Cardinals Capital Comments – Sunday, August 5

The comings and goings from the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse prior to Sunday's game in our Nation's Capital as reported by Brian Walton.

Sunday is another hot, sunny day in our Nation's Capital, where the ballpark countdown in the left field corner shows only 24 games remain for Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, soon to be 23 once the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals conclude their three-game weekend series on Sunday afternoon.

For the 2007 Cardinals, 55 games remain in what is increasingly a forgettable campaign. The Cards have been outscored 39-14 while losing four games in a row. Only with a win Sunday can they salvage a 2-4 road trip against two teams, Washington and Pittsburgh, who despite whipping up on the Cards are a combined 30 games under .500 at 94-124.

The club is eight games out of first place, their seven games under .500 status representing their deepest mark below water since July 14 in Philadelphia. Just as in the National League Central, the Cards are eight games out in the Wild Card race. But instead of being behind only two teams, even more telling is the fact they are seventh in the Wild Card, just 1.5 games ahead of the Nationals.

In the cramped visitors' clubhouse, video coordinator Chad Blair's small area against one wall was being taken advantage of by Mike Maroth, who was viewing film of himself pitching with Detroit. Odds still seem to remain high that Maroth will be removed from the roster when Tyler Johnson returns, possibly as soon as Monday.

Later on, Brad Thompson sat down to review film with David Eckstein hanging over one shoulder. David was looking at pitching sequences of the Nats' Matt Chico, even in others' at-bats. While the catcher is calling the pitches, they are being done in the context of the game plan set before the series. Eckstein was filing information away for the future.

Eariler, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer George Will was in the Cardinals clubhouse. Eckstein was among the players with whom he spoke.

Yadier Molina also did some video time before plopping down on the couch to watch a replay of Barry Bonds' historic 755th home run with Jose Oquendo and Albert Pujols. Hall-of-Fame pitcher Don Sutton standing nearby, replied that he had retired in 1988 having never faced Bonds.

With it being travel day and all, the usual routine changes. A trip to the airport after the game meant business suits were the attire of choice coming in. With no batting practice scheduled, the clubhouse seemed even more cramped than usual, though a few players and coaches filtered out to attend chapel services.

Continuing the lineup card superstition following a loss, it was taped up in its third new location in three days and the positions of the players were written instead of using the familiar 1 through 9 code.

Eckstein SS
Spiezio 3B
Pujols 1B
Encarnacion RF
Ludwick LF
Edmonds CF
Bennett C
Wainwright P
Miles 2B

As noted above, the pitcher batting eighth experiment is in day two. Tony La Russa noted that in 1998, his club lost the first day of the maneuver before winning four straight. Wishful thinking, perhaps…

Albert Pujols looked normal before the game, as his elbow was not wrapped as it was on Saturday. In the audio clip below, Tony La Russa notes that it could continue to be an aggravation the rest of the way.

Scott Rolen and Yadier Molina are getting normal rest days. La Russa reminded me that Molina had played all five previous games in the series and a day game following a night one is the time for such a move.

After playing first base on Saturday, Scott Spiezio was in the lineup at third for Rolen on Sunday. I asked Scott if he carries a first baseman's mitt on the road. He said he has one for first, third and the outfield (the largest one). Spiezio admitted that sometimes he uses his third baseman's glove in the outfield, with the decision based on feel. He says he is very comfortable at first because of this time there while with the Angels.

First base coach Dave McKay's son Cody is living in Denver, running a franchised group of massage therapy salons called "Touch of Elements". Dad says the former Cards catcher is enjoying the business world and had wanted to move from Phoenix to the Denver area for some time.

Head trainer Barry Weinberg told me that rehabbing pitcher Mark Mulder will be pitching his simulated game today or tomorrow in Jupiter, Florida. The next step of starting his up-to-30-day minor league rehab assignment will be up to how Mulder feels, said Weinberg.

Here is my interpretation of La Russa's Friday comment that they are "talking about" bringing up Rick Ankiel even before September. In early August, MLB front offices are busy attempting to send many of their players through waivers at the maximum allowed rate of seven per day. If right fielder Juan Encarnacion can clear waivers, not being claimed by another organization, the conclusion of a trade for him would seem to be the opening needed for Ankiel's return to the major leagues.

In his pre-game comments, La Russa discussed a number of topics, including the use of infielder Aaron Miles as a "short reliever" on Saturday. The audio follows:


Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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