Tag Archive | "High Note"

Injury woes 2012

It would not be a St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training without health questions surrounding a key player, and once again a member of the starting rotation is awaiting test results analysis and a diagnosis before throwing again. But the name attached this time is all too familiar to these situations: Chris Carpenter.

All the facts of this story can be found in Joe Strauss’s STLtoday piece from Friday. Right now, no one really knows much about the cause of Carpenter’s neck discomfort, but updates should start trickling in this weekend as the information makes its way back to Florida from St. Louis.

The real question on everyone’s minds is simple, though. What now?

It’s hard to get too panicked over this news because, honestly, it cannot be that big of a surprise. Carpenter’s injury history is checkered, to say the least, and he threw over 270 innings in 2011 (including the postseason). No one should claim they saw this coming, but when the word came in how many had a reaction similar to “Ah…Carpenter has an injury? OK then.” Hearing about Carpenter battling through something is different than hearing about Adam Wainwright last year. Wainwright was young and durable. Carpenter is neither. But speaking of Wainwright, the Cardinals certainly managed to right the ship after his departure and ended the 2011 season on a bit of a high note. Who says they can’t do the same thing in 2012 if Carpenter ends up having to miss significant time?

Unfortunately, it may be an even longer shot this time around. Last year, the Cards had a healthy Carpenter ready to step in and take the ace role in Wainwright’s absence. This year, the Cards have Wainwright back—but he is not 100% yet. He may not be at any time in 2012. So the team cannot and should not expect him to pick up all of the slack and toss 200+ innings this season. If he ends up doing that, great. But counting on it would be a mistake.

One more thing the Cards should absolutely, positively stay away from at all costs is another bullpen-to-rotation-to-bullpen song and dance with Kyle McClellan. Last year, McClellan started off pretty well as a starter. But once Edwin Jackson was acquired, McClellan was no longer needed for the rotation. Back to the bullpen he went, but the innings had already taken a toll. By the end of 2011 McClellan was gassed. They really need to let him stick with one thing, and he has proven several times he can handle a full season as a reliever.

Remember the Roy Oswalt sweepstakes of a couple months ago? Still going on, except now no one is trying. Oswalt is a free agent and perhaps could be a candidate for a spot in the Cards’ rotation if Carpenter can’t go for a while. The Redbirds could also look internally for a young pitcher to step in for some starts if Carpenter is only expected to miss a few weeks. But, again, messing with the integrity of the bullpen by “promoting” a reliever to the rotation could prove to be a mistake with the potential of affecting both sections of the pitching staff. Maybe a Triple A pitcher chomping at the bit gets a look at Busch Stadium this year…

No one has all the answers yet, but you can bet the questions will continue to mount. Perhaps this is just a minor speed bump with little to no effect on the regular season. Or perhaps it is more. Hopefully the news over the weekend into next week is good news.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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Chasers On A Roll, Take Game Two

Offense Comes Alive in Game 2 Victory
Chasers collect 18 hits in 15-4 romp; need one win for first PCL title

Mike Feigen / Omaha Storm Chasers

OMAHA, Neb. — The Omaha Storm Chasers had a memorable inaugural season at Werner Park, ushering in a new era of Kansas City Royals prospects, winning the franchise’s first division crown since 1999 and hitting a series-ending walk-off home run to advance past the conference championship round. The home slate ended on a high note Wednesday night, as the Chasers crushed the River Cats 15-4 in Game 2 of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series, moving to within one win of a league title.

Just as they did during the division-clinching game against Round Rock on August 31, the Storm Chasers fell behind early before cruising to victory. Sacramento jumped out to 3-0, first-inning lead off eventual winning pitcher Vin Mazzaro, capping the inning with a two-run home run to right off the bat of Adrian Cardenas. Mazzaro (2-0) would escape further damage, working five total innings while allowing three runs on six hits. He walked four and struck out two, throwing 91 pitches.

Omaha got back in the game with a run in the first and another in the second before crossing the plate five times with two out in the third. River Cats starter Tyson Ross (0-2) took the brunt of the offensive assault, finishing his evening after 2.2 innings, allowing seven runs – four earned – on nine hits, walking one while striking out three.

With runners on first and second and two down in the third, Irving Falu hit a slow bouncer toward short that looked like it would end the inning. However, the ball took a funny hop and skipped off the glove of shortstop Tyler Ladendorf, loading the bases. Manny Pina then dropped a two run single into shallow left-field, giving the Chasers a 4-3 lead in the game. A fielding error and two singles followed, and by the time the inning was over the Storm Chasers held a 7-3 advantage.

After Sacramento inched closer with a run in the top of the sixth, Omaha put its collective foot on the gas and didn’t let up. The Chasers scored twice in the sixth, three times in the seventh and three more times in the eighth, piling up 18 hits in the contest. Jarrod Dyson finished 4-for-6 with a homer, four RBI, three runs, a double and a stolen base in the winning effort, tripling his total playoff output of two hits entering the night.

David Lough and Clint Robinson also had three-hit games, each tallying a double and two runs batted in. The Chasers had five doubles on the night from five different players and had six players with multi-hit games.

Kevin Pucetas, Brandon Sisk, Zach Miner and Federico Castaneda combined for four innings of relief, allowing a run on three hits and two walks, striking out three batters. With a travel day coming up Thursday, manager Mike Jirschele should have a fully-rested bullpen for any remaining series games.

The Chasers are now 5-1 in the playoffs, needing just one win on the road in Sacramento to claim the first Pacific Coast League Championship in franchise history and first league title since 1990. In the potentially-clinching Game 3, 22-year-old California native and left-hander Mike Montgomery (5-11, 5.32 ERA regular season) will take the mound in his home state for the first time in his career. On the mound for the River Cats will be right-hander Travis Banwart (3-3, 7.38), a pitcher the Storm Chasers have not seen this season.

Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. central from Raley Field in Sacramento. The game can be heard on 1620 The Zone and the Chasers will also host a watch party at Brewsky’s on 156th & Q. Should Omaha win the PCL Championship, the Chasers would battle the International League champion in a one-game playoff on Tuesday in Albuquerque, N.M. First pitch of that contest would be 7:05 p.m., with the game broadcast nationally on VERSUS.

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Let’s Take A Look

The Royals are back home to close out the first half of the season this weekend against Detroit after coming off a sub-par road trip that included a five-game losing streak and only one series win. The Royals could end the first half on a high note if they can pull out a series win against the Tigers.

This is the second year in a row the Royals have had a high quality production out of an outfielder and yet again did not make the All-Star team. Last year David DeJesus last year had a higher batting average and fielding percentage than Ichiro during the first half of the season, including a consecutive errorless streak that approached all-time major league records. The Royals’ fan votes fell just short of sending Alex Gordon to the All-Star game despite the fact that among players at his position, he is currently fourth in batting average, first in doubles, third in home runs, made only one error and has a league leading thirteen assists. You cannot get much better than that.

One could also make a case for Jeff Francoeur for being there as well who leads his position in assists and among the position leaders in extra base hits and RBIs. Melky Cabrera also made some noise on the defensive side of the ball (eight assists) and contributed an above average first half at the plate (.286 going into Friday night). If the Royals are serious about building a contending ball club heading into the 2012 season, they need to keep this outfield intact.

The “Moose” (Mike Moustakas) in the past week has become more of a mouse. He has not reached base since Sunday, while watching his average dip to .233. Eric Hosmer is showing signs of improvement with his bat and is solidifying himself defensively. Butler has turned in another one of his typical first halves by batting around .300 and hitting quite a few doubles along with some home runs every once in awhile.

The pitching staff has been plagued by two things all year, injuries and inconsistency. Injuries are nearly unavoidable regardless of position in this game. They will happen, it is just a matter when. However, inconsistency usually is accompanied by either lack of talent or lack of experience. The Royals pitching staff have demonstrated that they have problems with getting people out. They are one of only three teams in the American League to allow over one-hundred home runs so far this season, and have the highest opponents’ batting average and issued the second most walks in the A.L.

Good pitching beats good hitting in any level of baseball. The Royals have some very high quality prospects down in the minors. My question is, they have the talent to win at AA and AAA level, but do they have what it takes to win in the big show? We will not know until they are called up.

Looking at who’s available in the free agent market in terms of pitching and the fact that the Royals will have quite a bit of cap room next year after cutting out three of their highest paid players from last year. Of course, good pitching does not come cheap and the Royals will have to open up their pocket books a little more than they have in the past fifteen years in order to acquire those missing pieces. Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and the other all-star caliber players need to make a push for the organization to bring in the players that can fill in the gaps. The Royals have quite a few pieces together and just need a few more to finish the puzzle.

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A Rainy Week Not Good On The Royals’ Bats

The Royals offense this week, like the weather, wasn’t very pretty. The Royals scored only three runs or less in five of the games this past week, as expected when any major league team puts that few of runs, there were more losses than wins this week. However, the week ended on a high note by splitting the series with the Rangers and won on Friday night against our in-state rival, the St. Louis Cardinals.

The team’s highest batting average this past week was a mediocre .273. The only homerun was from Hosmer (who led the team with extra base hits with 3 this week) that sent a game into extra innings. In fact, Hosmer hit more extra base hits than Gordon (0), Cabrera (0), Aviles (0), Betemit (0), Escobar (0), and Butler (2 doubles) combined. Not exactly a good time to have a cold streak on the bats when facing one of the hottest teams right now in the Cleveland Indians and a very formidable Ranger team, who are playing well despite not having their best player in the lineup in Josh Hamilton.

The pitching did their part in four of the games in that they only gave up three runs or less in those contests. However, in the other three games alone, they gave up a whopping thirty-one runs, including nineteen against Cleveland on Monday night. This presented zero opportunities for Joakim Soria to work his magic, but even he has been showing signs of being off this year.

Jeff Francis has to be the highlight of the week on the pitching staff, making two solid appearances by pitching fifteen solid innings by only giving up three runs, while striking out nine. He is definitely filling in nicely for Bruce Chen in the starting rotation as a crafty southpaw. With Chen due back in the Rotation late next week, the Royals could have two solid lefties in the Rotation.

Jason Kendall could be making his way back to catching again in a couple of weeks after being on the DL with shoulder problems. The Royals are not rushing Kyle Davies by any means to get back into the rotation with his rotator cuff injury.

The Royals have fallen quite a bit since the beginning of May, however, a few inspiring quotes I remembered hearing a few times come to mind for this young team and its fans.

“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” – Bob Feller

“Look at misfortune the same way you look at success – Don’t Panic! Do you best and forget the consequences.” – Walter Alston

Being at .500 at this point in the season, after playing the teams they have had to play so far, is still a solid start for a very young and inexperienced ball club. This club maybe be labeled inexperienced for the most part now, but by the end of the season, these young guys will have taken their lumps and had enough successes to have built something that might surprise everyone when it comes September.

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Is This Exciting For Anyone Else?

At the beginning of Spring Training if someone would have said the Royals are going to be good enough to win or split their first five series of the year, I would have been extremely skeptical along with most other baseball writers and analysts.

They are currently tied for first in their division with another surprise team, the Cleveland Indians, who are coming to town on Monday. Both teams will be coming in on early season high notes and with the expectations of setting an early tone for the American League Central.

The Royals bats have definitely gotten into rhythm with several everyday players batting at or over .300. The pitching staff is starting to come together quite nicely but now have an open slot for the setup role due to Robinson Tejada’s recent placement on the disabled list for the next couple of weeks. The defense continues to back up the quality pitching efforts by both the starters and the bullpen.

If the Royals can finish out their current series with Seattle on a high note, they will be able to carry that momentum into the showdown against Cleveland. The Cleveland series is games 5-8 in their thirteen consecutive playing day stretch this month. A sweep by either team would send a strong message to the rest of the division that their franchise is tired of being the American League whipping boy.

Last year the Royals finished out 8-10 against the Tribe including three straight losses to close out the season series. If the Royals want to continue to make positive strides with their young team, they will have to continue to step up and execute as they did the past two weeks.

Solid pitching from first pitch to the last out, timely hitting, and solid defense is what the Royals have demonstrated so far this month. Their success has even reached the realm of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, where people are saying things like this:

“Royals, you are getting my hopes up. Be careful for your sake!”
“Life in our house is great because the Royals are winning.”
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. How about another I-70 series!”

It’s very early in the season, but I don’t see anything wrong with instilling and investing a little excitement into this young and exciting team.

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Royals Schedule Outlook: September

September brings playoff hopes to many teams. It has cities across the country getting ready for deep runs and World Series dreams. In Kansas City in 2011, it brings something much more important. The rosters expand.

The team will bring to the Major League level some of the best talent the area has seen and people might just flock down to the ballpark. They may not be playing winning baseball and it may be a bit early to anoint any of these players the next George Brett, but they will be exciting, and with the NFL Lockout, they may be the only game in town.

Anthony Lerew by Erika Lynn

September Breakdown:

Total Games: 24

Home: 11

Road: 13

Vs teams with winning records in 2010: 15

Vs teams with losing records in 2010: 11

Vs teams in the AL Central: 17

Key Series:

September 15-18 vs Chicago – the White Sox will come to The K for a four game set that will bring a buzz to the city. The rivalry will be revisited, the team will have play off hopes and the young guns of the Royals will look to prove themselves. Add this in with no football and Kansas City may be a volatile place to visit.

September 26-28 @ Minnesota – the final series of the year sees the young Royals take on the perennial contenders in the Minnesota Twins. The Twins will be making a playoff push and the Royals will be looking to end 2011 on a high note. The Royals may benefit from a division race that may be decided before this date, giving them the opportunity to play the Twins while they are not at their best.

Key To a Hot September:

Let the kids play. The young guys will put butts in the seats and score some runs. It could be the most exciting baseball that Kansas City has seen in quite sometime.

At the end of September:

If the Royals have 15+ wins… then the farm system is all it is promoted to be and then some. It is a lofty goal, but with some big bats and big arms on the way, the Royals need to start dreaming and start dreaming big.

If the Royals are above .500… they will have, honestly, proven enough. This team does not need to over-achieve right now, they simply need to prove they can compete. This is not about win now, it’s about proving to the division and the league that 2012 will see the Royals no longer being American League whipping boys.

If the Royals are below .500… most people would expect this outcome, but I would think it would be slightly disappointing. It could also mean that the team did not jump on the youth movement this year and chose to keep the kids in the minors and under wraps.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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