Exclusive Interview with Carmen Cali

A chat with the man in heated competition for a lefty specialist role with the 2005 Cardinals.

When left-handed relief pitcher Carmen Cali received a 2004 late-season call-up to the St. Louis Cardinals, most observers said "Who?" While the Cleveland native's initial ten-game stint in the majors was not dominating, it confirmed the 26-year-old's promise.

After all, it's not often that a player advances three levels in a single season. Yet, that is precisely what Cali did in 2004. He began the season in Tennessee (Double-A), where he logged 14 saves. Cali's next stop was Memphis (Triple-A) before getting the call to join the big club on September 15th, to provide depth both as Steve Kline's physical problems mounted and as the club wanted to give regulars, specifically fellow lefty Ray King, rest prior to the playoffs.

After being selected in the tenth round of the 2000 draft from Florida Atlantic University, Cali played at three stops in A-ball before setting a Florida State League record with 62 appearances for Palm Beach in 2003.

Cali's ability to adjust to the increased competition was a factor in his fast rise during 2004, as were the mechanical adjustments which led to a marked increase in the velocity of his fastball.

Over his minor league career, Cali has fanned almost a batter per inning, which is twice as many hitters as he walks. The former is good, while the latter could be improved. Perhaps that is one of the reasons Cali was asked to participate in the Arizona Fall League in 2004, where he continued to impress.

With the departure of Steve Kline, Cali is in a great position to claim King's lefty sidekick role, but is in competition with at least four other pitchers. Cali is well-aware of what the immediate future could bring and is excited about it, while at the same time, clearly knows he has to earn it on the mound.

So far, in his first two appearances, Cali sports a 3.38 ERA with a save and has allowed opposing hitters a meager .125 batting average. He fanned three of his ten batters faced, but has also walked two.

How do you feel about your performance so far this spring?

Good. I feel real good about it. My last time wasn't as good as it could have went, but so far, so good.

To what do you attribute the control issue?

You know what? I don't even know. I don't know. I think I was just trying to overthrow. But, I felt fine. Everything felt fine. I was just rushing to the plate a little bit.

Last time we spoke, you mentioned that you picked up some velocity. Is that still with you?

I have no idea. They don't tell us, so I don't really know what's going on with that, but I feel fine. I am sure it is still around there. Hopefully. It doesn't usually come until the beginning of the season or the middle. You don't start throwing as hard as you normally do throughout the year. Usually at the end of the year, I throw harder than I do at the beginning of the year.

Are you working all your pitches now?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I am throwing everything.

Have they told you anything about your standing in competing for the second left-handed reliever job?

No, no not really. I keep hearing I have a shot, but you don't know until the final day, I think. So, we'll hope for the best and see what happens.

Do you have any family down here to see you?

Oh yeah. They come here every weekend. My parents only live two hours away so they've been here every weekend so far. They're here today.

So, will they get to see you pitch?

Yeah. Yeah.

What a great opportunity…

I know. I know.

Good luck to you.

Thank you.

(Note: Cali did not pitch Sunday, after all. Hopefully his parents will stay around for Monday's game.)

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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