It may be enough to get him out of the dog house."> It may be enough to get him out of the dog house.">

From the Dog House to the Club House?

Reports from the Cardinals spring training facility in Jupiter Florida, indicate that Jimmy Journell, the Cardinals former top pitching prospect and projected "closer of the future" may be back and in top form. <p> It may be enough to get him out of the dog house.

It was just about 18 months ago that the 27 year old Jimmy Journell, the Cardinals' former top pitching prospect, found himself in the Cardinals' Dog House.

The Cardinals who had acquired two relievers (LHP Sterling Hitchcock and RHP Mike DeJean) in August of 2003 had wanted to option Journell to the minors. Journell who was at the time struggling with shoulder problems, invoked a clause that allowed him to go on the disabled list rather than being optioned. Cardinals Manager, Tony La Russa said in a radio interview "Journell, didn't make any points with the team" with his decision.

Journell was one of the 11 players on March the 2nd of this year to sign one-year contracts, the other players included: catcher Yadier Molina, infielders Hector Luna and Scott Seabol, outfielders John Gall and Reid Gorecki and pitchers Adam Wainwright, Carmen Cali, Randy Flores, Rhett Parrott and Evan Rust. Of the lot, next to Yadier Molina, Journell may have the best shot at making the club out of spring training.

Journell, at 6'4 and 210 pounds is beginning his sixth season with the St. Louis Cardinals organization with hopes of scoring enough points to get and keep him out of the dog house and into the clubhouse as the 2005 season begins.

Originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 4th round of the 1999 June free agent draft, the right handed throwing Journell, like a roller coaster ride, has seen his ups and downs in his young professional baseball career.

A career that has been plagued with shoulder problems dating all the way back to 1999 when Journell didn't pitch for an entire year after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair ligament damage in his right elbow. He also missed playing time in 2003 and almost all of the 2004 season.

Up until the time of Journell's Tommy John surgery, he was one of the most sought after prospects in baseball. A 1996 graduate from North High School in Springfield, Ohio, Journell participated in baseball and basketball in high school and was an All-Area selection in baseball. After high school he attended the University of Illinois where he was a two-time All Big Ten and All-Midwest Region selection. Journell was also a second team Baseball America All-American and second team Coaches Association All- American and just before he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, Jimmy was a member of 1998 Big Ten Championship team with the Fighting Illini.

After signing with the Cardinals, Jimmy Journell began his professional career in 2000 at New Jersey, for the New Jersey Cardinals (A). Making 13 appearances (12 in relief), he fanned 39 batters in just 32.0 IP and held the opposition to a miniscule .111 BA. But of course, you don't draft a player like Jimmy Journell, with his stuff and ability with the intention of making him a reliever. As it turned out though, it was his role in the bullpen that eventually paved the way for him to the majors with the Cardinals in June of 2003.

It was during his sophomore season that the Journell roller coaster was riding at it's highest level. Journell earned a host of honors in his second season to include being name the Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year. In addition Jimmy was named the Cardinals top minor league performer for 2001 by Baseball America. As well as being named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year and being selected to the league's postseason All-Star team. Leading the Class-A Carolina League with a 2.50 ERA that season.

Journell that season looked like he might be on the very fast track and make it to the majors in just his 3rd or 4th season with the Cardinals. In 2001, he finished second in the league in both wins (14) and strikeouts (156) and led the Cardinals farm system with a combined 15 wins between Potomac and New Haven and tied Rick Ankiel, for the organizational lead in strikeouts with 162.

It just doesn't get any better than this and of course it could always be worse or as some say, "What goes up must come down", or so they say.

The next season Journell found himself splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A and being ranked eighth among Cardinals minor league starters with a combined 3.05 ERA, a little come down from the previous season where he led the Carolina League with a 2.50 ERA.

Journell made only seven starts for the Memphis Redbirds in 2002, going 2-4 with a 3.68 ERA on not a very good Memphis team. Even though he didn't appear to be dominating opponents like he did at the lower minor league levels, Journell was still on track to make it to the majors soon, or at least like many of the Cardinals most highly touted prospects, he'd find himself on the trading block if not on the 40 man roster

It was in Journell's fourth season of professional ball that we saw him starting to come in out of the bullpen as oppose to starting. It was coming out of the bullpen that helped him get to the majors for the first time in his career. He had been a closer in college and worked out of the New Jersey bullpen in his first pro season. But in 2001 he won 14 of his 26 starts at Class-A Potomac and continued in that role through the start of 2003. He won just one of first seven starts for the Redbirds and that prompted the Cardinals to move him back into a relief role. He flourished after the move as he won three games and allowed just three earned runs in his first 19 relief appearances.

Of course the reason that Journell flourished in his new role, is because Journell prefers to, and wants to, pitch out of the bullpen, rather than start. It was at this time that any hopes that Journell might step in and be a front line starter for the St. Louis Cardinals some day, seem to be gone.

Having Journell in the bullpen briefly in 2003 probably didn't help the kid's confidence much. Appearing in just 7 games for the Cardinals, he finished the season with a record of 0-0 with a 6.00 ERA compared to a minor league career record of 27-19 and a 2.86 ERA.

In his defense, in the seven games for the Cardinals that season, three of them came before he was placed on the DL on August the 23rd, (retroactive to 08/18) with right shoulder sprain. He managed to appear in four other games for the Cardinals after coming of the DL on September 6, 2003. So he was dealing with an injury, that may have contributed to his less than stellar performance.

It was during this time that Journell first found himself in the Cardinals' doghouse, when he refused an assignment to the minors in August opting to stay on the major league roster by being on the DL. At that time in the 2003 season the Cardinals still thought they might have a chance to win the NL Central or at least a slim shot at the Wild Card and Journell's attitude and demands not to be demoted to the minors did not bode well within the organization.

The Cardinals finished 2003 season with a 85-77 record three games back of the 03 NL Central Division Champions, the Chicago Cubs. It kills me to type in the word Champions in the same sentence with Chicago Cubs.

Back to the story in hand, arm troubles, not wanting to be a starter, being in the doghouse and a 6.00 ERA in his brief stint with the Cardinals and Journell's stock or trade value dwindled as fast as Enron stock in 2001.

Signed through the 2004 season, Journell gets another shot before his roller coaster runs completely off the track. His season was quickly halted on 4/16 when he went down with right shoulder tendonitis after having appeared in just four games. The right-hander, underwent shoulder surgery on May 17 for labrul debribement and missed the remainder of the season.

Now he's back with St. Louis and is on the 40 man roster with high hopes and he looks to be on track to take that roller coaster ride back to the top, a place that had earned him so much acclaim early in his professional career.

It's been two+ years since there were any serious considerations about someday putting Journell into the starting rotation. With the addition of Mark Mulder in the off season and the return of Chris Carpenter, along with Jason Marquis & Jeff Suppan, there really isn't any room for a Journell or someone like him to break into the rotation.

Matt Morris the former Cardinal staff Ace also signed a one year deal and he along with Rick Ankiel will both be trying to earn that last slot in the rotation, leaving a spot in the bullpen the only option for Journell.

It's only been three years since Journell was rated St. Louis' No. 1 prospect by Baseball America, and 18 months since his late-2003 call up with the big league club. Once considered the Cardinals closer of the future, after moving to the bullpen, now he just wants to make the team and the role of closer will be handled by the Cardinals Jason Isringhausen, who just signed a new three year deal.

It was the bullpen that opened the door for Journell to come to the majors in the first place and he is knocking on that door again this spring with hopes of sticking in the majors this season.

For Journell, it‘s been a wild roller coaster ride in the early part of his career. The 27 year right hander has the stuff and if he can stay healthy, he just might score enough points this spring to get out of the doghouse into the clubhouse.

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