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The St. Louis Cardinals likely won't allow themselves to exhale until David Freese has played 140 games as their starting third baseman in 2011, but he passed a major milestone in his return from surgery on both ankles Monday afternoon, starting at third and picking up two hits in the St. Louis Cardinals' 10-4 win over the Minnesota Twins.
A number of Freese's potential replacements at third also played well, offering some consolation for the team in the event of Freese's continued injury problems. Matt Carpenter, who hit .316/.412/.487 in his 105 game stint with the AA Springfield Cardinals last season, replaced Freese at third and went 2-2; Allen Craig, starting in right field with Lance Berkman still a DH, hit 2-4; and Daniel Descalso, a second baseman who spent some time at third in his first Major League cup of coffee, was 1-2 with a double in a late-innings appearance.
Jake Westbrook was much-improved in his second start of Spring Training, throwing 3.2 innings while allowing one run and no walks.
The Post-Dispatch reported Monday that Chris Carpenter, the St. Louis Cardinals' number-one starter with Adam Wainwright recovering from elbow surgery, threw briefly in a practice session on Sunday, representing a limited improvement in his condition following his injury-shortened Spring Training debut. Carpenter's still "not going all out", according to Rick Hummel, but he's able to pitch, which makes him the Cardinals' healthiest ace.
Carpenter was outstanding and mostly healthy in 2009, and he was good and extremely healthy in 2010; considering he'd made four starts in the previous two years that run of health and performance has been a remarkable surprise. In post-Wainwright 2011 the Cardinals need one more 28-start season out of their ostensibly fragile ace; it's a tough thing to rely on, but that's the position they find themselves in.
The good news—the last time he suffered a leg injury in Spring Training was 2009. Based on this sample size I can state definitively that Carpenter will go 17-4 with a 2.24 ERA across 28 starts this season. Given the recent change in run environment it will be a slight decline from those 2009 heights, but it should be enough to get the Cardinals' through Wainwright's year-long vacation.
Kyle McClellan, the early favorite in the St. Louis Cardinals' Spring Training 2011 race to replace Adam Wainwright in the starting rotation, put together a dominant performance in his first appearance of spring, striking out three in three scoreless innings. Fringe candidate Bryan Augenstein threw two scoreless innings of his own, striking out one. The Cardinals got two hits from Albert Pujols and their only RBI from Matt Holliday; Lance Berkman, DHing again, was 0-3, and third baseman Matt Carpenter was 1-2 with a walk.
McClellan hasn't started since a stint in the low minors before his successful relief conversion, and there's concern—coming mostly from outside the Cardinals' camp, and in part from inside SB Nation St. Louis—that he has no real track record in a starting role. But it's clear he wants the job, and it's equally clear that Lance Lynn can't win it—McClellan would have to lose it, at this point.
Fernando Salas, who will have to pick up some slack in the bullpen if Kyle McClellan departs it, closed out the win for his second Spring Training save, striking out one.
The St. Louis Cardinals don't need your sympathy, but they'd probably accept your veteran starters. Just a day after ace Adam Wainwright underwent season-ending elbow surgery Chris Carpenter left his first start of spring training with what the Post-Dispatch reports is a "mild left hamstring strain." Carpenter isn't expected to miss significant time for this latest injury. Mitchell Boggs' lower back strain — I hope this doesn't become a recurring theme — seemed more serious at the time but has also been described as minor.
Carpenter's 35 starts in 2010 were the most in Major League Baseball, as well as a career high; he'd made 32 starts in the previous three years, and hadn't thrown 200 innings since finishing third in the Cy Young vote in 2006. Without Wainwright, the Cardinals find themselves relying heavily on Carpenter's 36-year-old right arm. Boggs, converted to relief near the end of 2009, flashed a high-90s fastball in his first full season in the Cardinals' bullpen. Fernando Salas is the most likely choice at the back of the Cardinals' bullpen if he's not ready to start the season.
Raul Valdes is the starter, and Bryan Augenstein and Blake King are among the relievers set to follow him up, but Spring Training 2011 is officially in session—the St. Louis Cardinals will play the Florida Marlins Monday at 12:05 CST at Jupiter, Florida's Roger Dean Stadium. The Post-Dispatch reports that Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman will start, which should give Valdes and King more run support than they are historically accustomed to.
Berkman is starting (and playing in the outfield) after struggling to loosen up a sore elbow over the weekend. David Freese, recovering from ankle problems that claimed much of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, won't play, although he expects to be back in at least a limited capacity well before Opening Day.
Among the pitchers in today's action, Valdes and Augenstein are at least ostensibly candidates for the fifth-starter spot vacated following Adam Wainwright's elbow injury. Fernando Salas, set to pitch third, is likely to break camp in the Major League bullpen, while Eduardo Sanchez remains one of the Cardinals' top relief prospects. Blake King and Francisco Samuel are hard-throwing relievers whose control problems have oscillated between "serious" and "legendary."
Follow all the action along with an extremely active game thread at Viva El Birdos.
St. Louis Cardinals offseason acquisition Lance Berkman, expected to play the outfield regularly for the first time in five years in 2011, missed practice again on Saturday. The veteran slugger has been dealing with elbow soreness since Spring began, but the Post-Dispatch reports that Tony La Russa expects Berkman back on the field tomorrow, for the last practice before the opening of the team’s Grapefruit League season against the Florida Marlins.
Berkman, struggling with injuries and traded in midseason to the New York Yankees, hit a career-worst .248/.368/.413 in 122 games in 2010, which led him to accept a one year make-good contract with the Cardinals in the offseason. He last played the outfield regularly in 2004; he hasn’t appeared in the outfield at all since 31 games there in 2007.
The Cardinals’ reserve outfielders look to be platoon candidate Allen Craig, who’s spending most of his Spring Training time at third base, and center fielder Jon Jay, the presumptive starter in right field before the Berkman acquisition.
Beleaguered third baseman David Freese, whose ankles are both figurative ticking time bombs and probably literally tick when he moves them, now, is already practicing with the St. Louis Cardinals and likely to be back in time for Opening Day, but he's questionable for Monday's 2011 Spring Training opener, against the Florida Marlins.
Freese's 2010 ended after he blew out his ankle in a rehab start in AA Springfield; his 2009 just barely began before it was derailed by different ankle problems. He remains penciled in as the Cardinals' starting third baseman, and with Nick Punto likely to lose all of April thanks to a sports hernia Freese's health is more important than ever.
The Post-Dispatch reports, startlingly enough, that Tony La Russa is cagey about when and where Freese will play. At one point he seems to suggest that the Cardinals might hold Freese back because he's feeling so well; this is the exact point in which you should stop thinking about what Tony La Russa says, and just take your best guess if you're waiting on your Spring Training 2011 ticket package until you know Freese's status.
The place: Spring Training 2011. The sight: The St. Louis Cardinals trying desperately to avoid forgetting about Allen Craig for the third season in a row. The latest approach: Putting Craig, minor league slugger and noted milk-carton resident, exclusively at third base, the position he played before his bat sprinted ahead of his glove in 2008.
Craig's arm has long been questioned at the position, but with David Freese fragile and Nick Punto out with a sports hernia this is his last, best chance to stick at the position and become a rich man's John Mabry. Craig's bat makes him something of a tweener, so positional versatility is his best bet to keeping him in the Major Leagues long term.
But as Tony La Russa has appeared to forcibly insist in the past—Joe Thurston, Adam Kennedy, Jason Simontacchi—anybody can play left field. So until a judgment's passed about his ability to be a below-average defensive third baseman he's working out with the infielders exclusively. Given his luck at the start of last season, he'll look great and then David Freese will begin a 500-game Iron Man streak.
Fangraphs has been startlingly thorough in its plumbing of the St. Louis Cardinals’ most horrifying nightmares. There were five or six articles yesterday about the impact of Adam Wainwright needing elbow surgery, and recently they also decided to explore the possibility of Albert Pujols joining
Here’s what it comes down to: Pujols will likely be a free agent at the end of the 2011 season. Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Silva, and Carlos Pena, at the very least, will be free agents on the Cubs’ end. They’ll have a lot of money to throw around, because they’re the Cubs.
As Chris Cwik, the author, notes, the Cubs have a lot of holes to fill, but at the same time signing Pujols would likely earn them a pass from their… occasionally unhappy fanbase, at least for a year. But I can’t see why Pujols would join a losing team, lest he throw off every last bit of goodwill he earned by saying all the right things throughout his Cardinals career, so the Cubs will have to find some way to compete on the relative cheap in 2011.
I think we all knew this was coming. As members of the organization commented on Wainwright's injury in the past 24 hours, they have sounded increasingly negative. But now it is official. The elbow injury Adam Wainwright suffered yesterday will require season ending Tommy John Surgery.
This is a huge blow to the Cardinals who lose the ace of their staff. Chris Carpenter is a very good pitcher to step in and replace him, but it means every other member of the rotation has to pitch one spot ahead of where they are slated. It isnt just losing Wainwright, it makes every single spot in the Cardinals rotation slightly less effective. But SB Nation does remind us that the long term prognosis isn't terrible.
Just as with most pitchers whose next step is Tommy John surgery, Wainwright's long-term prognosis figures to be good. He's 29 years old, and the surgery has been successfully and routinely performed on young and old alike. It's possible, however, that this could cause more anxiety than usual amongst Cardinals faithful -- with fears that Albert Pujols could be headed out of St. Louis after the season, they certainly want 2011 to count, and the loss of the 2010 Cy Young runner-up is obviously a huge blow.
That shouldn't make you feel any better about the upcoming season, but Wainwright should be able to return to the Cardinals at some pointing the near future and could be just as effective as he was before he suffered the injury.
With Adam Wainwright's elbow injury leaving the St. Louis Cardinals suddenly a pitcher short, and the free agent market less interesting than it would have been, say, three months ago, the team's internal starting options are about to be put under a series of very large microscopes. Kyle McClellan seems like the top option—this in a year when it seemed like he might finally go an entire February without being put into a fifth starter competition—but Lance Lynn, as the top prospect-in-waiting, seems most likely to catch a wave of March buzz. Ian Snell... well, Ian Snell also exists.
Kyle McClellan throws more than two pitches, doesn't hit 95 on the gun, and doesn't strike out a batter an inning, which means that he's doomed to "look like a starter" for the rest of his career. Coming off the best season of his career in relief he seemed like a fair bet to spend a fourth consecutive year as the Cardinals' set-up man by default, but Wainwright's injury puts a crimp in that bit of bullpen certainty. McClellan's relatively pedestrian peripherals don't give him as much leeway as the average bullpen-starter conversion, but so long as he looks like an option people will want to make him one.
Lance Lynn has spent his entire minor league career in preparation for this moment. He's not a replacement-level starter—at least, that's not the ceiling you imagine for a first-round pick—but he's the ultimate depth prospect, having moved quickly through the system and possessing none of Shelby Miller's fragile star power. Of course, he's earned some star power of his own recently; it was revealed over the offseason that Lynn had traded his boring, dependable sinker for a four-seam fastball, and was now throwing between 92 and 96 miles per hour.
It doesn't seem to have made any difference as to his effectiveness, but it's more fun. And sometimes, when your ace might miss the entire season, fun is all that's left to ask after.
Tony La Russa has suggested the St. Louis Cardinals "won't look outside the organization" to replace Adam Wainwright, whose elbow ligament will at the very least cost him a significant part of the season, and you might think that's an overly broad statement to make on the same day the manager heard the news. Technically that's correct. Practically—well, there's not a lot out there. Jeremy Bonderman and Kevin Millwood top the list of remaining free agent starters, and also my list of pitchers likely to be at or near replacement level next year.
Bonderman, ex-great-white-hope of the Detroit Tigers and ERA-title-qualifier at 20, came back from a year and a half in the shoulder-injury wilderness to define replacement level for the Tigers, losing 2.5 strikeouts per nine innings from that promising age-23 season and proving as susceptible as ever to the home run. Bonderman's drawn some interest in the past few weeks from the Cleveland Indians, but only on a minor league deal. He's worth that—I suppose I'd rather he be one of the Cardinals' internal options than Ian Snell—but not much more than that.
Millwood also swallowed innings last year, and also didn't do an especially good job of it. He finished 4-16 in 31 starts as the Baltimore Orioles' veteran steward, and while his peripherals were better than Bonderman's, his home run rate was almost comically high—sounds like a job for Dave Duncan. Millwood's always been a hard pitcher to read, and while he, too, interests me more than Snell—he's above Snell-placement level—he's unlikely to do enough to get Dave Duncan, Tony La Russa, or John Mozeliak on the phone.
The starting rotation is one of the areas of strength for the St. Louis Cardinals, but it may have taken a significant hit today. Adam Wainwright has left Cardinals Spring training and returned to St. Louis to have his elbow examined. According to Gabe Lacques of USA Today, Cards GM John Mozeliak said the injury was "significant."
If early indications are as grim as they appear, and Wainwright is headed for Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, the blow would be a devastating one for the Cardinals.
Wainwright went 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA and 213 strikeouts en route to finishing second in the NL Cy Young voting. Suddenly, there is a lot more to think about with the Cardinals than Albert Pujols.
If the prognosis is as bad as it appears, Wainwright need not look any further than his own locker room to see an example of a player coming back successfuly from Tommy John surgery. Chris Carpenter had the very same surgery in 2007 and has recovered to be a very effective pitcher in the Majors once again.
We'll keep you up to date with all the latest as we find out what exactly is wrong with Adam Wainwright, and check out the SB Nation stream for more information.
Spring Training 2011 is not a prospect-heavy affair for the St. Louis Cardinals—there's no nearly there superstar on the position-player side, and the pitching prospects nearest the Major League rotation are future third starters—but here in February Shelby Miller is still around, and Matthew Leach of cardinals.com offers us some balmy-looking video of one of the best pitching prospects in baseball throwing off a mound. A mound! Like in baseball! That game they play in the spring!
It's clearest that the Cardinals are back when you realize that the subject of the Shelby Miller video is really none other than tipping pitches, which every player who is not a member of the Cardinals rotation apparently does. Dave Duncan finds ostensibly tipped pitches like no coach in the history of baseball, and it appears that Chris Carpenter has apprenticed himself under the master—he noticed a tap in Miller's glove that apparently was giving away his pitch selection.
Well, problem solved—he should be pushing on Kyle Lohse's spot in the rotation by May.
New utility-man Nick Punto is the St. Louis Cardinals’ first casualty of Spring Training 2011, due to miss two to three months after it was revealed he’d need surgery for a sports hernia—Chris Duncan’s Disease, as it’s called in St. Louis. Punto had been limited in practice already; Derrick Goold reports Tony La Russa as suggesting he practice “under control” prior to this final revelation.
Punto was set to be the Cardinals’ top backup across the middle infield, with particular attention paid to third base, where fragile David Freese is the returning starter. His absence creates an opportunity for former Cardinals prospect Tyler Greene as well as non-roster players like Ramon Vasquez and Daniel Descalso. Backup outfielder Allen Craig’s bid to return to the third base depth chart will also be strengthened by Punto’s disappearance.
Punto signed with the Cardinals in January after a long career with the Minnesota Twins. He’s a career .247/.321/.322 hitter, which puts him within striking distance of unlocking the Brett Butler OBP > SLG career achievement.
At Viva El Birdos the talk of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, as Spring Training finally starts moving, has been Colby Rasmus, the team's erstwhile top prospect and occasionally maligned breakout star. On Sunday azruavatar compared him, briefly and robot-tongue-in-robot-cheekily, to recently retired Jim Edmonds; on Monday bgh detailed the changes he made between his disappointing 2009 and his only-disappointing-Tong-La-Russa 2010.
Rasmus is a hard player to project in 2011; his 2010 season was the fulfillment of the potential he showed in his outstanding 2007 season in the Texas League, but between that we have his abbreviated stint in Memphis and his invisible rookie year to contend with. Rasmus's upside all along has been the kind of power he showed in 2010, but the average projection doesn't have a lot of evidence to show for that; ZiPS projections, for instance, have Rasmus at .262/.341/.443, which is, all at once, plausible, valuable, and disappointing. PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus's proprietary numbers, are even less optimistic, suggesting a slugging percentage of .417 is closer to the mark.
A bet on a Rasmus breakout season, then, can't be dependent exclusively or even mostly on numbers; it's an intuition play, a hope play. It writes 2008 off as injury-ridden and 2009 off as an awkward adjustment. It's the ultimate February preoccupation, and I'm glad, if nothing else, that Cardinals fans have a player to dream on as spring unfolds.
Reporting from the St. Louis Cardinals' spring training home in Jupiter, Fla., Derrick Goold mentioned Tony La Russa's "[surrender] to the obvious": That the Cardinals are almost certain to have Miguel Batista on the roster when they break camp for St. Louis. Batista, 40, has been a would-be-Cardinal for years, and his ability to "close" and "start" makes him ideal for the team's deathless long-reliever role.
Batista's been average in spite of himself the last several years—the peripherals aren't really there, but somehow he's been continually adequate in spite of a high walk rate and a mediocre strikeout rate. He's held on to too much velocity to be a five-tool Dave Duncan favorite, but anyone who underestimates his possible role on the major league club does so at his own risk. Goold's comparison to Blake Hawksworth seems to me to be the low end of possible Batista jobs.
For what it's worth, when you're playing La Russa Bingo, Batista has one year as a closer, in which he lost eight games and blew eight saves, and has made a full slate of starts five times. In his career, he's got a 4.49 ERA as a starter and a 4.56 ERA as a reliever, with strikingly similar peripherals. Such, I guess, is the makeup of a swingman.
A few days ago we found out that Jim Edmonds career may have been in jeopardy, and now it is official. Edmonds has officially retired, according to Rick Hummel at St.LouisToday.com.
In a statement released by the Cardinals, Edmonds said that after he spoke to team physician Dr. George Paletta "and a number of doctors about the potential risk of future permanent damage, I have decided to retire. Although I feel I can still play and contribute, the risk of permanent injury is too much for me to chance.
Edmonds played center field in St. Louis from 200-07 and went to four All-Star games. he was attempting to comeback to the Cardinals after playing for the Reds last year. He injured himself late in the season, and has not been able to sufficiently heal to play a full season.
He will go down as one of the greatest defensive center fielders of all time. He won eight Gold Gloves has a bevy of plays like this on his highlight reel. He was never afraid to sacrifice his body to make a play, and he doesn't have a body that will respond to that any more.
Spring Training 2011 is officially in full swing, with pitchers and catchers reporting and position players on the way on February 18—even with Albert Pujols's contract situation unclear, we are confronted on this beautiful morning with the fact that somewhere out there St. Louis Cardinals baseball players are playing baseball. Derrick Goold posted a list Monday of pitchers who've already hit the mound yesterday, among the Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook, and Ryan Franklin.
Adam Ottavino, whose shoulder injury nearly required surgery, is also back on the mound. He joins Ian Snell, new acquisition Bryan Augenstein, P.J. Walters, and Brandon Dickson among the presumptive members of the Memphis Redbirds' next rotation.
The Cardinals' rotation will be a crucial part of their 2011 chances—not only will they need to get ace-ly performances from Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Jaime Garcia, they'll also need a good performance from that AAA depth to patch any leaks that might spring from a rotation that had an extremely solid front-three in 2010.
Spring Training 2011 is just about to begin, but one of the most exciting sideshows of the St. Louis Cardinals' trip to Jupiter, Florida, is still up in the air; nobody quite knows when Jim Edmonds will be able to return to Grapefruit League action. Edmonds, whose decision to return for the 2011 season was a late one, had surgery to repair his season-ending Achilles tendon injury just last month. With pitchers and catchers reporting this week, Edmonds could still be recovering at the start of spring; he won't be ready for the team's first workouts.
One thing's certain: Edmonds, for all his injuries, can still hit. After not playing in 2009 Edmonds returned to his NL Central tour in 2010, joining the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds and hitting .276/.342/.504 over 246 at-bats between them. Edmonds remains seven home runs away from 400 in an MLB career that began with the California Angels in 1993.
Earlier today Tony La Russa characterized Edmonds as hobbled following his offseason surgery, but the California native has told the team he's been getting into game shape since negotiations for his minor league comeback began.
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