Tag Archive | "St Louis Post Dispatch"

Rookie Kolten Wong Expected to Be St. Louis Cardinals’ Starting 2nd Baseman

Kolten Wong’s journey has traveled many directions in his short time establishing himself on the St. Louis Cardinals’ roster. He was the prospect who was poised to take the position over late last season. He became the heir apparent during the offseason. He struggled at the start of spring training.

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Now he appears to be the starting second baseman when the season begins.

As spring training winds down for the Cardinals, most of their roster decisions have been made. One of the key positions that seemed to demand attention was second base.

General manager John Mozeliak acquired an insurance policy for his young prospect when he signed Mark Ellis to a contract in December 2013. Ellis would challenge the young Wong to produce immediately if he wanted to hold on to his starting role.

Wong responded early in spring training by pushing himself too hard and found himself without a hit in his first 10 at-bats. Speculation was rampant that Wong simply was not ready. The young man was doing very little to change the minds of his critics.

Then something clicked in his progress—Wong relaxed and started showing signs of the talent so many had talked about prior to this season. He finds himself leading the Cardinals this spring with a .372 batting average. He has an impressive .674 slugging percentage and is leading the team in OPS with a 1.100 mark. The offensive production that some predicted seems to have arrived.

Meanwhile, his challenger struggled to take the field often enough to truly create the competition that management seemed to want. Ellis was slowed by a left knee ailment that caused him to miss seven consecutive games, and now finds himself preparing for Opening Day.

Ellis is expected to be ready for the season opener on March 31. When discussing the situation with Rick Hummel the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,Ellis expressed frustration with the injury more than with not being the starter:

I’m always disappointed when I can’t play…. I never want to be the guy in the training room. I want to be the guy who nobody has to worry about. They don’t have to worry about, ‘Hey, is this guy going to be able to play today or not?’ That’s what is disappointing.

Wong seems ready to begin his rookie season, and Ellis is ready to be the veteran backup.

The Cardinals are ready to win with both of them.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season.

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MLB Trade Rumors Center Around St. Louis Cardinals Shortstop Pete Kozma

Trade rumors begin to swirl as spring training nears completion in Major League Baseball.  As Opening Day draws near, teams begin to identify their needs as well as their surpluses.  The St. Louis Cardinals, who have found themselves actively involved in the market for shortstops around the league over the last few seasons, suddenly find themselves with a player to offer to the market.

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Pete Kozma is the odd man out in St. Louis, and general manager John Mozeliak hopes to benefit from that.

According to Adam Rubin of ESPN, the Cardinals have been shopping Kozma around the league, letting other teams know that the young shortstop is available:

The reasons for trade rumors surrounding Kozma are obvious.  The Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta during the offseason, Daniel Descalso offers a backup option who can play multiple positions and the team needs the room on the 40-man roster.

All of this could lead to a trade for a low-level prospect in exchange for the man who played 143 games for the Cardinals last season.

Joe Strauss of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out another need that the Cardinals may wish to address with the rumored trade of Kozma based on the recent reassignment of relief pitcher Tyler Lyons.

“The Cardinals can option Kozma or keep him as Peralta’s backup. Having optioned Tyler Lyons to Memphis on Wednesday, the club could survey the market for long relief. No obvious internal candidate currently exists,” according to Strauss.

That option would not alleviate the roster restriction that exists but is a fair trade rumor as it fulfills both the team’s need and surplus at the same time.  The argument against a long reliever in return is based more on the value that Kozma holds.

Ben Humphrey of Viva El Birdos breaks down the value of Kozma on the market and what fans should expect in return.  Ultimately, Humphrey comes to the conclusion that a trade involving Kozmawould likely resemble the trade of Brendan Ryan in December of 2010.  In that trade, the Cardinals received relief pitcher Maikel Cleto, a low-level prospect with a lively arm.

The Cardinals will do their due diligence in shopping Kozma around to see if there is a trade that makes sense.  If the past can tell us anything, it is that Mozeliak will only move Kozma if he feels that the Cardinals will clearly benefit from the return.

Meanwhile, the trade rumors will continue to circulate.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season.

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Oscar Taveras Needs to Find Motivation in Minor League Assignment

Oscar Taveras, one of the St. Louis Cardinals’ top prospects, was supposed to be competing for a spot on the 2014 major league roster at this point in the spring.  He was supposed to be earning at-bats, showcasing his talent and pushing manager Mike Matheny to make a very tough decision to send him to the minor leagues.  That decision was not so hard.

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Due to an ankle injury that required surgery near the end of last season, Taveras was very reluctant to step onto the field this spring.  Though team doctors had cleared him to play, he continued to favor the ankle, fearing that he may aggravate the injury and take another step back in his progression.

While hesitant to trust his ankle, Taveras ended up straining his hamstring.  Speculation has surfaced that the hamstring injury my be related to the unwillingness to test the ankle, as Derrick Goold of theSt. Louis Post-Dispatch points out when he writes, “With Taveras unable to take the field and do many of the workouts, his conditioning started to wane, and favoring his right ankle may have contributed to the right hamstring injury.”

Taveras, slowed by the injuries early on, has been reassigned to minor league camp.  He has made his debut on that side of the complex already and has begun the journey to try to reach the major leagues this season.  That journey is something that Matheny wants him to think very hard about.

Mathney is a strong believer in hard work and earning your spot.  The reassignment to minor league camp should be a motivational factor for his young star.  Matheny’s personal blog reflects that sentiment very well:

With almost 60 guys left in camp right now, I realize that I will have almost 35 of those tough conversations with guys who will not be able to make our club. I hope to remember the feeling of not making that team, many years ago, and the disappointment of a dream being delayed. I realize that I will most likely be part of their motivation to get better and make it to the next level, and I hope that I am around to celebrate with them when they beat the odds, and use their disappointments to help them reach their dream of getting to the Big Leagues. I will tell them, just like I told my son, ‘get to work and prove ‘em wrong.’

Over the next few months, Taveras can let his production speak for itself.  He can show a strong work ethic and prove that he wants to be in St. Louis.  He has the opportunity to do exactly what his future manager expects him to do.

Indeed, Taveras has every chance to “get to work and prove ‘em wrong.”

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season.

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Jack Clark Says Albert Pujols Juiced

It sure didn’t take long for Kevin Slaten and Jack Clark to open up the doors to controversy on the new 920 AM.

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The subject of performance enhancing drugs is clogging sports talk radio, and for good reason.  The Biogenesis scandal has brought it back to the forefront of everyone’s mind.  When Kevin Slaten brought it up on the air and suggested that he always suspected Albert Pujols of using, Jack Clark was quick to jump in with his thoughts.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch broke the story this morning and you can read Dan Caesar’s take by clicking here.

Clark states that Pujols former trainer, Chris Mihlfeld, offered to provide Clark with steroids as a part of his exercise routine.  Mihlfeld went on to explain how well it was working for Pujols, whom he had been working with since college and projected to be a “big star” someday.

Is this shocking to anyone?  I mean, we all want Pujols to have played a clean game over the years and believe that he was the super-human he portrayed to be early on in his career, but are we sticking our collective heads in the sand?

I can recall Pujols final season here in St. Louis.  In June of that year, he broke his arm in a play at first base.  We we warned that he would miss time and that he would take some time to rebuild his strength based on the type of injury .  It would cause a good portion of his season to be a struggle.  He was slated to miss 4-to-6 weeks with the injury but i70baseball’s Mike Metzger noted in this article that he recovered in just over two weeks, referring to his recovery as much quicker than that of a “mere mortal”.

Pujols did some amazing things while he was in St. Louis and I sincerely hope he did them the right way.  He was exemplary on and off the field.  He was a childhood hero to many fans.

Say it ain’t so, Albert.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
He is a freelance writer that publishes work for InsideStl and Yahoo Contributor Network as well.
Follow him on Twitter.

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Triple Play: Jake Peavy, Michael Young, Joe Nathan

The non-waiver trade deadline is less than a week away. In this week’s Triple Play, we look at some of the players who are being bandied about in trade rumors, plus a few players who SHOULD be traded, along with our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch.

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Who’s Hot?

Jake Peavy, ???

It’s not his pitching that has Peavy in the “hot” category – it’s all the trade rumors. With Matt Garza already traded and Cliff Lee not being made available by the Phillies, Peavy has been considered the top starter on the trade market. MLB Trade Rumors reported over the weekend that Peavy packed his bags and it’s highly unlikely he will make another start for the White Sox. ESPN’s Buster Olney is predicting that Peavy will end up with Oakland, which actually makes that scenario most unlikely. Rumors also have the Cardinals and Orioles in pursuit, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that nothing is imminent, while the O’s are “tapped out” financially, according to Jon Heyman. Peavy hasn’t been dominant since being activated from the disabled list after the All-Star break, but he has a 10-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has held opponents to a .229 batting average. The most logical destination remains Atlanta, regardless of what some national writers are reporting. After Tim Hudson’s horrific injury last week, the Braves need another starter. I think they can get a deal done with the White Sox that does not include top pitching prospect Alex Wood. Boston is another team that could use a starter, thanks to Clay Buchholz’s absence. The Red Sox are fairly deep in young players who could (should) interest the prospect-poor White Sox.

Who’s Not?

Michael Young, Philadelphia

As mentioned in last week’s column, I do not understand the infatuation with Young. There are plenty of players who can put up the following batting line: .277/.342/.402, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 38 runs, 1 SB. Here are some examples: Drew Stubbs (not a full-time outfielder), Luke Scott, Stephen Drew (both injured for part of the season), John Mayberry (reserve outfielder), Eric Chavez (reserve infielder), and David DeJesus (platoon outfielder). Yet several teams, including Young’s former team (Texas), have shown interest in him, despite his lackluster July performance (.236/.333/.375 batting line). If deployed as part of a strict platoon, Young could have some value as a designated hitter for a contender, but players like that should not require much in trade. This seems a case where Young’s past hitting success will result in the Phillies being able to obtain a couple of prospects from a team. That being the case, this should a no-brainer situation for the Phillies, who are in dire need of an infusion of young talent. Then again, GM Ruben Amaro hasn’t always shown in inclination to do what’s in the best interest of his team’s future. I’d say the chances of Young actually being traded are about 60-40, at best.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 6-6, 3.06 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 3.57 K/BB, 134 ERA+

Player B: .278/.366/.500, 13 HR, 44 RBI, 42 runs, 146 OPS+

Player A is Kansas City’s Ervin Santana. Player B is the Padres’ Carlos Quentin. Both are players who should be traded by Wednesday’s deadline. Given the Angels’ terrible pitching this season, they would probably like to have Santana back. He has been up-and-down this year, but his two starts since the All-Star break have been terrific (both wins): 15 1/3 IP, 0.59 ERA, nine hits, one run allowed, nine strikeouts, three walks. He’s younger than Peavy, much less of a health risk, and has the capability to dominate. Kansas City is hovering around .500, honestly not much of a threat to the Tigers or Indians in the AL Central (the current six-game win streak notwithstanding). Considering the return package the Cubs received for Matt Garza, who will be a free agent at season’s end, the Royals should be able to match that for Santana.

Quentin, meanwhile, would be a perfect fit for a team looking for an outfield bat or DH upgrade (Rangers, Pirates, Orioles, Athletics). When he isn’t starting brawls with opposing pitchers, Quentin offers plenty of power (.866 OPS) that would boost several contenders’ lineups. Once the Padres get Cameron Maybin and Kyle Blanks back from the disabled list, they will have a glut of outfielders who should play most every day. Quentin’s contract, which pays him a combined $17.5 million in 2014-15, is quite reasonable, making him an even more attractive commodity. Trading Quentin for some young pitching would help San Diego on two fronts. Failing to trade him would be a mistake.

Player A: 1-2, 33 Sv, 1.69 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 8.7 K/9

Player B: 1-1, 32 Sv, 1.73 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 9.5 K/9

Player A is Mariano Rivera. Player B is the Rangers’ Joe Nathan, who could be on the block. At first blush, this would appear to drastically change the trade market. One of the premier closers in baseball suddenly being available would have contenders lining up, right? Teams like Detroit, Boston, and the L.A. Dodgers have dealt with bullpens in flux the entire season. But why would Texas trade Nathan to an AL contender? The Dodgers seem like a possibility, what with their bottomless wallets, but what do they have to offer the Rangers in exchange? The Pirates might have a need due to Jason Grilli’s injury, and they have the prospects to entice Texas, but if they are looking for hitters, not pitchers. With the Rangers chasing the Oakland Athletics in the NL West and several other teams in the wild-card hunt, it would seem like the Rangers would be better served to keep their closer. On the other hand, if they are determined to not exercise the $9 million team option for 2014 on the 38-year-old Nathan, that may be driving the decision to entertain trade offers.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright went 37 innings before walking his first batter, so we are keeping track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace issues throughout the remainder of the season. After a fine start last Friday against the Braves (7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER) which resulted in a loss, Wainwright’s strikeout-to-walk ratio sits at 145-to-18 (8.06-to-1). That ratio is still the best in the majors. Wainwright’s main competition in the fewest-walks competition remains Oakland’s Bartolo Colon (also with 18 walks, but only 77 strikeouts). The next-best K/BB ratio belongs to Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma (5.86-to-1).
  • If Pittsburgh truly is considering a trade for Justin Morneau, I applaud the creative thinking. Garrett Jones can move to right field. Morneau’s experience might be just what the young, hungry Pirates need.
  • Another name that offense-starved teams should keep in mind: Kendrys Morales. Seattle seems to have about a half-team of first-base/DH types on the team; fan favorite Raul Ibanez probably isn’t going anywhere and Michael Morse wouldn’t bring as much in value. Morales, once an anchor for the Angels’ lineup, has belted 16 homers and driven in 58 runs this season. He would fit in well at first base in Pittsburgh, or at DH in Texas, Baltimore, Oakland, and Tampa Bay.
  • An ugly weekend for the Cardinals (getting broomed by the Braves in Atlanta) has some fans clamoring for a trade to either boost the rotation or replace shortstop Pete Kozma. If GM John Mozeliak can let Albert Pujols walk away after winning a World Series, I highly doubt one bad series is going to cause him to make a panic move.
  • Speaking of Pujols, the sight of him leaving the game Saturday night due to his plantar fasciitis was difficult to watch. Cardinals fans know how long that foot malady plagued Pujols in St. Louis, but he was able to play through it most of the time. If the condition is bad enough to force him to the disabled list, then the pain must be excruciating. His pain tolerance is one of the reasons he earned the nickname “The Machine.”
  • Beginning in 2014, the Angels have eight years and $212 left on his contract. Yikes.
  • News: Yahoo reported over the weekend that the Angels are “open for business.” Views: they really don’t have many marketable pieces; their middle infielders (Howard Kendrick, Erick Aybar) could attract some interest, but since they aren’t trading guys like Mike Trout or Mark Trumbo, they probably won’t be making very many deals.
  • Let’s see here: Jeter and Soriano homer, Rivera picks up win as Yankees rally to win. Is it 2013 or 2001?
  • A first-person review of Miami’s 20-year-old phenom Jose Fernandez as he shut down the Rockies at Coors Field last Tuesday night: he might not throw quite as hard as Justin Verlander or Aroldis Chapman, but Fernandez’s fastball absolutely explodes out of his hand. He is a much better pitcher already than Jeffrey Loria deserves.
  • Tino Martinez, fired over the weekend for alleged abusive conduct involving Marlins’ players, says he is “unsure” whether he will coach again. I think the rest of us are sure, Tino. You’re done. I wouldn’t count on a TV job anytime soon, either.
  • Series of the week: St. Louis at Pittsburgh. The Cardinals come to town with a one-game lead over the Pirates, who lost two of three to the Marlins. St. Louis is 2-3 against the Pirates this season. Pittsburgh is 32-18 at home in 2013.
  • Trade deadline prediction #1: the Orioles will find that they aren’t actually “tapped out” after all and make another deal for a pitcher.
  • Trade deadline prediction #2: Pittsburgh will find the additional hitter they need, along with another reliever to help cover the loss of Grilli.
  • Trade deadline prediction #3: Oakland, emboldened by their continued success without a big-name superstar, will make a big splash to bolster the team.
  • I guarantee at least a .333 average on these predictions. That, and 99 cents, will get you a Big Gulp.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Cardinals Rotation: Are Innings A Concern?

The St. Louis Cardinals, according to many sources, seem to be searching for starting pitching.

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The one thing the team has made sure that everyone is well aware of is the depth of starting pitching in this organization.  If that is true, then why the search for another arm in the rotation?

According to Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post Dispatch, it appears the team feels the need for more innings in the rotation.  The loss of Chris Carpenter, the concern over Jaime Garcia, and the unknown of what kind of workload the young arms can carry has the team willing to add a known “inning eating” commodity.  Most recently, that interest has shown in the Tigers Rick Porcello.

Should the concern be warranted?  Adam Wainwright is now two springs removed from Tommy John surgery and projected to be back to his normal self.  The Jake Westbrook trade and subsequent signing was based off of his ability to pitch a high number of innings.  The Cardinals have not had two pitchers with over 200 innings just once in the last 26 years, as pointed out by friend of the site Jon Doble.

Looking at trends over the last three years for the projected six men battling for the five spots in the rotation, the concern does come through.

Wainwright was injured the entire 2011 season, having a large impact on his three year average of 143 innings pitched.  If we remove the injury season and go back a year further, his average jumps up to 220 innings.  The concern is whether or not his arm can carry that load again, but for the sake of argument in this space, I give him the benefit of the doubt.  Innings Based On Average: 220

Westbrook was brought in to solve the issue of innings pitched.  Despite nagging injuries the last few years, he has approached the 200 inning plateau, though he has not reached it.  His 2010 season was split between the Indians and the Cardinals, but was still a productive one.  His average places him second in this discussion, though he is probably the number three man in the rotation.  Innings Based On Average: 187

Garcia, the wild card of the bunch, has seen injuries and ineffectiveness effect him during his major league career.  At times, he has been a dominant, top-of-the-rotation type pitcher.  At others, he has been sporadic and wild, projecting more at the back of the rotation.  Last season was the worst in his three year average, only producing a little more than 121 innings.  So far this Spring, it appears he has righted the ship and is back on pace to be a big part of this team.  Innings Based On Average: 166

Lance Lynn is a bit harder to project based on his limited exposure at the Major League level.  Many tend to forget that he was a starter during his minor league career, however, and the three year projection goes back to grab an entire year of starting at the Triple-A level.  His average is hurt by his time in the bullpen in St. Louis in 2011, but is still respectable for a guy entering his second year in a big league rotation. Innings Based On Average: 150

The final spot in the rotation will be left to either Joe Kelly or Shelby Miller.  Kelly is the easiest to examine in this conversation, thanks to his production filling in for Garcia last season.  His workload reached a peak due to the need for him in the big league rotation last year and leaves the Cardinals hopeful that he can repeat that performance but concerned that he may have pushed too hard, too soon.  It is also important to note that his 2010 season saw him work out of the bullpen in Class-A ball for a period of time. Innings Based On Average: 138

Shelby Miller has everyone buzzing.  He ranks as one of the top ten prospects in all of Major League Baseball and the team and fans are both excited to see what he can do on the biggest stage.  He gave everyone a glimpse of his potential at the end of last season.  He may be the biggest unknown in this situation and he may also offer a saving grace.  He projects as a top of the rotation starter and will be relied upon throughout his career and that time may come as soon as this season.  Innings Based On Average: 131

The ultimate equation that you would like to apply to an ideal situation is to break up the innings based on quality starts.  A quality start requires six innings pitched from the starter and there are 162 games in the major league season.  That puts most teams looking for 972 innings from their starting rotation in a perfect world.  The Cardinals rotation will fall well short of that goal based off of these projections. Innings For Rotation Based On Average: 854-861

That leaves the team about 110 innings short of where they would like to be.  The name that is driving the most attention right now is Rick Porcello, who’s three year average puts him at 183 innings.  Even if he was slotted to fill the five spot in the rotation, this gains the Cardinals around 50 innings.  A drastic improvement but not one that reaches their goal.

The Cardinals are relying on one of the pitchers in their rotation to overachieve their average and the addition of Porcello, or someone similar, to pick up the remainder of the balance.

Ultimately, the move may not be necessary but at the same time, it is not a bad one.  Assuming the team doesn’t have to part with any key components of the future, a trade for Porcello makes a whole lot of sense once you take a look at the numbers.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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St. Louis Cardinals can’t go wrong with fifth-starter decision

The St. Louis Cardinals have used three weeks of spring training to find their likely middle infielders for the upcoming season, but one big decision remains as to who will take the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Fortunately, the Cardinals should be in good shape regardless of who they choose.

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Three contestants began the battle for the final starting spot at the beginning of spring training, and the Cardinals have already eliminated one contender. They told Trevor Rosenthal last week he would not make the rotation, but he would likely have a prominent spot in the bullpen.

So that leaves Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller to fight for that last spot. Not coincidentally, the Cardinals plan to have both pitch Thursday against the Atlanta Braves in a game that will most likely be the Cardinals final evaluation before they make their decision.

Kelly has made two starts so far this year. He went two innings in each outing and gave up just one run combined. However, his control has been erratic, and he has walked five batters in those four innings.

Miller has also pitched twice this spring, but just one was a start. He’s given up three runs combined, but he’s also walked just one hitter.

Cardinals management said earlier in the week that a decision is near because the winner would need the next three starts to build stamina for the regular season, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The odds favor Kelly for several reasons. He is two years older and has more experience in the starting rotation. Kelly made 16 starts last year, while Miller just came up in September to make a token two starts.

Miller is also a higher-rated prospect who the Cardinals hope becomes a cornerstone of the rotation long into the future. And although Miller has looked impressive in everything he’s done at the big-league level, the Cardinals have been burned plenty of times by bringing up a young pitcher who could’ve used a little more time in the minors.

And that’s where Miller figures to go if he doesn’t win the job. Kelly pitched eight times last year as a long reliever, and he could easily slide back and fortify the bullpen again. However, the Cardinals already have Rosenthal, Fernando Salas, Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte as solid righthanded relievers they can bring in to shut down a game. Kelly would likely be wasted in mop-up duty if he went to the bullpen.

The bullpen also wouldn’t be the best spot for Miller because he is going to need to establish the stamina necessary to pitch as a starter for an entire season. He is much more likely to rack up innings with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds than in long relief out of the Cardinals bullpen.

Either way, Thursday will probably be one of the most interesting days of the Cardinals 2013 spring training.

This is what spring training is all about. Two players came into camp knowing they had to perform well to win a job, and one of them will likely walk off the mound Thursday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., as part of one of the most exclusive clubs in St. Louis: the Cardinals starting rotation.

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Furcal Should Concern Cardinals

In a spring training that has included worries about contract negotiations and the health of starting pitchers, the stability of a right elbow ligament for a position player could be the St. Louis Cardinals’ biggest problem as games get underway.

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Shortstop Rafael Furcal received an anti-inflammatory shot in his injured elbow Friday to help ease discomfort created by a bone spur, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Furcal tore a ligament in the elbow Aug. 30 in a game against the Washington Nationals, and he chose to forego surgery in favor of rehab during the offseason. But that decision could come back to haunt Furcal and the Cardinals for the 2013 season.

Furcal has yet to throw or take lefthanded at-bats during camp, and he didn’t sound optimistic about his condition Thursday.

“It still hurts, a lot, when I’m throwing,” Furcal said.

That is very bad news for a Cardinals team that doesn’t have a solid backup option at shortstop.

Pete Kozma played well at the end of last season, but that was a flash of brilliance in an otherwise mediocre career spent languishing in the minor leagues, and the Cardinals have been reluctant to put much faith in Kozma as a major part of the solution at shortstop.

But other than Kozma, the Cardinals are in a world of hurt in one of the most important positions on the field. They signed Ronny Cedeno during the offseason, but he has a career batting average of .247 and hasn’t been able to stick even with bad teams such as the Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets.

The Cardinals looked at making a move for a shortstop during the offseason and reportedly inquired about trading for Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.

Cabrera would be an excellent fit with the Cardinals and would fill a position of need, but other teams know the Cardinals are loaded with good, young pitching, and their asking prices are very high.

The Cardinals understandably don’t want to park with their treasure trove of pitching. Pitching and defense are what generally win championships, and decent hitters are usually easier to find than pitchers who can provide productive innings.

But because Furcal didn’t undergo surgery when he first injured his elbow, the Cardinals are in quite a bind just a month before the regular season begins.

Obviously, the decision to have surgery is ultimately that of the player, and the team likely has significant input, but right now the decision to try and rehab rather than have surgery is creating some anxious moments in spring training camp as Furcal struggles to heal enough to play.

Furcal also has a history of injuries that threatened to derail his career. He was an all-star-caliber shortstop with the Atlanta Braves during the first six years of his career, but he has not played more than 100 games in three of the last five years because of various injuries.

The Cardinals knew they were getting a fragile player when they traded for Furcal at the 2011 trading deadline, and they got quite a bit of production from him before the injury. Furcal has been a .259 hitter with 176 hits in 171 games played in the year and a half he’s been a Cardinals player, but the elbow injury is looking like it could be a problem longer than just the next couple of weeks.

So if Furcal can’t start the season, the Cardinals will have to make a decision just as important as Furcal’s decision about having surgery. They will have to make a deal to get a shortstop, which likely would cost highly regarded pitching prospects, or they’ll have to hope a Kozma-Cedeno platoon at shortstop is good enough to make the playoffs.

Otherwise, the Cardinals could have another one of those incredibly frustrating situations when they count on a player to eventually get healthy, and he never does.

That has happened repeatedly with Cardinals pitchers throughout the years, and it usually results in a not-so-great season because the team didn’t make necessary changes while hoping the injured player would return.

Hopefully, shortstop isn’t the Cardinals’ downfall this year, but it is already the position that will cause the most anxiety this spring.

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Is Lance Lynn Out Of Line?

The St. Louis Cardinals opened camp on Tuesday morning with the traditional pitchers and catchers workouts.  It did not take long for the first quote to fire up the fan base to come out.

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Lance Lynn has arrived at camp looking fit having dropped a reported 40 pounds.  He has successfully avoided using the phrase “best shape of my life”, is on the heels of an 18 win season, and addressed the one thing that critics had for him last year by improving his offseason diet to hopefully address the fatigue that set in at the end of 2013.  In the midst of losing starter Chris Carpenter and the buzz around three young rookies hoping for a rotation spot, Lynn is a bright spot in early camp.

Then, on Tuesday morning during a media scrum, a quote came flying out from Lance Lynn.  It may or may not be “out of context”, but it seemed to fire up the fanbase pretty quickly.  Via Twitter, beat writer Jenifer Langosch shared Lynn’s thoughts on the rotation competition this spring:

Lynn on rotation competition: "I was an 18-game winner last yr w/ an All-Star appearance. I have to do a lot of things to lose a spot, IMO."
@LangoschMLB
Jenifer Langosch

It is easy to see how that could rub some fans wrong.  That is not the way players tend to act around St. Louis.  Players that have been in the league for years, won multiple awards, and are solidified in their positions for years to come say “I’m here competing for my spot on the team”.  It shows a cockiness and brash attitude that this team, and it’s fans, are not accustomed to hearing.

The question here is: was it really wrong to say?

He is right, isn’t he?  I would say, due to the news of Chris Carpenter’s injury, that Lynn’s spot in the rotation is his to lose and in order to lose it, he would have to collapse pretty hard this spring.  His season last year was impressive, especially considering the second half issues he ran into.  The work he has already put in to attempt to fix that part of his game deserves accolades.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch ran an article on Tuesday as well, discussing Lynn with his manager.  Matheny had high praise for his starter and his offseason work.  The manager also had this to say about early perceptions that Lynn was not guaranteed a spot in the rotation this year:

“I know (that) made Lance a little frustrated,” said Matheny “I told him, ‘We want you coming in competing for a spot. We don’t want you rolling in thinking this is yours.’”

It is not easy to say if there is a right or wrong here.  Some will say “Carp would have never said anything like this.”  Others will point out that Lance Berkman was a breath of fresh air and would tend to be brutally honest with the media and the fans.  It is easy to see that type of quote being attributed to Berkman and fans would have applauded his honesty.  So why the outrage that Lynn is doing so?  Is it because of his age?

I freely admit that my immediate reaction was negative.  I don’t like it.  I don’t want a young player who, in my mind, still has some things to prove to sound so cocky.  I want him to talk about working hard to prove that last year was not a fluke.  I also admit that this is a personal preference.  Personally, I don’t like what Lynn said.  However, I also don’t feel what he said was incorrect.

The basic thought is there: an All Star pitcher made a statement that most of us were already thinking.

Is there anything really wrong with that?

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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St. Louis Cardinals coaching changes might be most-notable offseason moves

The St. Louis Cardinals made several changes to their coaching staff this week before free agency gets started. That’s not huge news, but it might be more than the team changes to its player roster during the offseason.

Hitting coach Mark McGwire said Friday he will take the same position with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cardinals also announced earlier in the week that bullpen coach Dyar Miller had not been offered a contract to stay with the team.

The team will replace Miller with Blaise Ilsley, who had been the pitching coach for the AAA-affiliate Memphis Redbirds, and it is expected to promote John Mabry next week from assistant hitting coach to McGwire’s old position as hitting coach, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The team will likely fill the assistant hitting coach position with someone already in the organization.

But don’t expect a similar amount of changes to the Cardinals roster during the offseason.

The Cardinals offered a $13.3-million qualifying offer Friday to starting pitcher Kyle Lohse, but it would be shocking to see Lohse accept that offer or remain with the team heading into 2013. Lohse’s value is very high right now given his 16-3 record in 2012 and a weak free agent class.

But other than Lohse, the Cardinals will likely trot out a team very similar to the 2012 squad. Lance Berkman won’t return, but every other position player on the team’s regular postseason lineup is under contract for next year.

Following the Cardinals disappointing seven-game loss to the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series, many people have trumpeted the need for improvements at the shortstop and second-base positions.

However, those yearnings for new faces up the middle might be misguided.

Assuming his elbow is healthy heading into Spring Training, Rafeal Furcal should be back for the start of the 2013 season. Regardless if people think he is the best possible solution, he is an accomplished veteran who can handle the position. That takes care of shortstop, and Pete Kozma can be Furcal’s back up.

Many also seem to think Kozma was a one-hit wonder down the stretch last season, which he very well might be, but he certainly played well enough while in the big leagues to earn serious consideration as the team’s back-up shortstop.

That is also a much cheaper scenario than signing a mid-level free agent such as Stephen Drew or Alex Gonzalez.

Second base is a tad more tricky. Skip Schumaker did not play well in the second half of the season, but he is still under contract for next season and has proven in the past that he can be an everyday starter. Daniel Descalso is the best fielder on the team besides Yadier Molina, but his surge at the plate in the postseason will have to become his norm for him to hold the second-base job for an entire season.

The Cardinals also have highly touted prospect Kolten Wong, who will have a shot to play second base for the Cardinals, perhaps as soon as 2013. Even if he needs more time in the minor leagues, he figures to be the team’s long-term plan at that position.

Maybe a veteran could fill the spot until Wong is ready, but this year’s free agent class at second base includes players such as Placido Polanco, Marco Scutaro and Adam Kennedy. The Cardinals have already had Polanco and Kennedy earlier in their careers, and both are surely in the final steps of their careers.

Scutaro might be an option. He played great for the Giants this year, hitting .362 in 61 games after he was traded mid-season from the Colorado Rockies, but he is a career .276 hitter. That’s not bad, but Schumaker is a career .288 hitter and does a fine job defensively.

All of that means the team that sneaked into the playoffs, made a miracle comeback to win the division series in the playoffs and missed the World Series by one game will likely be the same team that takes the field on Opening Day 2013.

Changes are always interesting and exciting, but St. Louis fans probably won’t have many of those feelings this winter.

The current team, with supposedly full seasons from Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and a large group of talented, young pitchers, already has the pieces to create expectations that it should at minimum be in strong playoff contention at the end of the season.

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