The Redbird Report 03/18

Veteran outfielder Preston Wilson, who has a guaranteed $1 million contract, did not come out of the blocks fast, hitting .179 through two weeks of exhibition games.

Wilson said, "I think big guys who have longer swings, it takes us a little longer. I've never had a great spring training."

But manager Tony La Russa said, "Preston's got to turn the corner here pretty soon. I read his comment about a big, long swing and spring. Well, April and May is spring, too. Shorten your swing.

"I know that's not a productive comment to say, 'I have a long swing, so I have a bad spring training.' That's self-fulfilling. He has to get that thought of his head or he's going to get 100 at-bats instead of 400 at-bats."

So Taguchi, another veteran outfielder who had a big postseason last year, also was struggling at .139. But with center fielder Jim Edmonds and right fielder Juan Encarnacion sidelined after offseason surgeries, both will be needed at the start of the season.

Utility man Scott Spiezio, who played both outfield and his more customary positions in the infield last year, also is an alternative, a very likely one, in the outfield at the start of the season.

"Our outfield is our biggest problem," La Russa said. "We've got a lot of question marks about what our outfield is going to look like."


The scramble has begun for the right-handed setup role ahead of closer Jason Isringhausen after postseason hero Josh Kinney went out for the season with a torn elbow ligament that required "Tommy John" surgery. The leader is RHP Brad Thompson, who has been up and down in parts of two seasons with the Cardinals. Thompson, advertised as a rotation candidate this spring, probably will end up in the bullpen. He didn't allow a run in his first 6 1/3 innings before giving up one run and five hits in three innings on March 14.

"I don't think we're going to be afforded the luxury of Thompson not being on our club," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "I think he's too important to us to consider something like that, whatever role he plays."

RHP Jason Isringhausen made his first official spring appearance on March 15 against the Dodgers. He loaded the bases on his own error on a comebacker and two singles, one on the infield. But then he escaped unscathed, getting a popup, a strikeout and a lineout. Isringhausen, who had left hip surgery in September, threw 14 strikes out of 16 pitches.

"Last year the thing I struggled all year with was control," said a happy Isringhausen, who walked 38 hitters in 58 1/3 innings.

Manager Tony La Russa asked New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a visitor to camp, to speak to the Cardinals. One of Belichick's messages was that a team that wins a championship does not try to pick up where it left off the previous season, but it needs to start at "ground zero." The Pats repeated as Super Bowl champions in 2003-04.

RHP Josh Kinney had successful "Tommy John" surgery to repair significant ligament damage in his right elbow. He will be out for the entire season.

Cardinals starting pitchers produced a streak of 26 innings without allowing an earned run until RHP Chris Carpenter gave up four on March 16. The starters allowed only five earned runs in their first 55 innings.

RHP Anthony Reyes, erratic in his rookie season, had an 0.90 ERA for his first three outings, incorporating more and more a two-seam fastball to go with his four-seamer.

SS David Eckstein, who missed much of the start of the exhibition schedule with a sore ribcage, was back in action on March 13.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Consecutive starts in which Cardinals starting pitchers did not allow a run.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm going to wait until the last week or 10 days of spring training, and by then I expect he's got to start doing what he needs to do." -- Pitching coach Dave Duncan on struggling LHP Tyler Johnson.

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