March 2011

Wednesday camp tidbits: Waiting on a lineup

* With knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on the mound for the Mets, the Cardinals will not be sending out what you would consider an ‘A’ lineup today. However, it’s still not announced. Tyler Henley will be starting in right field, though, with Jon Jay moving to center. Andrew Brown will start at first. TLR said that Matt Holliday will be in there but did not commit to any other regulars.

* Albert Pujols, who had his foot stepped on during Monday’s game, and Colby Rasmus, who was hit in the hip by a pitch, are both out. But TLR said they’re both expected to play tomorrow — and he did not indicate that they’re out today BECAUSE of those dings.
* Jaime Garcia will start the game in Springfield, weather permitting.
* Daniel Descalso beat out Matt Carpenter for a variety of reasons, TLR said, but the two main ones were Descalso’s versatility and the desire for Carpenter to get at-bats. He said that in his mind, at least, the 40-man roster was not a factor.
* TLR said his worry with Jason Motte is Motte’s pitches, not his confidence.
* Today’s game is on ESPN.
And, finally, the playlist:
The Rolling Stones, “Dead Flowers”
Dramarama, “(I’d Like To) Volunteer, Please”
Letters to Cleo, “From Under the Dust”
Soul Coughing, “The Idiot Kings”
R.E.M., “So. Central Rain”

Cuts bring clarity

The Cardinals’ roster came into much clearer focus on Monday following 10 cuts. The moves left the club with 30 players remaining in Major League camp, two of whom will begin the season on the disabled list.
The Cardinals optioned pitcher Blake King, first baseman Mark Hamilton and catcher Tony Cruz to Triple-A Memphis and re-assigned non-roster pitchers John Gast, Brandon Dickson, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn and Raul Valdes, infielder Matt Carpenter and outfielder Shane Robinson to minor league camp. As a result, St. Louis has two extra pitchers and one extra position player still in camp.
Carpenter was the most surprising cut, since he appeared to have made a very strong case to be on the club as the backup to third baseman David Freese. Instead, it now appears that Daniel Descalso is a heavy favorite to make the team in that capacity. The club could also find a way to keep outfielder/catcher Nick Stavinoha rather than Descalso, but that is a long shot at this time.
On the pitching side, it appears that four contenders are vying for two bullpen spots, and that Kyle McClellan is set as the club’s fifth starter. Lynn and Dickson were the only pitchers still in camp who were getting starter-type workloads, and now that they are gone, there does not appear to be any real alternative in Major League camp to McClellan as the fifth starter. McClellan’s standing has been evident for quite some time, though manager Tony La Russa has continued to insist that the decision is not made.
That would then leave two open spots in the relief corps. Miguel Batista, Bryan Augenstein, Fernando Salas and Eduardo Sanchez are the candidates for those spots, assuming the club does not acquire a reliever from somewhere outside the organization between now and Opening Day.

Monday camp tidbits: Looking at the lineup

* Today’s lineup looks an awful lot like what I expect to see on Opening Day, save for one thing. Gerald Laird returns to the lineup, starting in place of Yadier Molina. Other than that, I expect the same players in the same order 10 days from now.

1. Theriot SS
2. Rasmus CF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Berkman RF
6. Freese 3B
7. Schumaker 2B
8. Laird C
9. Carpenter P
* The most interesting questions about the lineup remain in the 1-2 spots. I asked TLR today if he would be hesitant to start the lineup with two left-handed hitters, and he said he would. So if Schumaker leads off, there’s a decent chance you’d see Rasmus down in the 6th spot or so, and Theriot batting second. I think, personally, that today’s look is a much better alignment, as long as Theriot is capable of leading off. 
TLR also acknowledged that Schumaker can be a nice fit in the 6 or 7 spot as a guy who can hit line drives and maybe drive in some runs.
* Speaking of Laird (I was, briefly), he’s back in the lineup today. He’s under orders to take it fairly easy on the bases after he missed some time with hamstring discomfort, but he’s playing.
* It gets clearer and clearer that Bryan Augenstein is a name to take very seriously for this roster. Dave Duncan told me as much a couple of days ago, and TLR echoed that today. I think he may well be the favorite to be the long reliever on Opening Day.
* TLR said once again that he believes Freese’s playing time could be more than 2-out-of-3 games as the season goes along. He made the point, though, that in April they’ll likely still be quite cautious with Freese. In short, the increased optimism on Freese doesn’t really change the plans for how they’ll use him in the season’s first month or two, nor does it change what they’re thinking regarding a backup third baseman for the start of the season. Someone will need to be that guy.
And, finally, the playlist:
Tame Impala, “Solitude Is Bliss”
Foster the People, “Pumped Up Kicks”
Plan B, “Stay Too Long” (really dig this song)
Sleigh Bells, “Infinity Guitars”
Mute Math, “Electrify”
(woo XM Alt Nation!)

Call for submissions

I’ll be running an Inbox tomorrow, and I need some questions.

If you’d like to send in a question, please use the link below to submit it — and please be sure to include your first name, last initial and hometown. If you send a regular email, rather than clicking the link, be certain to use the word “mailbag” in the subject header — otherwise your mail may be directed to the spam folder or possibly be ignored in an unbecoming manner. Also, please understand that literally hundreds of emails arrive every week, so they can’t all be used in the mailbag or receive personal responses.

Saturday camp tidbits: Freese, rotation, bullpen, Laird

Another gorgeous day in Jupiter, and t-minus 12 days to Opening Day. It’s getting here fast.

* The Cardinals have set up their starting rotation for the days after Tuesday’s off day. It will be Jake Westbrook on Wednesday, Jaime Garcia Thursday, Kyle Lohse Friday, Chris Carpenter Saturday the 26th and Kyle McClellan Sunday the 27th.
That sets up the first turn through the rotation to be Carpenter on Opening Day, Westbrook and Garcia for games 2-3 against the Padres, then Lohse and McClellan making their first starts against Pittsburgh.
Assuming McClellan is in the rotation, of course. Which is a pretty decent assumption at this point.
* Discussing David Freese today, TLR sounded like he’s adjusted his expectations for how much Freese can play this year. Earlier in camp, he said he’d be pleased with 110 games for Freese. Today he said that as the year goes on, he could see Freese only needing one day off a week, rather than two.
* Asked about the bullpen, the skipper acknowledged that the two open spots will in fact be chosen to some extent in conjunction with one another. For example, it’s unlikely that both jobs will go to pitchers who could only go one inning. 
* At this point, the plan is to hold out Gerald Laird until after Tuesday’s off day.
And, finally, the playlist:
The Raconteurs, “Salute Your Solution”
Queens of the Stone Age, “No One Knows”
Black Keys, “Howlin’ For You”
Cage the Elephant, “Back Against the Wall”
Louis XIV, “Finding Out True Love Is Blind”

Saturday lineups

Home lineup vs. Florida:

1. Theriot SS
2. Rasmus CF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Carpenter 3B
6. Molina C
7. Schumaker 2B
8. Stavinoha RF
9. Lohse P
Also available to pitch: Franklin, Motte, Sanchez, Tallet, Valdes
Backup pitchers: Delgado, Thomas
Away lineup vs Houston:
1. Greene SS
2. Jay CF
3. Craig LF
4. Berkman RF
5. Freese 3B
6. Hamilton 1B
7. Cruz C
8. Descalso 2B
9. Lynn P
Also available to pitch: Dickson, Gast, Fick, Mulligan, Buursma

Friday tidbits: Laird, Greene and more

Hello from Space Coast Stadium, home of some memorable games in recent years.

* Gerald Laird said this morning that he’s feeling just fine. However, TLR said that there’s a good chance Laird will be held out of tomorrow’s games as a precaution. 
* Tyler Greene, recuperating from an illness, made the trip and will start tomorrow in Kissimmee.
* TLR explained that part of why Bryan Anderson was sent out before Tony Cruz was a service time-related DL rule. Because of Anderson’s Major League service time, if he gets hurt in big league camp, he would have to be placed on the DL rather than optioned. Because Cruz does not have service time, he could still be optioned if he suffers an injury.
Today’s playlist:
Everclear, “Electra Made Me Blind”
Kanye West, “Blame Game”
Smashing Pumpkins, “Disarm”
Toy Matinee, “Things She Said”
Cure, “Cut”

Friday lineups

Lineups from scenic Viera:

1. Jay CF
2. Theriot SS
3. Carpenter 3B
4. Holliday LF
5. Hamilton 1B
6. Craig RF
7. Schumaker 2B
8. Molina C
9. Garcia LHP
Also available to pitch: Boggs, Batista, Salas, King, Valdes, Rundles
1. Morgan CF
2. Desmond SS
3. Werth RF
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Morse LF
6. Flores C
7. Bixler 2B
8. Gonzalez 3B
9. Zimmermann P

Wednesday Tigertown tidbits

Greetings from a really neat ballpark — Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland. It’s been renovated, but it still has the classic field of an old ballpark. Cool place for a game.

* Chris Carpenter is on a flexible pitch count today. TLR said that if Carpenter is breezing along, he could go north of 60 pitches, maybe even 70. But he also allowed for the possibility that Carpenter might be really amped up and labor a bit, in which case he could come out quite a bit sooner than that.
* Kyle Lohse will start Saturday’s home game against the Marlins, with the starting pitcher for the other half of that split-squad day, at Kissimmee, to be determined. 
* Lance Berkman will hit left-handed against lefty Phil Coke in order to protect his sore left elbow.
* In a bit of a step from yesterday, TLR explicitly said what has been clear for a little while now: the only way that Kyle McClellan is not the fifth starter is if something happens to the relief corps.
Again, this isn’t a surprise. But after he didn’t explicitly acknowledge that yesterday, he did today. 
And now a playlist of road songs:
* Drive-By Truckers, “Where the Devil Don’t Stay”
* Bob Marley, “Waiting In Vain”
* Rolling Stones, “Ventilator Blues”
* Black Crowes, “My Morning Song”
* Audioslave, “I Am the Highway”

Wednesday lineups


1. Theriot SS
2. Rasmus CF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Freese 3B
5. Berkman DH
6. Craig RF
7. Schumaker 2B
8. Molina C
9. Jay LF
Carpenter P
1. Jackson CF
2. Rhymes 2B
3. Thomas RF
4. Cabrera 1B
5. Boesch LF
6. Inge 3B
7. Avila DH
8. Santiago SS
9. Murrian C
Coke P