It’s an absolutely perfect day in downtown St. Louis, and if the next two days are like this, we’re seriously in luck. Not a cloud visible, temperatures, in the mid-70s, just spectacular.
* The Cardinals are waiting to hear an update on Matt Holliday, and it could be any minute now. Holliday went to see a specialist to check on his ailing right hand. There still doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of optimism, but all opinions were guarded until the club gets the results of the latest exam.
* Albert Pujols is dealing with pain in both his left ankle and left heel, but neither is severe enough to keep him off the field. Per both TLR and John Mozeliak, nothing has really changed regarding Pujols’ status.
* TLR confirmed that, as expected, Edwin Jackson will start Game 4. Of course if there is a Game 5, Chris Carpenter will start it. That was the whole reason behind starting him on short rest in Game 2.
* Various Cardinals personnel downplayed the potential effect of shadows for Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s late-afternoon games. As of 4:10 or so today, both home plate and the pitchers’ mound were covered in shadow, with a band of light between them. As I write this, at about 5:20, the entire infield is covered in shadows. So if there are any problems, it should only be in the first hour or so of Game 3, and none in Game 4.
* Mozeliak said that he spoke briefly with someone in the Commissioner’s office on Sunday night regarding TLR’s in-game TV comments about home plate umpire Jerry Meals, but that he was merely asked if he knew what TLR had said. He has not heard from New York since then.
* TLR acknowledged that he could have a slightly different lineup for Cole Hamels than he did for Cliff Lee, but didn’t really divulge what that might entail. Hamels has a reverse platoon split this year, though, so that could be a factor.
* Kyle Lohse could be available to pitch in relief in Game 4.
And, finally, the playlist:
Sugar, “The Act We Act”
Nirvana, “Serve the Servants”
The Clash, “Spanish Bombs”
The Rolling Stones, “Live With Me”
Pearl Jam, “Mankind”
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”
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”
“Man On the Moon”
“The Great Beyond”
Greetings on another stunningly beautiful day at Busch Stadium. The temperature reads 77 degrees, I can see exactly one cloud from my perch up here, and there’s just not going to be a nicer night for a ballgame all year.
A few tidbits for your reading pleasure before I spin them into a notebook on the site:
* Eduardo Sanchez threw a fairly aggressive bullpen session today, more like a simulated game, in which he sat down in between “innings” and got back up to throw again. Sanchez feels he’s very close to being ready — maybe only one more throw. TLR sounds, not surprisingly, a little more cautious but still expects him to pitch this season.
* This weekend’s rotation is Edwin Jackson on Friday, Jaime Garcia on Saturday and Jake Westbrook on Sunday, followed by Lohse and Carpenter to start the Pirates series. Jackson pitches on his four days’ rest, Garcia on six, and the other pitchers will all be on five days’ rest.
* David Freese sits again, with TLR noting that he’s slumping and that facing Zack Greinke isn’t exactly the way to get out of a slump.
* Tyler Greene will likely get a start over the weekend against Atlanta.
Today’s playlist is an iPhone shuffle special:
Depeche Mode, “Nothing”
Sugar, “Gee Angel”
Papercuts, “I’ll See You Later I Guess”
Cold War Kids, “Welcome to the Occupation”
Counting Crows, “Have You Seen Me Lately”
Greetings from a warm, sunny afternoon at Busch Stadium. Looking forward to a fun series.
* To address the single most-asked question I’ve gotten on Twitter in recent weeks, Allen Craig is at Busch Stadium today. He’s going to go through a good, thorough workout, and it’s possible he’ll be added to the roster tomorrow.
6 pm update: Craig came through his workout with no issues, and TLR made it sound extremely likely that he will in fact be activated tomorrow.
* David Freese is back in the lineup. He said he feels 100 percent normal, and that in fact the last test he really had to pass was on Sunday in Miami when he did some extensive running.
* The rotation for the next several days has been announced. It will be Jake Westbrook tomorrow and Chris Carpenter on Thursday against Milwaukee, pushing Kyle Lohse back to Friday against Colorado. Jaime Garcia will then go on Saturday against the Rockies, with Edwin Jackson getting the last game of the homestand.
* Today is the last day of Yadier Molina’s suspension. He’s slated to return to active duty tomorrow.
* TLR talked some more today about the question of “head games” and whatnot. I won’t try to summarize it here, but I’ll have something on it in my notebook on the site tonight.
And, finally, the playlist is a celebration of “Watch the Throne” and the two gentlemen behind it:
Jay-Z and Kanye West, “No Church in the Wild” (my favorite from “Watch the Throne” after a few listens)
Jay-Z, “The Ruler’s Back”
Kanye West, “Blame Game”
Jay-Z, “December 4″
Kanye West, “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” (the Jay-Z remix, of course)
I and my teammate Ken Gurnick are actively chasing this Rafael Furcal story, but this particular round of tidbits is a Furcal-free zone. Updates from this afternoon in the clubhouse…
* Lance Berkman sits once again, but TLR sounded a lot like he expects Berkman to start tomorrow night. Not a guarantee, but he definitely sounded more confident about that than he has in a while.
* The absence of Berkman added up, today, to Skip Schumaker in right field and Ryan Theriot taking his place at second base. Theriot mentioned last night that he has a bit of shoulder soreness, and that’s part of why he’s playing second. But, as I hinted last night on Twitter, it’s hard to see it as total coincidence that Theriot’s first appearance at 2B came just as a potential Furcal deal appeared to be picking up some steam.
* The situation with the backup catchers hasn’t really changed. Tony Cruz is improved and is close to fully available. Gerald Laird is also improving but still basically emergency-only.
* Mitchell Boggs is dealing with another recurrence of the back soreness that has bothered him off and on this year. He’s likely out a couple of days.
* TLR said that although the team is somewhat short on relievers today, he’d still prefer not to use Lance Lynn as a long man.
“But,” he said,” we want to win the game today, and if we need two innings from him, you worry about tomorrow tomorrow.”
* Allen Craig is still not especially close, but TLR said he could conceivably join the club by the end of the upcoming road trip.
And, finally, the playlist, which is another iPhone shuffle special:
Duran Duran, “Hold Back the Rain”
The Killers, “Mr. Brightside”
Joe Jackson, “Breaking Us In Two”
Cold War Kids , “Cold Toes On The Cold Floor”
Violent Femmes, “Confessions”
* As you no doubt know already, Nick Punto has been placed on the DL and Tyler Greene has been recalled to take his place. TLR sounded hopeful but not overly confident that Punto would miss the minimum. Oblique injuries, as any Cardinals fan knows by know, can be very tricky.
* Lance Berkman is not in the lineup but could well be available to pinch-hit. As I wrote here yesterday, this is not a big surprise. They’re going to give him one day too many, rather than one day too few. I expect he’ll play before the weekend is out.
* Tony Cruz is more available than Gerald Laird, though Laird could play in an emergency.
* I asked TLR about the decision to use Marc Rzepczynski for two full innings last night, and he said it resulted from a couple of factors. One element, though, was that they wanted to get a good look at what they have.
“We needed three innings. So one guy had to get two and the other guy get one. And if he had a quick first, let him have the second one. we weren’t going to play him forever. But it was a good chance for us to see him, and we didn’t really have another guy we wanted to pitch that day.”
* Rzepczynski could, conceivably, be available to face one batter tonight, but it’s unlikely.
* Corey Patterson is, in fact leading off. Asked about that too, and TLR pointed to his 6-for-10 mark against Matt Garza.
* TLR on the Astros’ aggressiveness on the basepaths last night, especially when Laird was in the game:
“They weren’t running on [Laird]. they were running on Jaime. They’ll run on Jaime sometimes when Yadi’s catching, if they get a jump.”
And, finally, the playlist, which is an actual five-song sequence from putting my iPhone on shuffle:
Public Enemy, “Louder Than A Bomb”
Chemical Brothers, “The Private Psychedelic Reel”
The White Stripes, “Rag & Bone”
Jimi Hendrix, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”
Everything But The Girl, “Missing” (the original acoustic one)
97 degrees at 6:45 p.m. Glad I’m up here and not down on the field tonight. Those of you in the stands, be safe please.
* Raul Valdes was optioned to make roster room today, since the Cardinals added 4 players in yesterday’s trade but traded away only three from the active roster. TLR said they never really considered going to 13 pitchers even for a little while, and that they just didn’t see any way that Valdes should have stayed around instead of any of the RH relievers they have. So they’ll go with one lefty for at least a while.
* As a result of the trade and sending out Valdes, there’s really no long reliever right now. Lance Lynn is probably the closest fit, and they’d hesitate to use him. If there’s a need for a lot of innings, it will be several guys getting an inning or two rather than one person soaking a bunch of them up.
TLR quote: “If we run into a game where we’re behind or ahead by a lot, we really don’t have the guy out there that you say, ‘OK, let’s use him and if he’s not available the next few days, no big deal.’ The reality is we’ll use them all. Try to keep them fresh.”
* The manager said that he won’t be afraid to use Octavio Dotel against a left-handed hitter, despite some ugly splits for the veteran righty.
“I think when he’s close, he’s close against everybody,” the skipper said.
Over the past three seasons, left-handers have a 277/413/584 line against Dotel with 11 homers in 202 at-bats. He has 49 strikeouts against 45 walks vs LHH in that time.
* Meanwhile, new lefty Marc Rzepczynski does not profile as a specialist. “Scrabble” looks more like a one-inning lefty, in the vein of someone like Scott Downs, rather than a LOOGY.
* Yadier Molina gets a night off tonight, but it’s just a night off after three straight games in some serious heat. TLR was asked about maybe playing Molina tonight and Gerald Laird tomorrow, to catch Edwin Jackson, but said he actually wanted to get Molina catching Jackson as soon as possible.
* Lance Berkman is not available tonight, except possibly in a real emergency. Though Berkman said yesterday that he hoped to play Friday, TLR sounded less confident about that. They will err on the side of giving Berkman too much time away, rather than bringing him back too soon.
* In his stead, Corey Patterson gets the start tonight. It’s really the only other option, since there are only 4 outfielders on the active roster right now. Skip Schumaker would be the alternative if they substituted, and of course we’ve already seen Tony Cruz in the outfield this year.
* Ryan Theriot makes a rare appearance outside the leadoff spot against a LHP, batting seventh. TLR on the switch: “His stroke is a work in progress right now. Right-handers don’t bother him. Just right now, his stroke is a work in progress. Could have done it sooner.”
* Nick Punto’s elbow is improving, and he has told the staff that he can play the left side of the infield. However, TLR would still have some hesitation to play Punto at shortstop. Third base is more in play than short, and ideally they prefer to keep Punto at second as much as possible for the time being. They would put Daniel Descalso at short and Punto at third, rather than the other way around, if those were the choices.
* The manager took issue with a couple of ways the Rasmus trade has been presented. I’ll let him speak for himself.
On whether the deal was “inevitable:”
“I totally disagree with that one. … It wasn’t inevitable. We have a chance to win now, and he was the one bullet. If we had different bullets, or they thought it was smart to reach into the system… No. We would have kept him. But that’s how we got the chance to improve. And in the end, the way we get judged is how many games we win. not the sense it makes, which is not really the test. And that’s the reality, so it’s fine.”
And on whether he and his staff push unusually hard for win-now trades and transactions:
“The thing is that supposedly I’m unusual because it’s win at all costs at the Major League level, at the exclusion of other considerations for an organization. Win now, win now. Well, first of all, that’s true of all managers. That’s what they pay you to do with whatever you’ve got. If you’re a .500 club, win half your games. Sometimes the organization decides they’re going to develop. You’ve lost the season and they’re going to develop. You go to develop, and you still try to win the games. So that’s not unusual. That’s what they pay you for, to get wins.
“But the other one that I think is a fair comment, if you ask… our staff and I take a lot of pride in taking the long view for the organization. I don’t think we have ever, ever recommended a move for now that we knew was a detriment to the organization beyond a couple years. … The classic explanation is you’re not going to be here in a couple years, so what do we care if you trade every young prospect? We’ve gotten a lot of points as a staff from Walt [Jocketty] and Mo… I read where Mo said it, that [people] don’t understand how much attention not just myself but our staff gives to what’s good for the organization now and down the road. For years, ‘You can’t trade that guy,’ we understand that. ‘You can’t bring that guy over here, he’s not worth the money.’ How many times have we had a pitcher or somebody establish value and you say, ‘See you later’ because he isn’t worth the money. Puts you in a hole. So that one I think is unfair based on the history of what our staff has done here over the years. I think we’re real conscious about the health of this organization beyond the year we’re playing.”
And, finally, the playlist:
R.E.M., “How The West Was Won And What It Got Us”
U2, “Mothers Of The Disappeared”
Depeche Mode, “Waiting For The Night”
Men At Work, “Down By The Sea”
Radiohead, “Exit Music (For A Film)”
* Matt Holliday is out of the lineup today due to an illness. What EXACTLY he’s dealing with is not clear, but it’s something in a stomach bug-flu kind of realm.
* That’s PART of why Lance Berkman is back in the lineup, one day after sitting out with discomfort in his right rotator cuff. Ideally they might have given Berkman an extra precautionary day, but with no Holliday, that equation changed somewhat.
* TLR declined to describe the shortstop situation right now as a true platoon, noting that Ryan Theriot started against a RHP in Pittsburgh. Still, he acknowledged that Theriot is fighting it against right-handers right now, and that means more time for Daniel Descalso. The manager also said he’s been impressed by what he’s seen defensively from Descalso at SS.
“Like happens to virtually everybody, his stroke is not quite there,” TLR said. “So while he works to get it right, you give somebody else a chance to get some at-bats.”
* Kyle Lohse threw a bullpen session today and said he’s feeling better than he did at this time on his last turn through the rotation. He didn’t put a great deal of strain on his sore finger, however.
* TLR didn’t put much stock in the contention that the field played a big part in last night’s result. It was, of course, the first game played at Busch Stadium since the ballpark was re-sodded following the July 17 U2 concert.
His quote: “Colby didn’t fall. He made a diving play. I saw the guy [Hunter Pence] probably lost it in the lights, break in, misjudge it, we’ve seen that happen on fields that I don’t know if it’s slippery or not. I didn’t see anybody else slip out there. I’m not saying he didn’t. I think that the field is not 100 percent what it’s going to be, or maybe it is, if it stays hot like this. But there weren’t guys slipping all over the place yesterday. I wouldn’t make that conclusion it’s a slippery field because guys were not slipping. That was an awkward play.”
* John Mozeliak on trade possibilities (more to come on this topic on the MLB.com trade deadline blog):
“I think we’re like many clubs. We’re exploring a lot of different things right now. As far as we approach Sunday, we’re going to continue to work and look at ways we can find to improve this team.”
* Mozeliak also said he believes there’s a good chance that Eduardo Sanchez will in fact pitch before the season is out.
And, finally, the playlist:
Pearl Jam, “Ghost”
The Hold Steady, “Joke About Jamaica”
Tanya Donelly, “New England”
The Replacements, “Valentine”
R.E.M., “You’re In The Air”
Some of this will be covered in more depth in Austin Laymance’s notebook, which will go on the site a bit later this evening. But in the meantime, a look at some of the various topics going on pregame today.
* Albert Pujols is, of course, in the lineup. TLR said he has no specific plan to get Pujols a rest day here or there, or to play him two and sit him one, or anything like that.
“Just talk to him,” the manager said. “Check him out all the time. During the game, after the game, next day.”
TLR also said that if Pujols is asked to go to the All-Star Game as an injury replacement for someone, he hopes Pujols accepts.
* Gerald Laird is scheduled to be back in StL tomorrow, but it’s still not a certainty. TLR sounded a bit hesitant to call up Laird after only two games worth of rehab. Still, it sounds like the most likely thing is that we’ll see Laird tomorrow.
* David Freese is just getting a scheduled rest day. He’s played every game since being activated from the DL, and they just felt it was time to get him a breather.
* Eduardo Sanchez is in fact expected back for the first game after the break.
* Allen Craig is a little further behind. Per young Laymance, Craig is still a few days away from swinging a bat, which means that he’s likely at least a week away from going out on a rehab assignment. And it’s pretty safe to guess that Craig won’t have a 2- or 3-day rehab. They’ll probably want to make sure he gets some at-bats.
* They’re still in discussions as to what exactly the rotation will look like coming out of the All-Star break. However, with the extra off day on Thursday, TLR and Dave Duncan can deploy the starters in any order they wish for those games.
And, finally, the playlist…
Weezer, “Falling For You”
Pixies, “I Bleed”
The White Stripes, “Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine”
Violent Femmes, “Add It Up”
Cake, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”