Cardinals Capital Comments – Friday, August 3

St. Louis Cardinals news from our Nation's Capital prior to Friday's game as reported by Brian Walton. Updates on Mark Mulder, Tyler Johnson, Scott Spiezio, Rick Ankiel and much more!

It is hot and humid in Washington, D.C. on Friday as the St. Louis Cardinals make what will be most likely their final trip to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. With new stadiums in Cincinnati, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, RFK is one of the very last of the 1960's multi-purpose parks still in use. That is expected to change in 2008 with the opening of the Nationals' new park about a mile away to the southeast with a view of the Capitol. It is currently being called "Nationals Park", but only until the name is sold to the highest bidder. The Mets' new park, Citi Field, is another year beyond.

I asked Tony La Russa his reminiscences of RFK. He played there as an 18-year-old in 1963, or at least sat on the bench there. He also played again there in 1971. When we did word association, Tony came back with "big" and "hot" to describe the environment.

Despite the size of the outfield, he did not give his outfielders any special instruction. I pointed out Ryan Ludwick has never played there. La Russa has no qualms about Ludwick, but reminded me that So Taguchi is there, the implication being that Ryan would be the third option in center.

The Cardinals will be wearing the grays of the Negro League St. Louis Stars while the Nationals will be decked out in the Homestead Gray's unis. The Cardinals caps are dark blue with a white StL on the front and players are wearing high socks, some with stirrups. The players get to keep the uniforms once the game is over, though ever-thinking equipment manager Rip Rowan told me he always snags one for the Cardinals Museum for display purposes.

Next week in Milwaukee, the Brewers are going to celebrate their 1982 American League pennant. The Cards will be wearing their old "Victory Blue" uniforms during that game.

It was great to see Mike Shannon on hand going about his regular duties. Another familiar face who looked a bit odd in a "W" logoed sport shirt was former Cards broadcaster Bob Carpenter. His partner, Hall-of-Fame pitcher Don Sutton, also stopped into Tony La Russa's office to offer his greetings.

La Russa said that lefty reliever Tyler Johnson is "about ready" and thinks he could be activated when the Cardinals return home on Tuesday. Odds are that former starter Mike Maroth will be asked to accept a one-month trip to Memphis, to return in September. But he could instead opt for free agency.

Before Johnson, however, look for a fresh arm arriving from Memphis soon, perhaps Andy Cavazos, who was actually in St. Louis and ready to go before Anthony Reyes pitched his way back into the rotation. At that point, Skip Schumaker was sent down instead.

To make room for the activation of Joel Pineiro (wearing number 35) on the 40-man roster, rehabbing lefty Mark Mulder was moved to the 60-man disabled list.

La Russa told me that Mulder was in Jupiter, Florida and had thrown batting practice today. Depending on how he feels tomorrow, the next step will be a simulated game. No timeframe for an actual rehab assignment yet. It looks more and more each day like even a September return for Mulder would be optimistic.

Kip Wells is able to pitch 115-120 pitches, says La Russa, and may need to. The skipper does not want to use Jason Isringhausen, Ryan Franklin, Russ Springer or Troy Percival if possible on Friday night.

La Russa acknowledged the organization is "thinking about it". "It" is a call-up of outfielder Rick Ankiel, possibly before September.

In his debut on Saturday, Joel Pineiro will be watched "more closely than usual" by La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. Since the newest Cardinal had only two starts this season before the trade, La Russa will pull him quickly at any sign of trouble. Predictably, the two coaches really liked Pineiro's side session upon him joining the team Wednesday.

I spoke with Scott Spiezio about his left index finger. Like before, it looks normal. Spiezio told me it is almost 100%. The issue is not strength as much as it is the infection being gone. The utilityman acknowledged he was scared the second time it flared up for fear of spreading but was relieved it did not require surgery.

David Eckstein didn't really want to talk about his solid hitting since the break since his last game went poorly, as he went 0-for-5 with the bat and made a crucial error in the 11th inning. Still, Eckstein noted that he has to put that game out of his head now and prepare for today.

Aaron Miles wears black-framed glasses in the clubhouse, a big difference from the look we get with his contacts in place during games. Miles told me he has been wearing them since he was 14, but has grown tired of them. He is at least considering corrective surgery in the off-season.

La Russa plans "no surprises" with the rotation coming up. That would put Looper on Monday, Reyes on Tuesday, Wainwright on Wednesday and Wells on Thursday to fill out the Milwaukee series, followed by Pineiro to open against the Dodgers.



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

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