October 29, 2020

Cardinals Getting Ready

February 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Before we get to the news of the weekend, it’s just come across Twitter that the Cards have invited Shelby Miller and Sam Freeman into camp.  While it’s most likely to make sure they have enough arms for whatever drills and situations that they have in mind, it’s still interesting to see Miller get a chance in front of the main Cardinal brass.  Hopefully he’ll get into some of the early spring training games, so we can see a little bit of what he looks like.

Also this morning, Julio Lugo made it to camp, the last player expected anytime soon.  Brendan Ryan is still rehabbing from surgery (I find it kinda strange that Lugo didn’t know anything about that–not really in the Cardinal loop there, are you Julio?) and PJ Walters is with his family, including his premature daughter.

There was plenty of stories from this weekend, though, as Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday made their way into camp.  Albert had his first interview with the media and it went about the way you’d expect.

It was interesting to see him talk about this team maybe being the best one he’s been on.  On paper, there’s no doubt it’s a strong squad, though we’ll have to wait and see if it stacks up with the 2004-2005 version.  I’ve been very positive about this team, especially if a couple of the “ifs” pan out (especially Brad Penny), so it’s nice to see AP is on the same wavelength.

It was not surprising, however, that he didn’t want to talk about his contract.  Of course, he’s going to have to realize that it’s one of the biggest stories in baseball, not just in St. Louis, so he’s going to get a lot of questions about it.  I do like hearing a quote that “it’s going to work out,” but as most fans, we’d like to see that sooner rather than later.  Hopefully there’s more going on behind the scenes than we know.

What the Cardinals may want to do is come up with a package deal.  AJ Pujols has reported to camp as well and has a pretty decent swing, even if he’s tired of having more siblings (apparently).

Tony LaRussa talked about lineups some on Sunday, joking that he’d just make 162 copies of one lineup for the season.  Everyone gets a hearty laugh out of that, because we know that if TLR only had 10 players, he’d still do 200 different lineups.

Still, the combinations are much more limited for TLR this year.  Most games, you are locked in at 3-4-5.  You shouldn’t see the outfield mix and match with Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus like we saw last year–they’ll be pretty much everyday players.  Yadier Molina is out there 90% of the time.  Skip Schumaker will be at second and most likely leading off on a regular basis.  If David Freese locks down third, he’ll be a fixture. Brendan Ryan should get a majority of the time at short.

The biggest question in camp in regard to lineups is probably who will bat second.  Rasmus gets a lot of play in this discussion, and there are good reasons why.  He could see a lot of fastballs with Pujols and Holliday coming up, he has the power to make that a “damage” position, and he’s got enough speed to move well on a double by AP or at least stay out of a double play.

As LaRussa points out, though, that puts the two lefties together (and you know how he hates that).  He’s got a point about opponents being able to bring in the tough LOOGY to get them both.  But if you hit Rasmus sixth, which would seem to be the logical other place for him, who slides in the 2 hole?  Brendan Ryan?  I would think that’d be the only other option.

With challenges like this, it’s no wonder that LaRussa isn’t thinking about retirement–at least not during the season.  It’s not like him to go out with a farewell tour like Bobby Cox or Joe Torre.  (Not that those guys were looking for the publicity, there were good reasons for those announcements, but that’s never going to happen with TLR.)

However, I was thinking about this before I saw the article.  Is there anything that LaRussa still wants to do in a Cardinal uniform?  I mean, he’s won the Series, managed a Cy Young and an MVP, who just happens to be an all-time great, he’s managed Mark McGwire and see the home run record fall, then brought McGwire back into baseball, he’s managed two All-Star Games, he’s been a part of an ASG in St. Louis, he’s got the most wins in Cardinal manager history…..what else is there?  Is there a goal left for him to accomplish (besides another title, of course)?

Almost all of the focus for fans this spring training to see how the pitching staff, mainly the bullpen, shakes out.  A lot of people are promoting Mitchell Boggs as a late-inning guy and an article like this makes you see why.  (Small sample size warning on all the following.)  His splits last year between starter and reliever don’t look promising at first blush, but you have to like the significant decrease in BAA in that role.  A majority of the problem came in one game against the Cubs, so when you only throw about 9 innings total, that’ll skew things quickly.  I never was much of a fan of Boggs as a starter, but this reliever idea has me pretty intrigued.

Boggs might be in the mix for the ninth inning if Ryan Franklin isn’t able to get back to form after struggling down the stretch last year.  Franklin thinks he’ll be fine for this year, of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Boggs or Blake Hawksworth or someone doesn’t get a few save opportunities early in the year so that they don’t wear down Franklin for the stretch.

Little bit of housekeeping.  The United Cardinal Bloggers are doing their annual pre-season roundtable.  I’ll try to post a schedule at the official site sometime this evening, but today the first question was posed by Nick at Pitchers Hit Eighth, so you should be able to check the transcript of our discussion out over there tomorrow, unless Nick’s bundle of joy arrives and keeps him away from the computer.  (Personally, I’ve always wondered about the guy’s priorities.  Delivery rooms have wifi, right?)  We’ve got about 17 Cardinal bloggers involved with this roundtable, so there should be some good discussions in the next couple of weeks.

Plenty of radio this week.  Nick and Dustin from Whiteyball chatted up Cardinals minor league director John Vuch on Saturday, so head over and give a listen to that.  Yours truly and Andrew from Pitchers Hit Eighth are on the schedule to host this week’s show on Wednesday night.

I don’t know that I’ve mentioned it before, but Mike from Stan Musial’s Stance has branched out to do a little Padres work and has his own podcast dedicated to them.  If you are up late on a Thursday (or want to listen after the fact), tune your ears to that.

Finally, the second installment of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance‘s BBA Baseball Talk will be Tuesday night at 10 Central.  Steve from The Eddie Kranepool Society and David from Rockies Review are on the schedule for that.

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