When the Cardinals lineup was posted, the assorted scribes and several players walked up to take a look. In the third spot, it said "Pujols 3B". In mock horror, I pointed it out the attendant who was taping it up. He quickly pulled it down and returned to Tony La Russa's office. When the card returned, the proper "1" was written over the "3". Can you imagine the furor, otherwise?
Tony said that even if the designated hitter was available in the National League, he would still play Pujols at first base. While Pujols has to be careful with his throws, La Russa says he really "needs to stay away from the freak swing". The skipper attributed last season's problem to "one bad pitch".
I asked him what would keep that from recurring. He said that Pujols has trained himself to deal with it everyday. "He has a chance to play all year," the skipper said in closing.
Kennedy and Lasik
As long as Aaron Miles has been with the Cardinals, as a fellow wearer of contact lenses, we have discussed the merits of corrective surgery. Second baseman Adam Kennedy disclosed he had the procedure in January. Said it took "just five minutes for both eyes", but then he was out until the next morning. Rick Ankiel mentioned his wife had the procedure, too. Kennedy improved his average to .250, 5-for-20, in early action.
Clement to throw Monday
Pitching coach Dave Duncan says Matt Clement will throw again on Monday.
A new enigma
Most often in recent years, the term "enigma" was associated with pitcher-turned outfielder Rick Ankiel. Now, Duncan aptly applied the term to Blake Hawksworth, who was shelled by the Dodgers on Saturday before fanning five of his last six outs. Duncan perceived that Hawkworth was pitching tentatively, which is the opposite of many youngsters, who are more inclined to overthrow, explained Duncan.
Brendan Ryan has five nieces and is hoping for his first nephew. His brother Paul's wife is expecting, keeping the family away from spring training. Brendan is hoping for a boy, "so I can have someone to pitch batting practice to". The vets are always looking out for the time-challenged Ryan. Jason Isringhausen passed by as Ryan and I spoke and mentioned quietly, "time to get ready".
Readers of our message board are aware of the origin of Colby Rasmus' family nickname, "Hill", short for "Broom Hilda". Upon seeing the outfielder, I tried it out. He turned immediately, but begged off a conversation. His Mom and "at least 25 friends" are at Sunday's game and Rasmus hadn't scored all the tickets he needed yet.
Former Cardinals Senior Director of Professional Scouting Bruce Manno, now Assistant General Manager of the Braves, was popular during batting practice. He spoke with coaches Joe Pettini and Marty Mason, then La Russa and Duncan came up. Players like Skip Schumaker, Brendan Ryan and Colby Rasmus also paid their respects. Long-time Braves boss John Schuerholz was also on the field.
Hal McRae told me his son, former Cardinal (briefly) Brian McRae is continuing with MLB this year, doing pre and post-game duties for the Kansas City Royals. Hal's former teammate Frank White is doing the games, with Brian as a potential fill-in.
Duncan stays behind
Left fielder Chris Duncan was kept behind in Jupiter due to a sprained back, but La Russa said he will be getting his swings in and could be back as soon as Monday.
Not "flu-like" symptoms – the real thing
As I mentioned on our game thread, Sunday's scheduled starter Anthony Reyes, reported to Jupiter for the 7:15 A.M. bus, but was sent home. He had a headache, fever, sore throat, "the whole thing", said La Russa. When asked if it was the flu, the skipper said yes. He didn't want Reyes to infect the rest of the club, so got him out of there.
Not knowing Mortensen was starting at that point, I talked to the pitcher in the morning. He was quietly excited about still being with the team getting experience. La Russa said he will be given 50-60 pitches on Sunday against the Braves. The skipper says Mortensen has "good arm strength, good movement. He competes well without being overwhelmed."
Next, I saw Mortensen sitting on the dugout bench with a bat in hand. There was a reason.
No more DH
La Russa said that for the rest of the spring, the Cardinals are done using the designated hitter. Braves' skipper Bobby Cox prefers his pitchers to hit, so it gave La Russa the reason to do something he said he needed to do, anyway. In the spring, everyone is flexible about it. On Saturday, the visiting Astros used the DH when visiting the Braves.
For Juan Gonzalez, La Russa said "it means Juan plays in the field". Though it doesn't look like that is happening. Perhaps I misunderstood. Later, La Russa said, "As a veteran, he has what you look for in a pinch hitter." That seems his likely role. (Edit: On Sunday, Juan pinch hit only, lining out hard to Chipper Jones at third base.)
Schu leading off
For the fourth time in the last five games, Skip Schumaker is leading off. When asked about Schumaker, La Russa broke into a Cheshire cat grin. "Skip is a player who has improved his game each year… done well as a starter and off the bench… competes whenever he is put in there…"
Outfielder Ryan Ludwick has a very noticeable uneven tan, with almost red neck and arms but lily white body and legs. I joked with him about needing to spend time at the beach. He shook his head and said, "not when you are where I am". Great to see he isn't taking anything for granted.
Glaus in the five hole
I asked La Russa if the five hole is a spot he envisions Troy Glaus in when the season starts. Of course, the skipper was non-committal, noting Sunday's lineup was designed to get guys spring at bats while alternating left-right. Still, seeing a three-through six of Pujols, Ankiel, Glaus and Rasmus is intriguing.
Batting practice groups
11:10 LaRue, Molina, Johnson
11:20 Izturis, Kennedy, Jimenez
11:30 Ryan, Miles, Barden
11:40 Pujols, Glaus, Gonzalez
11:50 Rasmus, Schumaker, Ankiel
12:00 Barton, Marti, Ludwick, Mather
Another day, another bus
Monday's pitchers are scheduled to take a bus north from Jupiter in the morning to join their teammates for the second game in Orlando.
Taking one for the team
La Russa answered questions for the press this morning while hitting fungoes to the second basemen. When a slightly-wild throw bounced and struck this writer in the nether regions, La Russa quickly wondered out loud if Brian Barden would end up with bad press. No harm, no foul!
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