Cardinals Major League Notebook: 11/09/10

Right-handed pitcher Jake Westbrook remains the St. Louis Cardinals' primary free agent target.

INSIDE PITCH

 

The Cardinals entered the offseason with nine free agents but really with only one they were anxious to re-sign immediately: Jake Westbrook.

 

The right-hander, healed from Tommy John elbow surgery that was performed in 2008, was impressive after coming from Cleveland on July 31. He finished 4-4, mostly because of a lack of run support. The Cardinals were hoping to sign Westbrook to a multiyear deal before he hit the free agent pool five days after the end of the World Series.

 

The other eight Cardinals who were free agents were third baseman Pedro Feliz, outfielder Randy Winn, utility man Aaron Miles, catcher Jason LaRue, right-handed starters Brad Penny and Jeff Suppan, right-handed reliever Mike MacDougal and left-handed reliever Dennys Reyes.

 

LaRue already has told the Cardinals he will retire after suffering a concussion in August when kicked in the head by Cincinnati pitcher Johnny Cueto.

 

Penny, who missed the last four months of this season with shoulder and upper back issues, almost surely will not be back. And that goes for light-hitting Feliz, too. The Cardinals probably will look elsewhere for a healthier lefty reliever to replace Reyes. Winn, Miles, Suppan and MacDougal all probably would hold some interest, but somewhere further down the line.

 

None of the Cardinals' free agents is a Type A or Type B player, so they would receive no draft-pick compensation their players sign elsewhere.

 

Infielder Felipe Lopez, released in September, is a Type B player. The Cardinals would have netted some modest draft-pick compensation if they had held onto him through the end of the season.

 

NOTES AND QUOTES

   --3B Albert Pujols said Thursday during a press conference in his native Dominican Republic that he hopes to negotiate a contract extension with St. Louis for beyond next season.

   The Cardinals exercised a $16 million option for 2011 on Oct. 6 for the three-time NL MVP.

   "I hope that before the season begins I get an extension," the 30-year-old Pujols said.

   The Cardinals have said that there is no timetable for beginning negotiations on a new deal with Pujols, who can be a free agent after next season.

   Pujols said he wants to spend the rest of his career with the Cardinals, "but that is something that I cannot control."

   He batted .312 this season and led the National League with 42 home runs, while driving in 118 runs batted to win the NL's RBI title for the first time.

   --As expected, the Cardinals went into their minor league system for their new bullpen coach, and it will be Derek Lilliquist. The former Atlanta and Cleveland left-hander had been the pitching coordinator at the Cardinals' Jupiter, Fla., minor league complex. Lilliquist replaces long-time coach Marty Mason, who was not offered a contract after reportedly having been critical of some organizational philosophies.

   Lilliquist, 44, will be the only new coach on the staff, which also will include hitting assistant Mike Aldrete, who again will help hitting coach Mark McGwire.

   "When you play in the big leagues and you know that that's like, your goal is to be as good as you can be at what you're doing to get the chance to get back there," Lilliquist said.

   --The Cardinals did made another internal move at the major league level, promoting assistant athletic trainer Greg Hauck to the head position and moving Barry Weinberg from head athletic trainer to Hauck's assistant. GM John Mozeliak, looking for new "leadership and direction," said, "I think their relationship allows this to happen. Greg has a lot of innovative ideas and wants to approach some things with a new level of energy. I think Barry agreed the timing was right." Weinberg has been with the club for 13 years after spending 16 years in Oakland. Hauck, who also came from Oakland, joined the club in 2005.

   --Former San Diego scouting director Bill Gayton has been hired as a professional scout by the Cardinals, who also have promoted amateur scout Mike Juhl to the professional side. Guyton and Juhl will replace Gary LaRocque and Matt Slater, who were reassigned in the organization.

   --3B Zack Cox, the Cardinals' first pick in the June draft who played only a couple of games in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League after signing, has progressed to the point where he was named to one of the teams for the Rising Stars Game in the Arizona Fall League.

   --INF/OF Joe Mather, 28, was claimed off waivers by the Braves. Mather seemed about to be dropped off the Cardinals' 40-man roster to make room for younger players. Mather, bothered by a wrist injury for the last few years, spent most of the season at Class AAA Memphis, where he hit .275. He batted .217 in 60 at-bats for the Cardinals this year.

By the Numbers:

0 - Number of Type A and B free agents the Cardinals have.

 

Quote to Note:

 

"He's a rise-to-the-occasion guy. I'm not surprised."

 

- Manager Tony La Russa, on World Series MVP Edgar Renteria, who played for the Cardinals and La Russa for six years.

 

ROSTER REPORT

The Cardinals entered the offseason with one of the best core groups in baseball: 1B Albert Pujols, LF Matt Holliday, RHPs Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and Gold Glove C Yadier Molina. But the supporting cast must be upgraded.

BIGGEST NEEDS: At the top of the Cardinals' wish list should be a contract extension for 1B Albert Pujols, but general manager John Mozeliak said there were other priorities. Presumably, they are to get another starting pitcher (possibly by retaining RHP Jake Westbrook) and an infielder or two with pop and the ability to play at least adequate defense. The Cardinals also are looking for another power bat in the outfield, but that could be top prospect Allen Craig, who finished the season in the majors.

FREE AGENTS: RHP Jake Westbrook, 3B Pedro Feliz, LHP Dennys Reyes, RHP Mike MacDougal, OF Randy Winn, INF Aaron Miles, RHP Jeff Suppan, RHP Brad Penny, C Jason LaRue.

It is possible that none of them will be brought back, although Westbrook, impressive in two months with the Cardinals, is at the top of the list.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: SS Brendan Ryan, RHP Kyle McClellan.

Ryan, coming off a .223 season, shouldn't command too much money, although he is a Gold Glove candidate. McClellan is one of the best middle relievers in the game.

IN LIMBO: 2B Skip Schumaker could be part of a deal if the Cardinals don't consider him as a regular. He will make $2.7 million in 2011. One of the Cardinals' strengths is right-handed relief, where Mitchell Boggs, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan are all young and relatively inexpensive. Any of them could go in the right deal.

Medical Watch:

3B David Freese (right ankle surgery in August 2010, left ankle surgery in September 2010) should be ready for spring training.

C Jason LaRue (concussion) missed the rest of the season after he was kicked in the head by Cincinnati RHP Johnny Cueto during an August brawl. He said he would retire.

LHP Jaime Garcia (left arm fatigue), RHP Adam Wainwright (right forearm strain) and C Yadier Molina (right knee inflammation) all were shut down at the end of the season. All are expected to be ready for spring training.

RHP Brad Penny (strained upper back) went on the disabled list May 22, and he missed the remainder of the season.


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