MLB Insiders - The Mulder Factor

One of the most intriguing of the many free agents the Cardinals have is left-handed pitcher Mark Mulder, who was 6-7 with a 7.14 ERA before his season was ended in September by rotator cuff surgery.

Before this year, Mulder was the only active pitcher in the major leagues who had won 15 or more games for five consecutive seasons. But after a fast start in 2006 when he got to 100 wins for his career, he was troubled by a shoulder impingement and he was shut down for two months. The tear in the rotator cuff was discovered later.

According to agent Greg Clifton, the 29-year-old lefty will begin throwing around Jan. 15 and will be ready to throw in spring training between March 1-15. When he would be available to pitch during the season, however, is the rub for anyone who wants to sign him.

Clifton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "We expect to have a great deal of interest. (Mulder) is a premier pitcher who did not have a premier year. But there was a reason for that. And now he's fixed."

The Cardinals, who have three other free agents among their starting pitchers -- right-handers Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver -- are, of course, in need of starters. But general manager Walt Jocketty said, "You don't count on him for that need.

"He would be an additional guy that you would sign. You plan your staff for who you need on Opening Day. He would be the additional guy because when he does come back, you cannot expect him to be the Mark Mulder of two years ago. You expect him to have to need time to get back to that level."

Jocketty said the Cardinals' interest in Mulder would be for beyond next season. It is likely that any contract Mulder would sign would be heavily laden with incentives for 2007 and have a higher base for 2008.


--CF Jim Edmonds, who overcame an injury-filled September to contribute heavily to the Cardinals' playoff run, agreed to a two-year, $19 million deal to remain in St. Louis. The Cardinals held a $10 million for 2007. Under terms of the new deal, Edmonds will make $11 million in 2007 and $8 million in 2008. Shortly after signing the contract, Edmonds had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder.

--The Gold Glove 1B Albert Pujols was voted was his first. 3B Scott Rolen won his seventh overall, his fourth with the Cardinals.

--The Cardinals will open their 2007 schedule with a three-game series at Busch Stadium against the Mets, whom they conquered in seven games in the National League Championship Series. The opener will be on April 2.

--The 2007 schedule features two weekend visits by the Cubs, April 27-29 and Sept. 14-16, and interleague series at Busch with the Angels on June 8-10 and Kansas City on June 18-20. The Cardinals will play interleague series on the road at Detroit, May 18-20; Kansas City, June 12-14; and Oakland, June 15-17.

--General manager Walt Jocketty said RHP Anthony Reyes, the rookie who won Game 1 of the World Series, will be in the rotation next year but that the club hadn't decided whether to leave fellow rookie RHP Adam Wainwright as its closer or move him into the rotation. Part of that decision will be determined by how quickly RHP Jason Isringhausen recovers from hip surgery.

--The Cardinals were one of the teams to have interest in Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, but they were outbid by the Red Sox, who paid $51.1 million to gain negotiating rights for the right-hander.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- The Cardinals are the seventh different team in seven years to win the World Series.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our priority is to rebuild our rotation. We want to find the best quality starting pitcher and the best quality hitter. And I'm not sure who those players are right now." -- General manager Walt Jocketty.

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