Saturday Conversation with Tony La Russa

The Cardinals' manager speaks on a wide variety of topics.

On Scott Rolen.

He's doing what he needs to do to get in shape. (Dodged any comments about Rolen's knee.)

On the lefty relief situation.

You've got King and every other left-hander is trying to be the second guy. Giving guys opportunities and evaluate as you go along. Every one is different. That is why it is tough to handicap. It is still early March. There is a long way to go.

On Bill Pulsipher.

When he's located (his pitches), he's been tough. Like a lot of our pitchers, he's been a little erratic, which usually happens this time of spring.

On whether Pulsipher can go back to back days.

That is not what you want to do with anyone this early in the spring. You don't do back-to-back days until the end of spring training. You don't need to find out now.

On Randy Flores.

He's done a good job. Yesterday, he had a tough circumstance there. One pitch got away a little bit, but I thought he threw real well.

On whether Al Reyes is the backup closer.

No. He is probably farther along, having pitched winter ball. He's in condition. We're just trying to keep him ready. He showed last year that he can pitch a couple of innings or get a single hitter out.

On Brandon Berger.

From the first squad game, he's taken very good at-bats. Another day when he was a very tough out. He's also played well defensively. He's made a good impression.

On Roger Cedeno's "fast start".

He's had a fast start? How about yesterday? (Cedeno was 0-for-3 with a strikeout in the 12-3 win over Washington. Prior to that, he was 6-for-14, .429.) I like the way he's been taking every drill. Again, the answer is the same every time. You evaluate them over the whole spring. Some guys come (into camp) in better shape than others. Some guys hit more over the winter, some hit less. You look more at their ability and how much they put into the game. He's been really good that way. I think the best thing to do is just to be kind of vague. That is the way to approach it. You don't make any decisions now.

On whether the staff monitors off-season workouts or measures the players fitness when they arrive in camp.

We stay in touch with them through both trainers, Pete Prinzi (strength and conditioning coach), Duncan with the pitchers or Marty or myself. We stay in touch with them.

On first cuts.

Maybe tomorrow. A little bit of both (hitters and pitchers).

On Seabol's power and versatility.

Yeah, he has a little bit. I am going to play him at first base tomorrow at Fort Lauderdale.

On Seabol playing at third the entire game Friday.

He had the benefit of (Danny) Shaeffer's report, since he played there. He's capable of doing that. He has pop. It is important to see if a player has pop to all fields or whether it is just down one line. I think it is one thing you look at closely. He's kind of a quiet, hard-nosed player. I like guys like that. They come in every day and you can trust them. That is very good. The problem for him is the guys he's competing against. Bo Hart plays that way. Abraham Nunez plays that way. You saw Luna out there. It is a good competition.

On how important "pop" is.

Very important. This player will be coming off the bench. Like Paquette. Paquette was a good player coming off the bench. He might start and get a hit or pinch hit and get an extra-base hit. It's nice.

On whether Seabol could be the only backup infielder, since he doesn't play shortstop.

It would be very difficult if we keep only one, unless if you have a problem at shortstop, you just finish the game and bring a shortstop up the next day. Clubs have done that before.

On whether the rainouts have hampered player evaluation.

A little bit. Bo is finally getting a start tomorrow (at second in Fort Lauderdale). Eck and Mark aren't Scott and Jim. I mean, they need to work together, so they'll be playing quite a bit in the next few days.

On whether he is going to Ft. Lauderdale Sunday.


On Matt Morris.

I think he felt good (the first day) and continued to feel good. We haven't tried to hold him back. You can't really rush the program. This is the day he was supposed to pitch, based on how good he was feeling. We didn't want to push that forward. This day wasn't in the book until we saw him ourselves. He's done a lot of work to get to this spot, but we really want to be careful with him because he is feeling good and can be aggressive. We'll watch him close and not let him burn too many pitches.

On whether Morris is cleared to throw all his pitches.

He's capable of throwing his whole assortment (of pitches). That's not usually how they go out there. One day, Suppan went out there with fastball, changeup. They go to work on different things. He's been throwing everything.

On how he feels about Morris' recovery.

Ecstatic with the way he has been throwing. He had a little stiffness and soreness last time, but that is why Doc told Joe yesterday that he wasn't sure if he'd make it today. I called right away and he said, "No, he is ready to go."

On what is a greater surprise, how well he has thrown or how soon.

Early, I think. Because we had a lot of confidence in (Dr. George) Paletta. When he went in there and did the work, he had the impression that Matt would be real good and would come quickly. We just didn't think it would be this quickly. So, we were expected a really good Matt whenever he got here.

On Anthony Reyes (pitching Sunday at Ft. Lauderdale).

I think that sometimes organizations publicize their best prospects and the talk gets going and gets exaggerated. It's hard for the player to pitch through the media. But, I think he should be a very good major league pitcher. He's not ready yet. He needs work. Fine tune some of the things he does and add a little something here and there. But, he's capable.

On whether he needs to identify a sixth starter, now that Ankiel is out of the picture.

No, not as long as you've got five. Because that competition will be decided someplace else. You've got guys in Triple-A and they're pitching. If we have a need, we'll pitch our best. We don't have to decide that now.

On whether he would spot start one of his long relievers during the season if needed.

Well, let's hope not. But, you have to do what you have to do. If you have rainouts, those things happen pretty late in the second half of the year.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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