* Stories that you’ll see on the site this evening: A feature on Adam Wainwright’s involvement with the Catch-a-Dream Foundation and his passion for hunting and fishing; a story on Mike Eruzione’s speech to the team this morning (Eruzione was one of the stars of the 1980 “miracle on ice” Olympic hockey team); and something on Mark McGwire’s reaction to his brother’s new book.
Today’s playlist is an actual five-song sequence that came up on shuffle on my iPhone today:
Pet Shop Boys, “Love Comes Quickly”
Al Green, “Here I Am”
U2, “Trip Through Your Wires”
Happy Mondays, “Step On”
Ozomatli, “Santiago”
-M.

Tuesday Spring Training photo gallery

I apologize, folks: no tidbits post today, because pretty much all of my tidbits made it into separate stories. Go to the site today and you’ll have several news updates on all the stuff that happened. I also have a long piece on the Cardinals’ new nutrition program going up tonight, and I hope you’ll give it a look because I think it turned out well.

Anyway. Instead of tidbits, I give you photos. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger version. Check ‘em out…
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In the row above: Blake Hawksworth bunts; Tony La Russa watches the catchers take BP; Albert Pujols makes contact in BP; Shelby Miller throws; Brad Penny and Chris Carpenter walk out to practice
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In the row above: Yadier Molina and Kyle Lohse chat; Dave Duncan watches one of his pitchers; Lance Lynn throws live BP; Mark McGwire watches Joe Mather; Brendan Ryan with his wrist wrapped up
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In the row above: two shots of Ryan Franklin’s live BP; Mike Matheny coaches the catchers; two shots of Pujols swinging in BP
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In the row above: more Pujols BP; Pujols and Molina have a relaxed moment; McGwire watches Colby Rasmus take BP; and Rasmus in BP

Monday camp tidbits: Miller, Lugo, Ryan, Walters

Clouds threatened all day here in Jupiter, but I never saw a drop of rain. It was another mild day, with temperatures getting up into the 70s — perfect day for getting some work in.

* The Cardinals will bring in top Draft pick Shelby Miller and Minor League left-hander Sam Freeman tomorrow. Technically they are not non-roster invitees, but instead early arrivals to camp. Don’t read too much into this; it’s not as though Miller is going to make the roster or even start in the high Minors. But it will be interesting to see him throw.
* More arrivals came today, the last day before full-squad workouts. Among those appearing were Julio Lugo, Brendan Ryan and P.J. Walters. Check the site for stories on both Ryan and Walters and their situations.
* Speaking of Lugo, TLR didn’t rule out the possibility of him seeing some time in the outfield, even center field, this year. Somebody has to be a right-handed-hitting option in center, and players like Lugo and Tyler Greene might well fit the bill.
* Other positional notes: the manager didn’t sound like we’ll be seeing much of Allen Craig at third base in camp. He’s more likely to be at first and in the outfield. Given the current roster configuration, it sounds like David Freese and Joe Mather will get the bulk of the time at third, and Greene could play there some as well.
* One thing you may see in some games this spring is Colby Rasmus getting more of a look against left-handed pitchers. Whereas the preference is sometimes to give Rasmus a rest against lefties during the season, Spring Training presents a perfect opportunity to get experience against them.
* Live batting practice started today, with four pitchers throwing: Mitchell Boggs, Ben Jukich, Lance Lynn and Pete Parise. Four more pitchers throw live tomorrow, and then it picks up in larger numbers on Wednesday.
Today’s playlist:
Soul Asylum, “Without a Trace”
Pixies, “Debaser”
The Clash, “Straight To Hell”
Primal Scream, “Jailbird”
The White Stripes, “My Doorbell”
-M.

Sunday camp tidbits: the heart is here

Greetings on another spectacular day in Palm Beach County. We’re looking at temps getting up into the 70s, few clouds, not much wind, just perfect. 

* The heart of the order is here. Matt Holliday pulled in late yesterday afternoon and dropped off some belongings, and he took to the field today. Albert Pujols showed up this morning and hit the field as well. Meanwhile Ryan Ludwick, who has been around for several days, took most of the day off before the grind really gets going at the start of the week.
Infielders and outfielders, by the way, are perfectly welcome to do that at this point. Until full-squad workouts begin, even if an IF or OF has reported, it’s all optional. He can work out as much or as little as he wants.
* Live batting practice starts tomorrow, with four pitchers facing hitters for the first time. Four more hurlers will face hitters on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday it will really ratchet up.
* TLR was asked about the news that Joe Torre is evidently retiring after next season, in concert with Bobby Cox’s retirement at the end of this year.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Bobby Cox will not allow a farewell tour, and neither will Torre,” La Russa said. “And I was telling somebody, Bobby’s liable to have so much fun this year that he comes back next year. he’s got a nice club.”
Asked if the retirements of his peers got him thinking at all, he responded:
“I mean it sincerely: I think one thing that I learned and I’ve been religious about is, I don’t let extraneous thoughts get into my head. this is all about trying to treasure this opportunity to win with this club, and concentrating on that. so I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about — ANY time — thinking about age, number of years ahead or behind. It doesn’t help you. so I don’t think about those guys either. Just don’t think about it. every day, with our staff, there’s plenty to think about.”
* The manager also had some interesting thoughts on the difference between the Cardinals’ late-regular-season fade (they lost eight of their last 10) and their playoff exit. He drew a line between them, saying there was very little similarity in how the club played.
“We definitely had some issues the last 10 games that were fixable,” he said. “But oher than the result, and I’ve said this before, I watched us against the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium and we were a good-looking club. I thought we competed really, really well. And then you get home and it was not a good game. We fell behind early and Padilla, we couldn’t get the ball out of the infield against him. I’m not including that one. So I felt like we were very competitive and we were 0-2. But the last three series, man, that was not good.
“I know we were ready to play against the Dodgers. But we did not do a good job the last [three series of the regular season].”
Today’s playlist: 
The Cribs, “We Share the Same Skies”
Phoenix, “Lisztomania”
Hot Chip, “I Feel Better”
The XX, “Night Time”
Editors, “Papillon”
-M.

Saturday camp tidbits: Holliday, Franklin, Reyes, Page, more

Greetings from the first really textbook Florida Spring Training day we’ve had so far. Temperatures got up into the 70s, it was bright and sunny, really a gorgeous day.

Camp is beginning to settle into a daily rhythm, with more bullpen sessions, pitchers’ fielding practice, and the like. Full-squad workouts begin in three days.
* First, some ‘breaking news’ — I just saw Matt Holliday dropped off, so he’s likely to begin working out tomorrow. Only a few players still have not been seen. Turnout so far is really excellent, it seems.
* Ryan Franklin said he’s working on refining his cut fastball this spring, something he started doing last year. He’s essentially replaced his slider with a smaller, tighter cutter. He’s thrown it a good bit inside to left-handed hitters, and now he intends to throw it more to righties.
“It’s not big, like a [Brad] Lidge slider,” Franklin said. “It’s just enough to get off the barrel. It’s a groundball, broken-bat [pitch]. The success I had last year was being able to get quick outs. Everybody knows I’m going to throw strikes and I’m going to be around the plate. So if I throw something middle-away and it looks like it’s going to stay there, then it breaks off, it might get a weak groundball.”
* Franklin said he threw this winter at the University of Oklahoma’s indoor football practice facility, a welcome advantage since the weather near his home was so bad. He’s a big OU backer.
* One more Franklin note: he was not thrilled about MLB’s new policy banning deadly weapons from the clubhouse. Franklin is one of several players who have brought hunting bows into the clubhouse, and he said he’s licensed to carry a firearm as well.
“I understand it,” he said. “But if you grew up around being outdoors and hunting and stuff, I was taught as a young kid how to respect firearms. First of all, you don’t do anything stupid with it. Always treat a gun like it’s loaded. It’s stuff that I taught my son and daughters. There’s a place for them.
“We’ve got a lot of outdoorsmen on this team, a lot of guys who grew up handling things like that. I don’t know. I kind of disagree with it, but if it gets in the wrong hands, it could be a problem.”
* Dennys Reyes has settled on No. 36 after pondering going back to his old No. 37. He said that when he left the park yesterday, he would keep an eye on how many 6s and how many 7s he saw — and he saw a lot more 6s on license plates. So 36 it is.
* La Russa said he wouldn’t rule out anyone but Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and the pitcher from batting in the No. 2 spot this year. It’s very difficult to envision Yadier Molina batting there, but La Russa jokingly (I think he was joking) said just wait until Opening Day and we’ll see it.
He also said that given Holliday’s presence behind Pujols in the order, the Cardinals may be more inclined to put on plays with their No. 2 hitter. That’s because they feel that Pujols batting with an open base is less of a problem than it would have been before Holliday’s arrival.
* TLR said he welcomes Mitchell Page back to the organization. Page was named the hitting coach at Class A Quad Cities.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “This is a guy who’s got a lot of goodness to him, and he was very popular in the system. All the young hitters really liked him. and when he finally got that big league opportunity, he had a real connection with hitters. And then he had a problem that I think is solved now. He’s a talented guy that we welcome back.”
* One last TLR note. Asked about Matt Pagnozzi, he refused to rule out Bryan Anderson from being the first catcher the Cardinals turn to if they needed someone besides Yadier Molina and Jason LaRue.
“It’s another year for ‘Andy.’ He’s a year older. He joined us at such an early age that we try not to make the mistake of penalizing him for [having been] here as a baby. He’s been here three, four, five years, and he’s still a baby. He’s still young. We’ll see what Anderson is. but he’s got a chore there, because Pagnozzi is excellent defensively.”
Today’s playlist:
Living Colour, “Young Man”
White Rabbits, “Percussion Gun”
Bob Mould, “Spiraling Down”
R.E.M., “Crush With Eyeliner”
Muse, “Stockholm Syndrome”

Friday camp tidbits: Ryan update, Mather, more

It was a little cloudy here in Jupiter today, but the forecasters tell us the more typically warm temps will arrive tomorrow. Again, not that I’m complaining. What we’ve had the past couple days still feels very nice.

* John Mozeliak spoke with reporters for a good while this morning and covered several topics, some of which I addressed on stories that are going on the main site today. But he also gave a couple of health updates which you’ll likely be interested in.
Mozeliak was asked whether it’s his understanding that Brendan Ryan will be ready on schedule, and this was his response:
“Yeah, it is. The surgery itself was very benign, and the way he’s feeling right now is very positive. But again, until he can actually test the wrist, we’re not going to know for sure.”
Asked when that will be, that Ryan can test it, he said, “I’d say probably three weeks from now. e’s going to be able to do baseball-related stuff when he gets here next week, but I’m talking about really swinging the bat and testing it.”
* He also said things are going very well for Joe Mather health-wise, and talked up Mather’s potential as a valuable member of the 2010 Cardinals.
“He can do a lot of things,” Mozeliak said. “He can play all three outfield positions. So if he can show he’s healthy, he’d be a nice guy to have on the club. He gives you a lot of flexibility. He just has to come out and show that he can play, physically. Because he’s got a lot of talent.
And how are things going with regard to Mather’s health?
“Very positive. Very encouraging.”
* As several of us were standing in the clubhouse this afternoon, someone noticed that Dennys Reyes’ locker had two number plates on it — 36 and 37. We wondered if he was sharing his locker, and if so, with whom.
But that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, Reyes has sort of a hold on both numbers at the moment. He wore 37 before he joined the Cardinals. But last year, 37 was taken by Todd Wellemeyer, so he took 36. Now, he’s pondering whether to make the switch back. Reyes wore a 37 jersey today — but took bunting practice wearing a 36 helmet.
He’s likely to make a final decision in the next few days.
* Nobody had a tougher day today than Minor League catcher Charlie Cutler, who had a big year with the bat in his first full pro season last year.
Cutler caught two bullpens: first, the hard-throwing Francisco Samuel, whose control isn’t always the sharpest in July, never mind February. Then he followed it up with knuckleballer Charlie Zink. 
That certainly counts as earning your meal money.
Today’s playlist:
Passion Pit, “Little Secrets”
Hot Chip, “One Life Stand”
Cut Copy, “Hearts On Fire”
The XX, “Islands”
Yeasayer, “Ambling Alp”
-M.
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