March 2010

Wednesday camp tidbits: Packing up

This is my last tidbits entry from Jupiter. I’ll be headed home in the morning, then coming to you from Minnesota over the weekend. The weather has been perfect the past couple of days, and is supposed to continue through tomorrow, which is the day of the Cardinals’ last Grapefruit League game.

On with the tidbits:
* TLR said a couple of different things on Wednesday regarding the last two spots on the bench. It’s a 3-for-2 situation, with two roster spots to be handed out among Allen Craig, Joe Mather and Nick Stavinoha. 
La Russa said in the morning that none of the three could really do anything in these last couple of games to change the outcome. That doesn’t necessarily mean the decision is made (and I’m not sure it is), it just means they have all the information and still need to hash it out.
In the afternoon, though, he acknowledged that Jason LaRue’s situation may complicate things, and a third catcher may be possible. Based on roster considerations, though, I think a third catcher is almost impossible. It’s conceivable that either Molina or LaRue (more likely LaRue) could open the year on the DL, with Matt Pagnozzi on the roster. But it would be very difficult to make three catchers work.
* Tomorrow’s game starts at 11:05 a.m. CT, an hour earlier than usual, so the teams can break camp and get on out of town. 
* Jason Motte has switched to jersey No. 30, and Felipe Lopez is switching to No. 3. He still wore No. 8 today, but had a No. 3 road jersey hanging in his locker this morning.
* TLR indicated that as long as it doesn’t appear that Blake Hawksworth will be out a long time, they probably won’t place him on the DL. If Hawksworth were to be unavailable for, say, the first series in Cincinnati, chances are they would just go with 11 pitchers for the first few days.
That’s all the baseball in this entry. Now on with the music. Today’s playlist:
The Rolling Stones, “Going Home” 
Soul Asylum, “Sometime To Return”
Jimmy Buffett, “Come Monday”
The Postal Service, “Such Great Heights”
Dave Dudley, “Six Days On The Road”

Wednesday Spring Training lineups; tidbits to follow

Wednesday lineups, updated with Nationals lineup added

1. Schumaker 2B
2. Ryan SS
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Stavinoha RF
6. Rasmus CF
7. Freese 3B
8. Pagnozzi C
9. Wainwright P
1. Morgan CF
2. Harris RF
3. Guzman 2B
4. Willingham LF
5. Morse 1B
6. Desmond SS
7. Nieves C
8. Gonzalez 3B
9. Lannan LHP

Call for submissions

I’ll be doing a Q&A with Ryan Franklin as part of our Opening Day preview package. So if you have any questions you’d like for him to answer, submit them in the comments. I don’t promise — I can’t promise — to get to all of them. But if any are especially compelling, I’ll get ’em in. Thanks in advance.


Monday Spring Training tidbits: Hawksworth, Molina, plenty more

It was a very busy day for the scribes today, with lots of developments coming out of our morning chat with TLR. Some of it has already been covered here and on the site: Kyle McClellan is moving to the bullpen, which clears the way for Garcia to start. And Chris Carpenter will start Opening Day, with Adam Wainwright starting the home opener seven days later.

We got a lot of rain this morning, but it’s tailed off and we got a game in. Still overcast, with a forecast for clear, slightly cooler days between now and the end of camp.
* Blake Hawksworth has some soreness in his right groin that has bothered him for the past five days. He first felt it when he was pitching on Wednesday against the Orioles. He stayed in that game, and pitched again three days later, but it flared up in that Saturday appearance and he’s currently sidelined.
Still, Hawksworth doesn’t sound too worried. He’s been able to do his cardiovascular exercises, with the only real remaining hurdle being pushing off his right leg when he pitches.
“I was on the elliptical,” he said. “I’m still able to run. I’m not, like, [incapacitated]. We just want to give it a couple of days. I pitched that day and got through it. It was fine. we just want to be careful to make sure it doesn’t become worse.
“Yesterday, not doing anything, I made so much improvement. So just take it light today, and tomorrow hopefully it will be a lot better again.”
Hawksworth was not listed as an available reliever on Monday’s lineup card.
* There’s not really anything new on Yadier Molina, except that he’s a little better every day. TLR did say that he’d be willing to wait all the way up to Opening Day before making a decision on Molina. He said the catcher wouldn’t have to swing a bat until that very day, and he could still be on the roster.
“I think there’s still a real chance [he could play Opening Day],” La Russa said. “That’s what the training staff told me, that there’s still a chance. He’s feeling better.”
The Cardinals will likely take four catchers to Minnesota: Molina, Jason LaRue, Matt Pagnozzi and an emergency/bullpen catcher.
* Ryan Ludwick is back in the lineup today, a day after fouling a ball hard off his left shin.
* The manager was asked this morning whether the remaining bench decision is 3 player for 2 spots, or 2 players for 1 spot. He said it’s 3-for-2, meaning that he does not consider Mather to be safely on the team yet. This isn’t a surprise, and I still consider Mather’s chances excellent.
But publicly, it’s still down to Mather, Allen Craig and Nick Stavinoha for two roster spots.
* TLR acknowledged that there’s a good chance that against many right-handers this year, the middle of the lineup will be ordered like it is today: Holliday fourth, Rasmus fifth, Ludwick sixth. I like that a lot, personally. I think it’s a good way to set it up, with Lopez or Ryan or Lugo in the 2-spot, and Molina/Freese 7th-8th in one order or the other.
* As for McClellan, he was clearly disappointed not to be starting, but also very graceful in his handling of it. 
“The writing has been kind of on the wall the last few days,” he said. “As well as Jaime’s pitched all spring, it’s been pretty obvious that with him on our staff, in our rotation, it’s going to be a very solid rotation. And I can go back to the bullpen and improve on what I’ve done the last two years.”
* General Hal Moore, the central figure in the movie “We Were Soldiers” (and of course the book of similar title on which it was based), made his annual visit to Cardinals camp today. He’s a favorite of TLR’s as well as the players.
And that’s all the baseball for today. Time for the playlist.
The Hold Steady, “Rock Problems”
The Hold Steady, “Hurricane J”
New Pornographers, “The Crash Years”
Drive-By Truckers, “Working This Job”
Gorillaz, “Stylo” (Love. This. Song.)

McClellan to relieve, paving way for Garcia to start

JUPITER, Fla. —  Kyle McClellan will pitch in relief for the Cardinals in 2010, clearing the way for Jaime Garcia to be the club’s fifth starter.
Manager Tony La Russa made the announcement of McClellan’s status on Monday morning after informing the pitcher that his quest to move from the bullpen to the starting rotation has been deferred once again. Garcia, who is scheduled to start for the Cardinals on Monday afternoon against Minnesota, had not been officially notified of his status as of Monday morning.
“We’re assuming he’s going to pitch good,” La Russa said. “And if he pitches good, then [it’s a done deal]. … But he hasn’t been told because it’s not official.”
The other half, however, is finalized. McClellan, who has pitched in relief for St. Louis the past two years, will do so again in 2010. He had hoped to win a starting job, and he pitched very well, but will instead go back to the bullpen. He may serve as the primary setup man to closer Ryan Franklin. 
“He’s had a great spring, but that’s where we need him.”
Garcia pitched the best of the three candidates — Rich Hill was also a contender — and that was certainly one factor in the decision on McClellan. But the Cardinals also remain short on right-handed bullpen depth, which also tipped the scales somewhat.
“Those are the factors that have come into play,” La Russa said. “Jaime’s done a good job, really good. Without that good job, then we’d still be looking for something.”

Monday Spring Training lineups


1. Schumaker 2B
2. Lugo DH
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Rasmus CF
6. Ludwick RF
7. Lopez SS
8. Freese 3B
9. Pagnozzi C
Garcia LHP
1. Span CF
2. Punto 3B
3. Young LF
4. Harris SS
5. Portes RF
6. Peterson 1B
7. Butera C
8. Casilla 2B
9. Dolenc DH
Slowey RHP

Sunday camp tidbits: Lohse, the fifth starter, Ludwick

It was cloudy all day here at Port St. Lucie, but fortunately the rains never came. They weren’t so lucky on the other side of the state, and it sounds like there’s at least a possiblity that we may get it tomorrow. For now, though, a small victory.

* Kyle Lohse was pretty solid on Sunday, and he seemed to get better as he went along. He was pleased with most of his pitches, and one thing he noted is that he’s trying to re-incorporate his four-seam fastball into his repertoire.
“I probably threw like five all year [in 2009],” Lohse said.
It didn’t quite work every time for him — the home run he allowed came on a four-seamer. But he’d like to have it as an alternative, especially to run in on left-handed pitchers.
* Also on Lohse: barring something surprising, he will start the Friday night game in Minnesota. It wouldn’t be unprecedented for a veteran to stay back and pitch in a Minor League game in Florida instead of going on a post-spring, pre-Opening Day trip, but as of now, Lohse is on for a reunion with his first Major League team.
* TLR remains cagey almost to the point of combativeness when it comes to talking about who will be the fifth starter. I’ll have a story on this topic on the site later tonight, but this much is known: Garcia, Hill and McClellan are all scheduled to pitch tomorrow. Garcia will start the game against the Twins. He’s not giving up how Hill and McClellan will be used — be it in long, getting-stretched-out relief, short relief, a Minor League game, a live-BP session, whatever. He’s not giving it up. So, there’s something for tomorrow.
* I have something up on the site already about Ryan Ludwick, so if you’re wondering about why he came out of today’s game in the third inning, go over and check that out.
We also talked to Ludwick about his hitting this spring, and he said he’s putting a lot of effort into cutting down his strikeouts. He’s trying to be especially intentional about having a good approach with two strikes, and proudly noted that he’s only struck out three times in 59 plate appearances this spring.
How that translates to the season remains to be seen, but it’s definitely something he’s working on.
Now, today’s playlist. If you don’t like the playlist, you can just stop reading now and it won’t hurt my feelings one bit. The baseball is done in this blog entry (though I’ll have another one on Pujols a little later this evening).
I was driving up this morning, and “Let’s Go Crazy” came on, and suddenly I was all about Prince. So for no good reason, a Prince playlist. But really, who needs a reason for Prince?
“Let’s Go Crazy”
“Alphabet Street”
“U Got The Look”

Sunday Spring Training lineup: Rasmus returns

The Cardinals’ lineup on Sunday against the Mets at Port St. Lucie:

1. Lopez 2B
2. Ryan SS
3. Pujols 1B
4. Rasmus CF
5. Ludwick RF
6. Freese 3B
7. Craig LF
8. LaRue C
9. Lohse P
Available pitchers: Reyes, Boggs, Motte, Parise, Meyer (this is Matt Meyer, whom the Cardinals selected in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft last winter)

Saturday late tidbits: Penny is fine

Another day in the books at Roger Dean Stadium, and remarkably there are only five more games down here before we all head north.

* No sooner did Brad Penny have the bandage taken off his left leg from one line drive than he was hit by another. Hanley Ramirez scorched a ball up the middle in the sixth inning that drilled Penny on the inside back of his left thigh. Penny remained in the game for two more batters, but he definitely had a souvenir from Ramirez.
Penny has been hit repeatedly by comebackers this spring.
“Same thing, ball up the middle, I stick my leg out and try to knock it down,” he said. “Hit me in the muscle, good spot again. It was the thigh. It was on the back of my leg. If it had been a knee, it might have been a problem. I stick my leg out trying to block the ball, trying to knock it down.
“They didn’t score, so I’ll take it. especially in the season.”
Penny tested his leg out and was all right, so he stayed in the game to finish the sixth inning. That’s all he was scheduled for, so he came out after the sixth. He was moving around just fine in the clubhouse afterward.
* Tony La Russa said that he won’t be looking to get Ryan Franklin into back-to-back games this spring. If the games dictate it, La Russa would be open to the possibility, but it won’t be something he will try for.
* Colby Rasmus, who has sat the past three days due to a knee bruise, is expected back in the lineup tomorrow in Port St. Lucie. Just about the entire team will be making the trip except for Matt Holliday and Trever Miller, who will get a day off.

Saturday Spring Training tidbits: clearing out the notebook

After three days off and no blogging yesterday, I have a lot of tidbits for you. It’s a gorgeous, pretty much perfect day in northern Palm Beach county. We’ll see the mid-to-high 70s, some wind but not much, almost no clouds, just spectacular. Wish you were here.

* Felipe Lopez is in right field today. TLR said early in the spring that he’d like to see Lopez in center before spring is out, but that looks less likely now.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll see. I want to make sure that right field goes all right first. Baby steps.”
* La Russa said Joe Mather looks good to him despite Mather’s 3-for-24 slump. It’s going to be hard to keep Mather off the roster because of his power and versatility (especially his ability to play center field), but he’d certainly help himself if he started hitting.
The manager on Mather: “I think he’s doing all the other stuff good, and hitting-wise, he’s a little… he could be more consistent. Mark [McGwire] thinks he’s really close. He’s done a lot of good work and he’s close. He just has to go from close to there.”
La Russa said he has no concerns about Mather’s health.
* If Adam Ottavino is sent to the Minor Leagues — and right now it looks as though he will be — he will start rather than relieve. That keeps all options open. If Ottavino is starting in Memphis, he could still come up and pitch in relief for the Major League club. But if he’s relieving in Memphis, he wouldn’t be available as the “sixth starter.” And right now, it looks like he is in fact the organization’s sixth starter once Kyle McClellan moves to relief.
* Despite the fact that most of the starting pitchers are facing the same opponent in each of their last two spring starts, the club will not adjust its rotation this week. It would be possible to move most of the starters by a day, so they see different teams, and not affect their availability next week. That’s because every starter will get at least one extra day between his final spring start and first of the regular season. But as of now, the plan is still to keep them all on turn, rather than re-jiggering anything this week.
* I’ve been asked this a few times, so here’s your answer: Nick Stavinoha is not making the team as a catcher. He won’t be the second catcher. He’s not going to do any catching down here before spring is out. If he is on the roster, he would be the emergency third catcher, but TLR said that even that doesn’t do anything more for his chances than it did before Molina was hurt.
* The Cardinals will likely take about 28-29 players to Minnesota at the end of the week. TLR said that he’d like to have 16 position players on the trip. However, the extra bodies will likely be players who already know their standing, rather than guys waiting to find out whether they make the team — players like Donovan Solano and Daniel Descalso, who have had good springs but aren’t making the team.
Today’s playlist:
Blakroc, “Hard Times”
LCD Soundsystem, “Drunk Girls”
Editors, “In This Light And On This Evening”
Hot Chip, “I Feel Better”
Cold War Kids, “Audience”
Oh, and one final thing: GO BUTLER!