Tag Archive | "San Diego Padres"

St. Louis Cardinals will have little excuse not to win NL Central

The St. Louis Cardinals have played as tough of a schedule as any team in Major League Baseball this season. They spent the majority of the first half on the road and then came back from the All-Star Break to face 10 playoff-bound teams in their next 15 series.

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After six games to open the second half against the lowly San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Philles, the Cardinals faced the Atlanta Braves twice, the Los Angeles Dodgers once, the Pittsburgh Pirates four times and the Cincinnati Reds three times, for a total of 33 out of 48 games.

The Cardinals have survived that difficult stretch, going 25-24 headed into Sunday’s game against the Pirates, and they will soon reap the benefits of completing facing all of those potential playoff teams as the schedule balances out through the rest of September.

St. Louis will have 19 games left in the 2013 season after they finish their final three-game set with the Pirates on Sunday, and they will face just one team with a winning record, the Washington Nationals, who visit Busch Stadium Sept. 23-25.

Otherwise, the Cardinals face the likes of the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies through the end of the regular season. Those teams were a combined 63 games under the .500 mark headed into play Saturday.

So the Cardinals will have every opportunity to win the National League Central Division, especially since the Pirates face the AL West-leading Texas Rangers to begin this next week and still have six games against the Reds, which are the third contender in the NL Central.

Of course, a light schedule to finish the season is far from a guarantee of success. Sometimes the worst teams play well against playoff contenders late in the season as they bring up young players from the minor leagues and try to play the spoiler role.

The Cubs could be particularly troublesome, which is a problem considering they come to St. Louis for a three-game series to finish the season.

The Cardinals are 9-7 against the Cubs this season, but luckily those final three games will be played in St. Louis, where the Cardinals were 42-25 headed into play Saturday, compared to a 39-35 record on the road.

Along with the bevy of opponents with poor records, the schedule also helps the Cardinals in that 12 of the final 19 games are at Busch Stadium, and that could also give the Cardinals momentum headed into October.

The Cardinals are in a three-way battle for the division title with the Pirates and Reds, and they have held the first wild-card spot for much of the second half, but it is crucial they at least hang on to that position if they don’t win the division because they have played so much better at home.

One of the staples of the clubs managed by former manager Tony La Russa was their ability to play well on the road. The 2013 Cardinals still have a winning road record, but they have not played well away from St. Louis at all in the second half, going 9-15 since the All-Star Break, so home-field advantage could be particularly important for this ballclub.

They’ll have every opportunity to win that advantage given their remaining schedule, and they’ll have no one to blame but themselves if they have to open the postseason with a one-game wild-card playoff in Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.

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Triple Play: Clayton Kershaw, Edinson Volquez, Ichiro

In this edition of the Triple Play, we look at the best starting pitcher in baseball, an amazing career achievement that unexpectedly is drawing some controversy, and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Off we go:

IchiroSuzuki

Who’s Hot?

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Just as people are running out of superlatives for Miguel Cabrera’s hitting; so too are we struggling to find the words to accurately describe just how sensational Kershaw has been for the Dodgers this season. You’ve seen the ERA (1.72) that is far and away the best in baseball, but Kershaw also leads the National League in the following categories:

  • Games started (27)
  • Shutouts (2, tied with Adam Wainwright)
  • WHIP (0.857)
  • Hits per nine innings (5.8)
  • ERA+ (207)

He has surrendered just nine home runs in 198 1/3 innings pitched and is on pace for 240 strikeouts. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 188/32. The last time he allowed more than two runs in a start was July 10 against the Rockies. His ERA hasn’t been above two since June 26. The only thing separating him from a second 20-win season in three years is the Dodgers’ slow start to the season. Barring an incomprehensible late-season collapse, he looks like a shoo-in to win the NL Cy Young Award. The only questions left are whether the voting will be unanimous, and if he will win the MVP award as well.

Who’s Not?

Edinson Volquez, San Diego Padres

Edinson Volquez has been part of two major trades in his career. The first saw him dealt from the Rangers to the Reds in the Josh Hamilton deal; he was traded from the Reds to the Padres as part of the package for Mat Latos. He teased everyone with an impressive rookie year in 2008, going 17-6, with a 3.21 ERA and 206 strikeouts. But the warning signs were there even then: he walked 93 batters, hit 14 more (which led the NL), and threw 10 wild pitches. His WHIP was a career-best 1.327 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was just 2.22-to-1.

After being plagued by injuries for several years, Volquez made 32 starts with San Diego in 2012. He was credited with 11 wins, but led the league with a staggering 105 walks. If you owned him in your fantasy league, you either dropped him or watched your ERA/WHIP categories sink lower and lower thanks to his lack of control.

The Padres finally ran out of patience with Volquez on Saturday, designating him for assignment one day after failing a ghastly start that saw him fail to make it out of the first inning in a no-decision versus the anemic Cubs. This season, he went 9-10 with a 6.01 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and 95 earned runs allowed (worst in the NL). He averaged less than 5 1/3 innings per start this season. There are a few teams out there desperate for pitching, but they would be wise to look elsewhere.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .266/.358/.484, 24 HR, 64 RBI, 80 runs, 7 SB, 128 OPS+

Player B: .182/.263/.292, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 27 runs, 11 SB, 52 OPS+

Player C: .253/.347/.423, 13 HR, 37 RBI, 60 runs, 2 SB, 109 OPS+

Player A started the 2013 like a house afire, leading his league in home runs. Then he fell into a two and a half-month slump that had fantasy owners wondering if they should sell low on him just to rid themselves of the headache. Since the All-Star break, though, he has been much better; not quite the beast he was in April, but still an elite outfielder. In a recent game, he was tossed out of a game while running out a ground ball to first base.

Player B has had a season to forget, despite being one of the big free-agent signings of this past offseason. Never one to hit for a high average, he had always been able to provide power and great speed for fantasy owners. This season, he hasn’t provided much of either. His struggles have resulted in more frequent days off, even when healthy. The extra rest hasn’t helped, however, as he has 1-for-34 in his past 13 games.

Player C is the player who was recently injured, and may miss the rest of the regular season. The timing couldn’t be worse, either, as he was punishing the ball to the tune of a .348/.419/.621 slash line this month. In his place is a player who has never produced an OPS+ greater than 75 nor had more than 360 at-bats for the season.

Player A is Justin Upton, Player B is B.J. Upton, and Player C is Jason Heyward. Their up-and-down seasons (or in BJ’s case, just down) illustrate just how good Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson, and Brian McCann have been in anchoring the Braves lineup this season. The bullpen has been stellar as well, despite the injuries to stalwarts Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters. The Braves’ biggest benefactor, though, has been the putrid NL East division. If they were in any other division, they would be in a dogfight for first place. Instead, though, the Braves can worry about getting their players healthy and ready for October baseball.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Once Adam Wainwright started the 2013 season by pitching 37 innings before allowing his first walk of the season, we started a weekly tracker to keep track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace hands out this season. He has led the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio all season, and it hasn’t been close. After handcuffing the Cubs last week, Wainwright was even better last Friday night versus the Braves: he spun a six-hit, complete-game victory in which he walked no one and fanned nine. The start was Wainwright’s ninth this season in which he hasn’t issued a free pass (by comparison, Kershaw has six starts where he didn’t allow a walk). It also was his fifth complete game this season, most in the majors (Kershaw has three). Wainwright’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is back up to 7.24-to-1, still far and away the best in the majors. He is on a big-time roll at the perfect time, as the Cardinals go into a crucial stretch where their next 13 games are against the Reds and Pirates.
  • Jose Fernandez has allowed a total of eight runs in his seven starts since the All-Star break, with an ERA of 1.31. Opponents are slugging .225 against him in those games, and he has a 62-to-11 strikeout/walk ratio. He turned 21 on July 31. Mercy.
  • Meanwhile, the clock has struck midnight for Royals pitcher Bruce Chen. From July 12-August 13, he turned in six consecutive quality starts as the Royals elevated themselves into wild-card contention. His past two starts, however, have been brutal. After allowing just four runs total in those previous six starts, he has allowed 13 runs in just nine innings. Detroit and Washington both knocked him around like a piñata. He may get another opportunity or two, but Kansas City can’t afford any more clunkers if they want to hang in the wild card race.
  • If Miguel Cabrera is still feeling the effects of his abdominal injury, he’s doing a whale of a job covering it up. The past two weeks, he’s bashed seven home runs, with 19 RBI and .689 slugging percentage. For the season, his batting line is a ridiculous .360/.450/.685 (all of which lead the AL). He is on pace for 51 homers, 159 RBI, and 115 runs scored. If Chris Davis slows down at all, Cabrera has a terrific chance to become the major leagues’ first back-to-back Triple Crown winner.
  • The aforementioned Davis is showing little signs of slowing down, however. He has 46 homers on the season (five more than Cabrera), to go with 117 RBI. After seeing his strikeout totals soar in June and July, Davis is back to being more selective at the plate and he is reaping the benefits, as shown by his 1.119 OPS this month.
  • Then there’s the other Davis – Khris Davis, that is. The Brewers’ rookie outfielder is having himself a fine August as well. He entered August with a .231/.310/.538 slash line; now it looks like this: .338/.416/.727. It’s a small sample size, to be sure, but the Brewers will take any bright spot they can get right now.
  • Boston’s win over the Dodgers yesterday marked the first time that a team has beaten the Dodgers in a series since June 14-16, when Pittsburgh won two of three from L.A.
  • Jordan Danks hit a home run Sunday in a game that his brother John started. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the first time a player hit a home run in support of his brother since Billy and Bobby Shantz achieved the feat for the Kansas City A’s in 1955.
  • Sadly, that is probably the highlight of the White Sox’s season.
  • Sunday’s Diamondbacks-Phillies day game started just 11 ½ hours after Saturday’s 18-inning marathon ended. Casper Wells was unavailable to pitch.
  • Welcome back, Roy Halladay.
  • If you haven’t read the story about the eight-year-old Indians fan with cerebral palsy who asked Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis to hit home runs for him Sunday (they both did, by the way), do yourself a favor and read it. Here’s to you, Niko Lanzarotta.
  • We wrap up this week with our final Ichiro Hit Tracker. On Wednesday, Aug. 21, Ichiro collected career hit #4,000, a single off Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey. As more and more national writers started taking note of this milestone (AFTER I started noting it in the Triple Play), there was a major backlash by many fans and media members. While the 1,872 hits from his career in Japan obviously don’t count towards the major-league numbers, it is still a noteworthy achievement. Some writers grumbled that Japanese baseball was of no better quality than the minor leagues, which is an apples-to-oranges argument. The point that Ichiro is one of the greatest pure hitters ever to play the game still holds. As such, here are a few more numbers that illustrate just that:
    • He has compiled ten 200-hit seasons. The only other player to do that? Pete Rose.
    • Ichiro has done that in 13 years. It took Rose 17 years to do that.
    • Ichiro has five seasons with more than 220 hits. Rogers Hornsby has four. Rose has one.
    • With 2,533 hits, Ichiro is the all-time leader in Mariners history (more than Edgar Martinez or Ken Griffey Jr.)
    • Ichiro has hit successfully off 756 pitchers in his major-league career.
    • Since 2001, the player with the second-most hits is Albert Pujols (2,347).

Let’s just appreciate the greatness we have had the privilege of watching for the past 13 seasons. There will be plenty of time to debate Ichiro’s place in history after he has retired.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Difficult Start To Second Half Could Help St. Louis Cardinals In October

The St. Louis Cardinals have unquestionably played their worst baseball of the season the past three weeks, going 4-11 against the four best teams in the National League, but that rough stretch could be a large dose of the medicine the team needs to be ready for the playoffs.

MikeMathenyArguing

Despite the awful finish to July and start to August, the Cardinals still entered play Saturday in the first wild-card spot and 6.5 games from falling out of a playoff position. Therefore, they have little reason to stress over making the playoffs, but a little frustration could add an edge any team needs to succeed in the postseason.

Sure, the Cardinals had their fair share of injuries during the first half of the season. Starting pitcher Chris Carpenter never recovered from his arm injury, closer Jason Motte underwent Tommy John surgery during spring training, Jaime Garcia had season-ending shoulder surgery in May and Jake Westbrook missed significant time while on the disabled list, but none of those problems were big enough to keep St. Louis from jumping out to the best record in Major League Baseball.

The Cardinals cruised to a 57-36 record in the first half while primarily playing teams that are not going to come anywhere close to making the playoffs. Their combined 28-11 record against the Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants largely accounts for why the team was more than 20 games above .500 by the All-Star Break.

They began the second half of the season 5-1 in six games against the lowly Padres and Philadelphia Phillies, who were each 11 games under .500 heading into play Saturday, but then they went out to play the good teams in the National League.

And they got smoked.

The Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers would fill out the postseason bracket along with the Cardinals if the season ended anytime soon, and those teams won 11 of 15 games against St. Louis.

Of course, catcher Yadier Molina went on the disabled list with a sprained right knee less than a week into that stretch and that has certainly affected the offense considering he was second in the league with a .330 batting average when he got hurt.

Yet, the Cardinals’ problems have been bigger than just Molina’s absence. The team has hit .260 since the All-Star break, which is 16 points lower than it hit before the break.

The pitching staff’s earned-run average has ballooned from 3.40 to 3.98 in the second half as the team struggles to mix and match starters to fill in gaps left by an intense schedule and more injury problems such as Shelby Miller’s sore elbow that could cause him to miss a start after he took a line drive directly off it on the second pitch of his outing Wednesday against the Dodgers.

But more than anything, the team needs to relearn how to win, particular against good teams it will likely face in the playoffs.

Remember, the 2013 Cardinals are a young team. They have a second baseman (Matt Carpenter) and shortstop (Pete Kozma), who are in their first seasons at those positions at the major-league level, and they have used 11 rookie pitchers. All but four of those 13 players were on the postseason roster in 2012 and many had never spent a day in the big leagues until earlier this season.

Also, every team, good or bad, goes through a rough patch in their season. The 2006 World Series championship Cardinals team lost eight games in a row in late June, and the 2011 world championship team lost seven in a row in early June, along with a 3-8 stretch in mid-August before it caught fire through the rest of the season.

The 2013 team had not had a losing streak of more than three games in a row at any point before the seven-game losing streak a couple of weeks ago. The team had battled around injuries, but it had yet to develop the resilience that only a stretch of losing baseball can provide.

Plus, the team now knows the level of play required to compete with the best teams in the league.

It certainly isn’t fun for Cardinals fans to watch their team struggle, but the recent run of losses seemingly night after night could help the team develop the mental and emotional toughness it will need to make a run at the 2013 World Series championship.

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Biogenesis: Is ACES To Blame?

By now baseball fans are very familiar with the word “Biogenesis” and the subsequent suspensions being handed down to players as a result of their involvement with the company.  A shocking similarity is starting to form when looking at the players being suspended and the agency that has represented them.

NelsonCruz

As of this morning, MLBTradeRumors is sharing reports from various sources claiming twelve players have accepted suspensions handed down by Major League Baseball for their involvement with Biogenesis.

The list currently: Nelson Cruz – Texas Rangers, Jhonny Peralta – Detroit Tigers, Everth Cabrera – San Diego Padres, Antonio Bastardo – Philadelphia Phillies, Jordany Valdespin – New York Mets, Sergio Escalona – Houston Astros, Francisco Cervelli – New York Yankees, Jesus Montero – Seattle Mariners, Cesar Puello – New York Mets (Minor Leaguer), Fautino De Los Santos – San Diego Padres (Minor Leaguer), Fernando Martinez – Houston Astros, Jordan Norberto – Oakland Athletics

Nelson Cruz announced this morning that he had changed agencies from ACES to Wasserman Media Group, a move that is not uncommon and normally does not raise any flags.

However, that agency – ACES – has been popping up a lot lately.

They were the agency that represented, and were accused of assisting in a cover-up for, Melky Cabrera.  They are also connected to Gio Gonzalez, who has been linked to Biogenesis but not named in the suspension list as of yet.  Add to those two names Jhonny Peralta, Jesus Montero, Fautino De Los Santos, Jordany Valdespin, Antonio Bastardo, Sergio Escalona and Cesar Puello and you’ve got a staggering number of clients being accused of using performance enhancing drugs.

What does all of this mean?  It may not mean anything at all.  ACES is a large agency with a fairly large amount of clients (107 baseball players are listed in MLBTR’s Agency Database as represented by ACES).  Maybe it suggests that the clients were brought together by a common event.  Maybe it suggests that someone at ACES has planted the seed that Biogenesis could help their clients.

Either way, I would guess that Major League Baseball may further investigate the agency before all the smoke clears.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can talk baseball with him on Twitter or read more of his St. Louis Cardinals analysis on Yahoo!.

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Fernando Salas could be St. Louis Cardinals most important reliever in late-July

St. Louis Cardinals right-handed reliever Fernando Salas returned to the team Friday to start the second half of the regular season after a 56-day stint on the disabled list.  The results of his first outing weren’t pretty but the Cardinals need Salas to pitch well possibly more than any pitcher in their bullpen.

salas, molina I70

Salas allowed a run on two hits and a walk in the eighth inning Friday in a 9-6 win over the San Diego Padres in his first appearance since he went on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation May 22 after the Cardinals finished a three-game series against the Padres in San Diego.

Up to that point, Salas had plenty of less-than-stellar performances. He took a 3.86 earned-run average to the disabled list with him, and that was his lowest ERA of the season. He allowed runs in three of his first four outings but then settled down to become positive part of the bullpen.

He needs to pitch to that form to help the Cardinals in the second half of the season, but he could also be a valuable trade chip if he pitches well in the next two weeks.

The Cardinals had the best record in the Major League Baseball at 58-36 heading into play Saturday but still have room to make some improvements. They could use another starter or a shortstop, but any team on the other end of the deal is almost certainly going to ask the Cardinals to part with one of their dominant, young pitchers.

Whether it’s Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, Michael Blazek, Michael Wacha or Keith Butler, the Cardinals have an incredible stockpile of pitching talent in their organization that could keep the team competitive for years to come, or the Cardinals could use it for short-term gains that could be the difference in a run toward the 2013 World Series championship.

The Cardinals would likely have to part with at least one of those afore-mentioned pitchers to complete a trade for a top-tier player such as Philadelphia Phillies left-handed starter Cliff Lee or Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubel Cabrera, but Salas might provide enough value to lessen the load of young pitchers the Cardinals would have to give up in a trade.

Although Salas has been a valuable part of the Cardinals bullpen for the past three seasons, he does not have the potential of nearly all of the Cardinals rookies who could be the core of one of baseball’s best pitching staffs since the Phillies loaded their rotation with Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

And the Cardinals group would have youth on their side. None of the six rookie pitchers are older than 24 years old. Right-handed starter Shelby Miller is just 22 years old, but he and 23-year-old right-handed reliever Trevor Rosenthal have made so much of a positive impact already the Cardinals would be very unlikely to make either available in a trade.

Salas is 28 years old and hasn’t ever shown the dominant stuff many of his younger teammates bring into a game on a regular basis, but he has been a solid reliever for the Cardinals throughout his career and even saved 24 games in the 2011 season that ended with a World Series title.

But it was Jason Motte who closed out games in the World Series, the postseason and much of the final month of the season when the Cardinals made their remarkable comeback from 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the wild-card spot with about six weeks to play.

What was true then is true now. Salas pitches well more often than not, but the Cardinals have more talented pitchers around him. And that makes him expendable.

The big question is if any team would find Salas to be a quality piece to a trade. He almost certainly isn’t valuable enough to warrant a one-for-one trade. The Cardinals would probably have to add him into a trade with one of the other young pitchers.

Whether or not they decide to make that type of move will be one of the most intriguing storylines of the next 10 days.

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St. Louis Cardinals in bind after Michael Wacha demotion

The St. Louis Cardinals had their choice of two pitchers to send to the minor leagues Friday when righthanded starter Jake Westbrook returned from injury. Their decision was sure to have a short-term effect regardless, but it has suddenly put them in a tough situation that could linger until at least the All-Star break. MichaelWacha3 Rookie left-handed starter Tyler Lyons stayed, while rookie right-handed starter Michael Wacha went to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. Wacha and Lyons joined the starting rotation in May as the Cardinals struggled to put together a healthy rotation. Westbrook went on the disabled list May 12 with elbow inflammation and Jaime Garcia’s season ended with a shoulder injury a week later. Rookie left-hander John Gast originally filled Westbrook’s spot and Lyons stepped in Garcia’s spot. Gast, however, suffered a shoulder injury May 26, which forced the Cardinals to bring up Wacha on May 30 to face the Kansas City Royals. Wacha was great in that first game. He struck out six Royals hitters through seven innings and didn’t allow a single baserunner until centerfielder Lorenzo Cain hit a double in the fifth. Lyons was equally as good in his first two starts. He allowed one run through seven innings May 22 against the San Diego Padres and had the same stat line May 28 against the Royals, but his performances have gone downhill since. He hasn’t gone more than 6.1 innings or allowed fewer than four runs in his last three starts, including a six-run, eight hit outing Sunday against the Miami Marlins. The Cardinals gave him that start while Wacha returned to Memphis for his second stint as a minor leaguer despite the “I’m here to stay” proclamation he made when he first arrived in St. Louis a month earlier. The Cardinals thought Wacha, their most prized prospect, would benefit more from pitching in the minors since he was still just a year removed from pitching in college at Texas A&M. Lyons, who the team drafted in 2010, is a seasoned veteran with less upside by comparison, and the Cardinals hoped he would be able to fill a role similar to the one Joe Kelly filled in 2012, one that wasn’t spectacular but kept the team in most of the games he pitched. Lyons could be a stable No. 5 starter the team might be able to nurse through the bulk of the season, but after Sunday’s debacle, the Cardinals are stuck. Lyons could just have hit a three-start rough stretch and will stabilize into a pitcher the Cardinals can rely on every fifth day. But if he doesn’t, the team will have yet another important decision to make about its rotation. The Cardinals have a few of options if Lyons can’t be the No. 5 starter, but none is very good. The quickest decision would be to bring Wacha back to the big club and send Lyons to the minors. Wacha has more talent anyway, which could help him navigate the bulk of a rookie season, but it could also be the start of a convoluted mess if Wacha doesn’t pitch well and the team ultimately decides he truly does need a full season in the minors before he is ready to pitch in a Major League Baseball rotation. Cardinals officials said early in the season they didn’t want Wacha to jump back and forth between the majors and minors. They would prefer that once they called him up, he would be a big-leaguer for good. Well, that didn’t happen, and now the Cardinals could be in a position where they have to move Wacha up and down as short-term solutions if Lyons isn’t going to be a reliable starter. But if the Cardinals really do want to keep Wacha in the minors, they could bring back rookie right-hander Carlos Martinez, who has worked as a starter for Memphis the past three weeks after a monthlong stint in the Cardinals bullpen when he gave up four runs across seven appearances. Also, the Cardinals could also bring Kelly out of purgatory in the bullpen and have him be the No. 5 starter. Kelly started 16 games for the team in 2012 and had a 3.53 earned-run average in 24 outings, overall. He was also in contention for the No. 5 spot out of spring training, but the Cardinals chose to give that spot to rookie right-hander Shelby Miller instead. Kelly has been awful out of the bullpen so far this season. He’s given up at least one run in nearly half of his appearances and has a 5.19 ERA. However, he was terrific in his one start June 5 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He breezed through 5.2 innings in 80 pitches while allowing one earned run on four hits, but manager Mike Matheny didn’t want to extend him to far since he had pitched out of the bullpen exclusively up to that point. So the Cardinals have options to fill the No. 5 spot in their rotation, but none are ideal, which makes this a problem that could follow the team through much of the rest of the season. Of course, pitchers such as Cliff Lee might be on the trading block in the next six weeks and Chris Carpenter could still come back, but those moves would create plenty of worries on their own, such as who the Cardinals would trade or if Carpenter truly is healthy enough to pitch. In the end, that’s just life as a Major League Baseball organization. Even the best team in baseball is far from stress-free through the course of a 162-game season.

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Westbrook To Make Rehab Start

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Springfield, MO – The St. Louis Cardinals have announced that Cardinals RHP Jake Westbrook will make a rehab start for the Springfield Cardinals this Tuesday, June 4.

The Cardinals host the Arkansas Travelers at 7:09pm on Tuesday. Click below to get your tickets right now.

Westbrook, 35, got off to a great start to the 2013 campaign with St. Louis, posting a 2-1 record with a 1.62 ERA through six starts early this year. His finest outing came on April 10 when he dealt a complete game shutout against the Cincinnati Reds, striking out three and scattering only five hits in the dominant performance. Westbrook had limited opponents to one run or fewer in all but two starts this season, prior to being placed on the disabled list on May 12.

The 14-year Major League veteran has compiled a 100-96 record with a 4.24 ERA throughout his career, and helped the Cardinals win the 2011 World Championship with two scoreless relief innings in the World Series against the Texas Rangers.

Originally from Athens, GA, Westbrook was selected by the Colorado Rockies with the 21st overall pick in the 1st round of the 1996 Draft. He made his Major League debut on June 17, 2000 with the New York Yankees, before spending the next 10 years with the Cleveland Indians. Westbrook was acquired by the Cardinals in a three-team trade with the Indians and San Diego Padres on July 31, 2010.

Click here to get your tickets to see Jake Westbrook at Hammons Field this Tuesday!

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Adam Wainwright back in domination mode

This is the Adam Wainwright the St. Louis Cardinals think is worth $97.5 million for the next five years.

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In his second season after Tommy John surgery to repair a torn elbow ligament, Wainwright has returned to the Cy Young award-caliber pitcher he was before the injury.

He simply dominated the Washington Nationals on Tuesday and now has a 4-1 record and a 1.93 earned-run average with 37 strikeouts against one walk in five starts. He’s established himself once again as the Cardinals’ ace, and that’s a huge relief for everybody involved.

Wainwright had put together a 64-34 record with a 2.99 earned-run average in four seasons as a starter before he suffered the elbow injury at the beginning of spring training in 2011. He also possessed a fastball that reached 96 mph and one of the most devastating curveballs in Major League Baseball.

But that was gone for much of 2012. Wainwright had a winning record, 14-13, but he also had the highest ERA of his career, 3.94, and rarely had the dominating games he did before the injury. His fastball wasn’t as fast, his curveball didn’t break as sharply and too many of his pitches were up in the strike zone, which allowed hitters to often drive balls they hit for extra base hits.

He did have a few standout games, including a four-hit, complete-game shutout May 22 against the San Diego Padres, but he also had several poor stretches such as back-to-back games against the Nationals and New York Mets in late August and early September when he gave up a combined 11 runs in just 7.2 innings.

Wainwright said he was sure his good stuff would come back, but he hadn’t proved it until that complete game against the Padres.

“It’s a huge sense of relief; it’s a huge sense of feeling blessed,” he said after the shutout against San Diego. “Mentally, tonight, I was so much better than I had been. I’ve worked very hard to get back to where I am.”

However, not every game went so well, and the Cardinals had an important decision to make as the 2013 season approached. Wainwright was about to enter the final year of his contract, and the Cardinals had to figure out if they were going to keep him beyond this season.

Overall, his career track showed he could be as good a pitcher as there is the game, but his performances after the injury caused plenty of concern.

Yes, most pitchers come back from Tommy John surgery and pitch as well as they did beforehand, but successful surgery is never a guarantee, and Wainwright’s 2012 season offered no certainties that he would ever be the type of pitcher he was beforehand.

But the Cardinals signed him to the long-term deal March 28, just days before the season started. Now, it is a fairly big risk to give a five-year contract to a 31-year-old pitcher who had major elbow surgery, but so far Wainwright has made the Cardinals’ management look pretty smart.

And the best could be yet to come. Wainwright sliced through the Nationals on Tuesday for 8.1 shutout innings with nine strikeouts and his first walk of the season after 34.2 innings, which was fewer than six innings from the franchise record.

He threw a fastball at 94 mph, his curveball buckled Nationals hitters’ knees throughout the night and his control was as precise as ever.

Wainwright is back to the form Cardinals officials hoped they would see when they signed him to the contract extension, and now they can sit back and watch their investment dominate opposing hitters as if its 2010 again.

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Batter Up: Fans Guide To Spring Training

Batter Up: The Fan's Guide To Spring Training Source: Sports Management Degree Hub

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Fourteen Players, Three Roster Spots

For the first time in several years, the Royals lineup, starting rotation and bullpen is pretty much set, barring injuries. But opportunities exist for some players to get a spot on the bench.

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It’s likely Manager Ned Yost will go with 12 pitchers and a backup catcher. Add the eight position players and the designated hitter and there’s only three reserve player spots available. How many players are vying for those three spots? Fourteen.

Of the fourteen, three of them are long shots. Infielder Brandon Wood signed a Minor League contract and is a non-roster invitee. A former top prospect with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Wood’s last stint in the Majors was 99 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011.

Royals Minor League infielder Anthony Seratelli is a non-roster invitee who provides Spring Training depth, but little else.

Non-roster invitee outfielder Luis Durango played 39 Major League games from 2009-2011 with the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros. He’s likely be in AAA Omaha’s outfield or could be released.

The next group could make the club, but a few things are going to have to go their way. Non-roster invitee Xavier Nady is an 11-year Major League veteran who’s played with several different teams. He’ll get an opportunity as a reserve outfielder or first baseman.

Former Royal and non-roster invitee Endy Chavez will see some time in the outfield during Spring Training, but barring a great spring performance or injuries to other players, Chavez has a slim chance.

The Player to be Named Later in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade is utility infielder Elliot Johnson, who played 123 games for the Tampa Rays last year. Being the Royals newest player, Johnson will get a long look as a backup to shortstop Alcides Escobar.

Non-roster invitee outfielder Willy Taveras provides some speed and seven years of Major League experience. If he has a good spring, he could be a reserve outfielder if Jarrod Dyson falters.

Royals infield prospect Christian Colon only has two seasons of pro baseball, but if he plays well, he might be in the mix for second base. But if the Royals think he needs more seasoning, he’ll go back to the Minors.

Outfielder David Lough played 20 games last year for the Royals, but Dyson will have to stumble for Lough to make the club.

And there’s longtime Royals farmhand Irving Falu, who played 24 games for the Royals in 2012. Seeing how few opportunities the club gives him, it’s likely Falu ends up in Omaha, even if he deserves a real shot of making the club as a utility infielder.

The next group is the most likely to make the club, due to their contributions to the Royals last year or their veteran status.

Whoever loses the second base battle between Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella will end up on the bench, so that leaves two spots on the bench.

Outfielder Jarrod Dyson had a solid 2012 filling in for the oft-injured Lorenzo Cain. Dyson isn’t much of a hitter, but he’s got speed and plays a decent outfield. If Cain stays healthy, Dyson is a good fourth outfielder and will take the second spot on the bench, with one spot left.

So who gets the last reserve roster spot? I believe the Royals will give it to six-time All-Star and 2002 MVP infielder Miguel Tejada. He’s not the player he was ten years ago, but as a bench player in a limited utility role, he can play a serviceable third base, shortstop and even second. Perhaps “veteran leadership” is a baseball myth, but Tejada has the right attitude to provide guidance for a young team.

Sure, some fans might think the Royals have no business giving a roster spot to a 38-year old player whose best days are behind him. But he’s not taking the starting job of a younger player and you have to admit he’s probably a better player than Yuni Betancourt.

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