March 2010

Boggs hunting for a consistent delivery

 Mitchell-Boggs.jpgMitchell Boggs has a chance this spring to win the most prominent role he’s yet had in the Major Leagues, but Boggs said on Thursday that his struggles in Grapefruit League play have had nothing to do with nerves. It’s simply a matter of ironing out his delivery, the right-hander said.


“I pitched in the playoffs last year, first time I’ve ever been in the bullpen,” Boggs said. “It’s got nothing to do with nerves. It’s got everything to do with being inconsistent with my delivery. Not getting in a consistent spot each and every pitch. that’s what I have to do. You walk the leadoff guy, he’s going to score. It’s got nothing to do with nerves. It’s got everything to do with execution.”
Boggs still has some time to get things sorted out with two weeks left in Spring Training. Pitching coach Dave Duncan remains a believer in what Boggs can offer the Cardinals’ bullpen, and he expects Boggs to get right. But Duncan acknowledged that the time is coming when Boggs needs to get straightened out.
“Boggs has a funky delivery that takes a while to get in a good rhythm with good timing to get good results,” Duncan said. “His stuff is great. He’s kind of like [Rich] Hill, his command is not what it needs to be yet. Both guys have deliveries that are troublesome.
“He’s got a lot going on. got a lot of movement in his delivery. I think he just finds a rhythm, and in spite of the fact that he’s got all these things going on, he’s able to get to a consistent release point. That’s why it takes him longer to get there.”
What’s fortunate for Boggs — but not ideal for the team — is not other relievers have not really dazzled to a point where Boggs’ roster spot or even his role might be in jeopardy. Boggs remains at least a candidate to seize the primary right-handed setup job for St. Louis.
But he needs to get right.
He allowed three hits and a walk on Thursday, but also struck out two. There were flashes, just not enough.
“The results weren’t what I wanted them to be or what I need them to be,” Boggs said. “I was just falling behind guys, which you can’t do. I’m striking guys out when I get ahead, making good pitches when I get ahead. But the guys I fall behind, I’m putting myself in a hole and you can’t do that. These guys are too good of hitters. When you put them in a count where they feel comfortable, they’re going to do damage. That’s what I did today, and that’s what I have to focus on getting better at.”
(Photo by Danny Wild/MLB.com)

Thursday Spring Training tidbits

It was another beautiful, if somewhat cool, day here in Jupiter. Very windy. Again. Lots of tidbits for you, and I’ll have two more entries going up on the blog later in the evening.

* Jaime Garcia, not Shelby Miller, will start Monday’s game in Kissimmee, while Kyle Lohse gets the home game against the Red Sox that day. I’ll have more on the fifth-starter situation later this evening.
* Monday sounds like a target day for Julio Lugo to get back to action, as well.
* Josh Kinney is scheduled to pitch tomorrow in Viera for the first time since he had an MRI and a cortisone shot on his right shoulder.
* Blake Hawksworth definitely took a step forward today. Dave Duncan said he was never really worried about Hawksworth despite some early difficulties. 
* Skip Schumaker said he’s certainly not thrilled about his slump (he’s 4-for-33 on the spring) but he’s not too worried. He rolled over a couple of balls to the right side today, which is out of character for a player who tends to hit liners to the left side.
He said part of the issue is that he’s trying to go to the left side, rather than just letting his natural stroke do what it does.
* Blog entries coming a little later this evening on Mitchell Boggs’ slump and Fernando Salas’ success.
* Among those headed to Viera tomorrow for the night half of the split-squad games: Kinney, Kyle McClellan, Lance Lynn, Jason LaRue, Matt Pagnozzi, Allen Craig, David Freese, Tyler Greene, Ruben Gotay, Pete Kozma, Jon Jay, Nick Stavinoha, Amaury Cazana Marti.
Today’s playlist comes all from my Twitter followers:
Drive-By Truckers, “Birthday Boy”
Uncle Tupelo, “The Long Cut”
Broken Bells, “The High Road”
Elbow, “Grounds For Divorce”
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”
-M.

Thursday lineup; tidbits to follow

Cardinals lineup for Thursday vs. Jason Heyward and the Pips. …Er, that’d be Tim Hudson and the Braves.

1. Schumaker 2B
2. Lopez SS
3. Pujols 1B
4. Rasmus CF
5. Ludwick RF
6. Craig LF
7. Molina C
8. Freese 3B
9. Hill LHP
Also scheduled to pitch: Reyes, Boggs, Motte, Hawksworth
Backup pitchers: S.Miller, Parise, Salas
-M.

Tuesday camp tidbits: The off day approaches

It’s another gorgeous day in Jupiter, mild and sunny with a decent breeze but not too much wind. Tomorrow brings the Cardinals’ first off day of the Grapefruit League schedule, and it’s supposed to rain. Good news bad news, I guess.

Plenty of tidbits today.
* I’ll have updates on the various injured Cardinals on the site later this afternoon. In the meantime, though: Julio Lugo is progressing well and hopes to be ready on Thursday. He’ll probably be held out a little bit past that, but the weekend is a good guess. 
* Matt Holliday is having good workouts but still hasn’t swung a bat. They’re not projecting a return date for him.
* Brendan Ryan is available to play defense today and is getting very close.
* Colby Rasmus’ high school team, coached by his father Tony, paid a visit to camp today. They got a tour, sat in the stands for some of the workout and generally seemed to be receiving the celebrity treatment.
* For the upcoming split-squad games, here’s how the Cardinals will set up their pitching: after Rich Hill’s start Thursday, it will be Chris Carpenter on Friday afternoon in Jupiter against Florida, and Kyle McClellan on Friday night in Viera against the Nationals. For next Monday’s split-squad, Kyle Lohse will pitch at home against the Red Sox, and TLR said that Shelby Miller may pitch the road game against the Astros.
* Members of last year’s Memphis team were presented with their Pacific Coast League championship rings prior to Tuesday’s game.
Today’s playlist is a pre-St. Patrick’s Day special:
U2, “Bad”
My Bloody Valentine, “When You Sleep”
Sinead O’Connor, “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance”
Thrills, “One Horse Town”
Thin Lizzy, “Jailbreak”
-M.

Tuesday lineups

Lineups for Tuesday’s Nationals-Cardinals game (Washington is split-squad):

Cardinals
1. Schumaker 2B
2. Craig DH
3. Pujols 1B
4. Ludwick RF
5. Rasmus CF
6. Molina C
7. Stavinoha DH
8. Mather 3B
9. Greene SS
Lohse P
Nationals
1. Bernadina RF
2. Desmond SS
3. Kennedy 2B
4. Willingham LF
5. Duncan 1B
6. Rodriguez C
7. Whitesell DH
8. Maxwell CF
9. Bruntlett 3B
Lannan P
-M.

Monday camp tidbits: Back in the saddle

Hello, all. Took a couple of days to go home and square away some various matters, but I’m back on the beat as of this morning. You can tell I played catchup today by the fact that this post is going up after 6 p.m. ET, rather than early afternoon.

It was a gorgeous day down here, a little breezy but warm and mostly clear. 
Most of the day’s news is covered over on the site: Pujols’ reaction to the weekend’s trade “rumor,” Brad Penny talking about how he feels after getting hit by a line drive, and the six cuts this afternoon.
That leaves, well, tidbits, so here we go:
* TLR said that they have not yet settled on how travel and the like will work for Orlando/Kissimmee, now that the second day of that trip is split-squad with a day at home. He did say, though, that Kyle Lohse will pitch the home game against the Red Sox on March 22, rather than making the trip, and that he (TLR) will likely be in Kissimmee rather than at home.
* Per TLR, there’s not a lot to report about Julio Lugo, who has a groin strain, or Matt Holliday and his injured intercostal muscle. I hope to talk to both tomorrow and have some updates on both.
* A couple of Pujols quotes that didn’t get into the story. 
He discussed some of the clubs he’d accept a trade to, if it came to that, and was asked about going to the AL. His response:
“I don’t know. I don’t even want to talk about it because this is where I belong right now. I belong here hopefully for a couple more years, and then from there hopefully I can finish my career.”
And one more generally on his situation: 
“I told you guys already and that’s the reality. There’s things that I’m able to control but there’s other things that are out of my reach, I don’t have no control. But there are things that I can control. I can say, you know what, I want this, I want that. but there’s other things that, that’s their side.”

Today’s playlist comes from XM’s “Alt Nation” channel, on the drive up to PSL this morning:
Mark Hoppus and Pete Wentz, “In Transit” (I know, but honestly, I dig the song)
Cold War Kids, “Audience” (love this band)
Franz Ferdinand, “The Fallen”
Hives, “Two-Timing Touch And Broken Bones”
Paramore, “Brick By Boring Brick” (Again, maybe uncool, but I dig the song)
-M.

Thursday camp tidbits

We’re hoping to dodge the rain today. There’s bad weather all over the state, though right now it seems to be getting a little better here in Jupiter. Here’s hoping.

* Rich Hill will start tomorrow’s game against the Red Sox, with Kyle McClellan pitching after him. It’s the fair way, since the two are competing for a spot and McClellan started the last time they pitched on the same day.
* Not much new on Albert Pujols or Matt Holliday today, but that’s to be expected. Here’s TLR:
“My hope is that we use ultimate care and concern and err on the side of waiting [with Pujols].
“I haven’t talked much to Matt. Talked to Albert. He feels better. But I don’t know if he can be cleared. He’s talking about this weekend, but we’ll see.”
* Shelby Miller will likely get another game appearance before he’s sent out. It’s not a certainty, but TLR said today that it’s probable.
“As long as we’re keeping him in shape and he’s getting some outings, [he’s fine to stay in big league camp],” La Russa said. “He’s going to pitch in the Minor Leagues. So whenever it’s better for him, and if we’re not doing enough for him here… But I think he’ll probably get another appearance. We’re not that deep.”
Today’s playlist comes straight off the great WOXY over the course of this morning:
Pixies, “Monkey Gone To Heaven”
April Smith and the Great Picture Show, “Movie Loves A Screen”
Gorillaz, “On Melancholy Hill”
New Pornographers, “Your Hands (Together)”
Jayhawks, “Waiting For the Sun”
-M.

Thursday lineups; tidbits to follow

Lineups for this afternoon’s game. Cardinals are the visitors at Roger Dean Stadium.

Cardinals:
1. Gotay 2B
2. Lugo SS
3. Lopez DH
4. Ludwick RF
5. Craig 1B
6. Jay CF
7. Molina C
8. Freese 3B
9. Mather LF
Lohse RHP
Also listed to pitch: Garcia, T.Miller, Reyes, Lynn
Backup pitchers: Norrick, Parise, Hawksworth
Marlins lineup:
1. Bonifacio CF
2. Cousins RF
3. Ramirez SS
4. Cantu 3B
5. Morrison 1B
6. Paulino C
7. Miller LF
8. Murphy 2B
9. Johnson RHP
-M.

Ryan targets March 20 for return

Brendan Ryan has a target date for his 2010 Grapefruit League debut, and it’s even sooner than previously expected. 
Ryan’s program currently has him on track to play on Saturday, March 20, when the Cardinals face the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium. The timetable is subject to change, and Ryan could always have a setback. But as of Thursday, optimism reigned for the Cardinals’ starting shortstop.
That would allow Ryan to play for more than two full weeks before the beginning of the regular season. Ryan is recuperating from a right wrist operation he had last month. It’s unclear whether a March 20 Spring Training debut would allow him to be on the Opening Day roster, but every game he plays in Florida will increase his chances of being active on April 5 in Cincinnati.
Ryan has been taking soft-toss for the past three days. He expects to advance to taking batting practice thrown by a coach on Friday, followed by live batting practice, facing a Cardinals pitcher, on Tuesday. He would take live batting practice for three days, take a day off and then play on March 20.
Ryan laid out the timetable to reporters on Thursday morning. He hopes to be able to be used as a defensive replacement or pinch-runner before March 20.

Wednesday camp tidbits: Craig and Miller get noticed

Another warm, sunny day in Jupiter today, though it sounds like rain is coming soon.

Lots and lots of news out of Cardinals camp today, and of course some of it is already on the site — most notably Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday being scratched. But as for what’s not on the site, here goes…
* Allen Craig doubled and homered in his first Grapefruit League game of the year, and he caught TLR’s attention. La Russa’s comments on Craig after the game were really striking, and definitely worth taking note of.
“It shows me that we better pay attention every time he hits,” La Russa said. “What did I say before the game? He’ll have to hit his way on the team, right? … A guy hangs a changeup 2-0 and he gets to it, that’s impressive.
“We didn’t have a lot of other guys center it against him. Mock, I like his arm. [Craig] will  be out there again tomorrow.”
Asked if Craig might be the kind of player who could help as a pinch-hitter, La Russa answered:
“I don’t want to assign any roles to him till he gets on the club. I just think, take a look at him. I know that they say that in the last couple of months, he was as good as any hitter there was in the PCL. He really got it going. And this is his first action since then, and he gets two hits. So, what did you see? He’s here. he came in to get a shot, and he’s overcome the [quadriceps injury] and he’s got a lot of the spring left.”
Craig himself, meanwhile, had a philosophical comment on his attempt to hit his way onto the team:
“That’s what I’m good at,” he said. “I’m good at hitting. So that’s what I’m going to have to do to make the team. I don’t think that’s really anything new.”
* Also catching the attention of the field staff was Shelby Miller, who pitched a scoreless seventh inning.
“I was really impressed,” La Russa said. “Dunc has been saying this young guy has really got a good idea already. The one [wild] pitch was a cross-up. I thought he had good stuff. his composure was outstanding.
“He had some of the best composure out there for any pitcher on either side today. That’s a good test. He’s out there for the first time. he could have been a lot shakier than that and we’d have said, ‘Hey, what’s the big deal, as long as you’ve got talent.’ But he’s really impressive.”
* Mitchell Boggs gave up a home run, but overall showed significant progress from his first outing. He struck out three, didn’t walk anyone and was better in his second inning than his first.
* No additional cuts are likely until the end of the weekend.
* I mentioned on Twitter today how impressed I was by what Chris Duncan had to say regarding his last couple of years and his parting of ways with the Cardinals. I only got a little bit of it in the story, so I wanted to include some more here. It really stood out to me how mature, self-aware and reasonable he was about the whole situation.
Asked about the day he was traded: “It was kind of weird. But obviously they were getting ready to get Holliday and somebody had to go. I wasn’t playing well. It was probably better for me to go somewhere else where I might have a better opportunity. We had so many good outfielders and we were trading for a great player.”
And this is the main stuff. Asked about whether he had any hard feelings, or anything like that:
“It was kind of tough at the end. I remember the last game I started at home, I was getting booed. And then they put Rick in and the whole crowd erupted. That’s not easy to take. You try to block it out and stay focused, but I definitely felt like it was not going good.
“The bottom line is I wasn’t playing well, and we were competing for a pennant. Every opportunity that I got that I didn’t play well was costing the team games. I think that was the toughest thing for me. Every time [La Russa] wrote me in the lineup, I just so badly wanted to contribute and do something to help the team win. I felt like I was able to do that at the beginning, but more and more, as the season went on, I wasn’t doing that. It was tough. I felt like I was letting the guys down more than anything.
“I think when I got traded we were only one game up. All those games, and every opportunity I had to play was a chance to do something to help the team win. and when I didn’t, it was tough on me. 
“I know what it means to get written into a Major League lineup for a winning team. I just kept trying to tell myself that every time I’m in there, I had a chance to do something to help the team win. I just tried to stay focused. But I think I ended like 1-for-36 or something? I wasn’t helping the team. they had a chance to bring in a great outfielder that could take them the distance. So I understand.”
Some people are going to seize on the one short bit where he talks about being booed. But seriously. Read the whole thing. A lot of grace, a lot of class. To be admired, in my opinion.
No playlist, because this is already way too late.
-M.
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