September 2011

Cards’ NLDS roster: two on, one off

General manager John Mozeliak revealed Friday evening that it is “highly unlikely” that Kyle McClellan will be on the Division Series roster that the club submits to Major League Baseball on Saturday morning. McClellan has been dealing with what Mozeliak called “dead arm” symptoms, and struggled somewhat down the stretch.

Meanwhile, outfielder Matt Holliday and shortstop Rafael Furcal are both virtually certain to be on the roster following positive workouts on Friday. Holliday’s availability for a Game 1 start may be in some question, but the slugger is expected to be able to play in some capacity.

The Cardinals will likely take 11 pitchers and 14 position players into the series.

-M.

Carpenter to pitch Game 2

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa dropped a bit of a surprise on reporters on Friday when he announced that right-hander Chris Carpenter will pitch Game 2 of his team’s National League Division Series against the Phillies. Carpenter will be starting on three days’ rest for the first time in his Major League career.

Kyle Lohse will pitch Game 1 on Saturday, followed by Carpenter on Sunday. Jaime Garcia will make his first Major League playoff appearance in Tuesday’s Game 3 in St. Louis. La Russa did not disclose a Game 4 starter, though it almost certainly be either Edwin Jackson or Jake Westbrook — and much more likely Jackson than Westbrook. La Russa said that both men would be on the playoff roster and available to pitch in relief in Games 1 and 2.

Carpenter pitched a shutout on 105 pitches on Wednesday as the Cardinals clinched their playoff spot.

“A lot depended on Wednesday, and he had a real good game,” La Russa said Friday. “He felt strong at the end, so we didn’t really announce anything because we wanted to wait to see how he felt yesterday, wanted to wait to see how he feels today. And if he would have come in with any kind of stiffness, we would have gone a different direction.”

By pitching Carpenter in Game 2, the Cardinals provide for the option to use him on regular rest in a potential Game 5 in Philadelphia. Carpenter is 5-2 in nine career postseason starts with a 2.93 ERA.

-M.

Lineups for No. 162

Cardinals
1. Jay CF
2. Craig LF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Berkman RF
5. Freese 3B
6. Molina C
7. Schumaker 2B
8. Punto SS
9. Carpenter P

Astros
1. Schuck CF
2. Altuve 2B
3. Martinez LF
4. Lee 1B
5. Bogusevic RF
6. Paredes 3B
7. Barmes SS
8. Quintero C
9. Myers P

-M.

Holliday UPDATED — “It’s not good news”

As the Cardinals continue to their run at the National League Wild Card, their degree of difficulty keeps getting higher. A day after losing Rafael Furcal to a hamstring injury, Matt Holliday was removed from Tuesday night’s game against the Astros because of pain in his right hand.

Manager Tony La Russa said that Holliday will not start Wednesday’s series finale against Houston, but would not speculate beyond that. The discomfort is apparently a recurrence of, or related to, an injury that Holliday dealt with earlier this month. He missed nine games due to an inflamed tendon in his right hand.

“I don’t know what this means, beyond [Allen] Craig is playing left field tomorrow,” manager Tony La Russa said. “But it’s not good news.”

Holliday reported additional discomfort in his hand prior to Wednesday’s game, but attempted to play.  However, after 2 1/2 innings and one at-bat, the situation became too problematic, and he was removed in favor of Craig.

“He didn’t take batting practice in a group, which should have told me something,” La Russa said. “I saw him, I’d already written the lineup, and he said, ‘I’ve got a little something.’ … Right then, I thought, I’m not sure if this is smart. We let him go out there, and not only did it bother him to swing, it bothered him to throw.”

Craig was 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBIs coming off the bench.

-M.

Furcal likely out for series — UPDATED

Neither Rafael Furcal nor manager Tony La Russa sounded especially optimistic about Furcal’s status after the Cardinals’ shortstop came out of Monday night’s game due to discomfort in his left hamstring.

The club initially called the condition “tightness,” but Furcal referred to it more as a “pull.” He is not expected to play in either of the team’s remaining two regular season games. Furcal first felt something amiss when he singled in the fifth inning, and noticed that it was worse as he ran toward second base on a subsequent double-play ball.

“I was running, I felt it, and I tried to go to second,” he said. “I felt it a little bit, and I thought, ‘OK, I can do it.’ And then when I tried to go hard…”

Furcal did not rule out playing on Tuesday, but he did not sound overly confident. La Russa meanwhile was more direct.

“He’ll miss a couple games,” the manager said. “He’s got a little tug in his hamstring, so I don’t see him playing the next two games here.”

Nick Punto, who came in for Furcal, would likely get the bulk of the playing time in his absence on Tuesday and Wednesday.

-M.

Monday tidbits: Lynn, Wainwright, and… a surprise?

Greetings from Houston, where it’s sweltering hot outside but comfortably air conditioned inside. It’s Star Wars Night at Minute Maid Park, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit curious to see how all that turns out.

Shameless plug: As of now, I’m scheduled to be back on MLB Network’s “The Rundown” again tomorrow afternoon. Subject to change, but looks likely. Usually it’s 2-3 segments between 2 and 4 p.m. CT, talking Cardinals.

As for the tidbits…

* Lance Lynn threw to hitters today for the first time since he was injured. He felt good and he looked pretty good from my seat in the press box.

However, it’s almost completely certain that this IS the endgame for Lynn. He can’t, by rule, be activated before the regular season ends, because he pitched on Aug. 9 and was placed on the 60-day disabled list.  He could, by RULE, be activated for the NLCS if the Cardinals got there. But from various people I talked to today, that’s about a zero percent chance. They’re happy he’s gotten this far, and the focus is on making sure he’s healthy for 2012.

* Adam Wainwright continues progressing. He threw 40 pitches off a mound today, estimating that he was throwing at about 75 miles per hour. He’s still only throwing fastballs, not even changeups — never mind breaking balls. So even more than Lynn, there’s just no way he’s going to throw any competitive innings this year.

* Though Jason Motte has pitched each of the past two days and four out of five, TLR said Motte should be available tonight.

* TLR said that Dave Duncan may fly down to Houston on Wednesday to make a brief visit to the team. It’s uncertain whether he would be around if the Cardinals play beyond Wednesday.

* At the end of his pregame session today, TLR was asked if there was any way his starting rotation plans for this series could changed. He allowed that there is one scenario where they might. Asked if that scenario is a GOOD scenario, he granted that it is.

Asked one more followup, whether that good scenario is one that we have seen before, he said, “no commento.”

So, in short: he’s not going to go into details until it’s a reality. BUT it does seem there’s a possibility that if the Cardinals gain ground on the Braves today and tomorrow, then Wednesday’s starter could change. That is, if they’re actually UP by a game going into Wednesday, it’s conceivable that Carpenter would be held back from that game.

Personally, I think it makes a lot of sense, and it’s what I’d do if I were in the manager’s shoes, IF that situation comes up. If you do it, and you still have to go to a one-game playoff, Carpenter is available to pitch that game. And IF they make the playoffs, it wouldn’t matter whether Carpenter’s last regular-season game was Wednesday or Thursday. Either way, he’d be available for Game 3, and no sooner.

Again, TLR didn’t lay this all out himself. But it’s not all that difficult to put the pieces together and figure it out.

And, finally, the playlist…

The Horrible Crowes, “Behold the Hurricane”
Buffalo Tom, “Paper Knife”
Jason Isbell, “We’ve Met”
Greg Allman, “Just Another Rider”
Manchester Orchestra, “Simple Math”

-M.

Monday lineups from Houston; tidbits to follow

Cardinals
1. Furcal SS
2. Freese 3B
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Berkman RF
6. Molina C
7. Theriot 2B
8. Jay CF
9. Garcia P

Astros
1. Bourgeois CF
2. Sanchez 2B
3. Martinez LF
4. Lee 1B
5. Downs RF
6. Johnson 3B
7. Barmes SS
8. Towles C
9. Rodriguez P

-M.

Friday tidbits: TLR is not amused, plus Holliday, Furcal and more

Greetings from a gray, mild evening at Busch Stadium. Could actually be a very nice night for a ballgame.

* Matt Holliday took BP on the field today, came through it feeling fine, and said he expects to be in the lineup tomorrow. He is likely available to pinch-hit tonight. More on this, including video of Holliday speaking to reporters, coming on the site later this evening.

* Rafael Furcal sits down, following a defensive funk and considering his rough numbers against Ryan Dempster. TLR said that he likely would have sat Furcal even if he had good numbers against Dempster, because he wants to give Furcal a break after the rough several days he’s had here.

* As for the choice of Nick Punto, well, I’d like to tell you what the manager’s reasoning was. But he was in a pretty sour mood this afternoon, essentially arguing that we were second-guessing yesterday about the bullpen, that if the double play is made, then none of those questions get asked, etc. So he offered no illumination as to what made Punto the choice. Same goes for having Schumaker in LF rather than Craig.

Here’s his comment when asked about Motte’s availability, and it sort of set the tone for the rest of the pregame session:

“You just watch the game. I’ve got really… I don’t know how to say it, but that was a joke I thought after the game yesterday. You know, if we get the double-play ball and a popup, then where is our ‘tired bullpen?’ Everybody’s getting pushed. It’s such a ridiculous storyline and it’s aggravating. It’s not accurate and it’s guys picking and choosing things and it’s just a pain to deal with and I’m not going to deal with it. Just watch the game and see who pitches.”

* Some educated guesses on those decisions, though: A lot of people have asked me why not Tyler Greene in place of Punto, and I think the answer is fairly straightforward: even if Greene’s defensive potential is enormous, Punto is the more reliable defender. He’s the guy they trust to make all of the routine plays, and maybe some more than that. He’s also a switch-hitter, and Dempster has a pretty significant right-left split this year.

* As for Craig, here’s the answer we got when I asked whether it was a close call to leave him out:

“Well, he’s gotten a lot of playing time. Here again, you put it together and to the extent that you have to explain it, what usually happens is you guys take pieces of what explains and ignore the other pieces. I get tired of it. I just tell you everybody got consideration and this is the lineup I came up with and that’s the way it is. There ain’t no free lunch.”

 

And, finally, the playlist is a belated (and expanded) R.E.M. tribute. Thanks to one of my favorite bands for a lot of great songs and memories:
“So. Central Rain”
“These Days”
“Exhuming McCarthy”
“Belong”
“Man On the Moon”
“Leave”
“Hope”
“The Great Beyond”

-M.

Friday lineups; tidbits to follow

Cardinals
1. Jay CF
2. Punto SS
3. Pujols 1B
4. Berkman RF
5. Freese 3B
6. Molina C
7. Schumaker LF
8. Theriot 2B
9. Carpenter P

Cubs
1. Castro SS
2. Barney 2B
3. LaHair RF
4. Pena 1B
5. Soriano LF
6. Byrd CF
7. LeMahieu 3B
8. Hill C
9. Dempster P

-M.

Thursday lineups

Cardinals

1. Furcal SS
2. Craig LF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Berkman RF
5. Freese 3B
6. Molina C
7. Theriot 2B
8. Jay CF
9. Westbrook P

 

Mets

1. Reyes SS
2. Tejada 2B
3. Pagan CF
4. Wright 3B
5. Harris LF
6. Evans 1B
7. Thole C
8. Baxter RF
9. Capuano P

 

-M.

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