Cardinals Major League Notebook: 11/25/10

The St. Louis Cardinals have already re-signed Jake Westbrook for two more years, so what is next?

INSIDE PITCH

   The Cardinals completed step one of their offseason retooling process with the re-signing of free agent right-hander Jake Westbrook to a two-year, $16.5 million deal. The contract includes an $8.5 million mutual option for 2013.

   Retaining Westbrook means the Cardinals will have the rotation they had at the end of the 2010 season: veteran right-handers Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Westbrook and Kyle Lohse and young left-hander Jaime Garcia. That fivesome could even be intact for 2012 if an option for Carpenter is picked up.

   General manager John Mozeliak said the only tweaking he would do now in the rotation might center on signing some minor league free agents as pitching depth.

   Westbrook, 33, became the first starting pitcher on the free agent market to sign a multiyear deal.

   "This is how I wanted things to work out all along," Westbrook said. "I'm not sure I got what my market was, but that wasn't how I went into it. I wanted to be back with the Cardinals.

   "Maybe I could've gotten more someplace else and been less comfortable with the situation. But I've always believed you pitch better when you're comfortable where you are. I love the guys I played with there. I look at the coaching staff. I look at (manager) Tony La Russa. I look at how the fans show up when you're going good and how they show up when you're going bad. It's great playing in front of a packed house. For me, it's a great situation."

   After being acquired on July 31 in a three-team trade that sent right fielder Ryan Ludwick to San Diego, Westbrook was 4-4 in 12 starts, but his 3.48 ERA suggested his won-lost mark could have been better with more support.

   During his second start with the Cardinals, Westbrook suffered a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. The condition, which required surgery, didn't bother his pitching, but it hurt his hitting.

   "I would expect you'll see the same pitcher next year," Westbrook said. "But I was in pain when I hit."

NOTES AND QUOTES

   --3B David Freese, who had surgeries on both ankles last season, is progressing well in rehabilitation, according to club officials, but general manager John Mozeliak remains on the prowl for some help. "I think you still have to look at him as something of a fragile situation," said Mozeliak, who also is seeking a starting shortstop. One of the players Mozeliak has pursued is free agent SS/3B Juan Uribe of the World Series champion Giants. Another is free agent SS Miguel Tejada, who last played with San Diego. Arizona SS Stephen Drew would be attractive, but the Diamondbacks may not be trading him.

   --RHP Adam Wainwright, a 19-game winner in 2009 when he thought he might win the Cy Young Award and didn't, was not surprised that he lost this year despite winning 20 games. Philadelphia RHP Roy Halladay was the unanimous choice for the 2010 award. "Last year, I really was sitting by the TV with my fingers crossed hoping that I would win the award," said Wainwright, who finished third behind San Francisco RHP Tim Lincecum and RHP Chris Carpenter, his teammate, despite receiving the most first-place votes. "This year ... I went to the gym and just started working out knowing that it was pretty much in the books. I turned on the TV ... just to see how far behind I was in second place." By finishing second, though, Wainwright achieved a vesting option that will pay him $9 million in 2012 and $12 million in 2013. The option was tacked on to a four-year, $15 million extension Wainwright signed in March 2008.

   --Third base coach Jose Oquendo was interviewed for the Mets' managerial job by general manager Sandy Alderson, a longtime friend of Cardinals manager Tony La Russa from their days in Oakland. Even though Oquendo was unsuccessful for a third time in seeking a manager's post (San Diego, Seattle), he said, "It was still a good experience. Hopefully, there will be another chance down the line."

   --The Cardinals' summer-long, grass-roots effort to have Hall of Famer Stan Musial receive the most prestigious honor for a civilian in the United States was successful, just in time for Musial's 90th birthday. The White House announced that Musial would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Musial will join other baseball greats who have won the award such as Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Ted Williams. The award recipients were selected by President Obama, who is expected to make the presentation to Musial and a group of 14 others sometime early next year at the White House.

   --SS Pete Kozma, the Cardinals' first-round pick in the 2007 draft, was one of five minor-leaguers added to the 40-man roster. Kozma, 22, batted .243/.318/.384 with 13 homers and 72 RBI for Class AA Springfield this year.

   RHPs David Kopp, Eduardo Sanchez and Adam Reifer and OF Adron Chambers were also added to the big-league roster.

   Kopp, 25, went 12-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 21 starts for Springfield. He struggled in five starts for Class AAA Memphis, going 0-5 with an 8.62 ERA.

   Sanchez, 21, split the season between Springfield and Memphis, going a combined 1-1 with 14 saves and a 2.38 ERA.

   Reifer, 24, made 51 appearances for Springfield this year, compiling 17 saves, a 3-1 record and a 3.00 ERA.

   Chambers, 24, hit a combined .283/.379/.405 with six homers, 35 RBI and 14 steals for Springfield and Memphis this year.

By the Numbers:

36 - RBI for 3B David Freese in 296 at-bats in 2010.

 

Quote to Note:

 

"We still look at (David Freese) as our starting third baseman. Yet, given what we went through last season, it's fair to say we're looking to help our depth there as well."

 

- GM John Mozeliak, on 3B David Freese, who is coming off two ankle surgeries.

 

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 want 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: 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. LaRue retired.

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

   Ryan, coming off a .223 season, shouldn't command too much money. 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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