New Cardinals third baseman Troy Glaus tells me his surgically-repaired foot is in good shape and requires no special treatment. I asked him if there is a difference between National League and American League pitching. The third baseman said "It may have been the case 20 years ago. Today, with all the movement (of players) between leagues, it doesn't matter. Take "Huddy" (Tim Hudson). He pitches me the same way he did when he was with Oakland. He isn't going to start throwing 80% fastballs. Maybe you might see a few more fastballs at the bottom of the order, but when you are hitting in the middle, it doesn't matter."
Ankiel the cleanup hitter
Former pitcher Rick Ankiel now left-handed outfielder, extends his amazing transition, again finding himself nestled between right-handed hitters Albert Pujols and Troy Glaus in the middle of the lineup. "I think Ank is going to take the same at-bat no matter where he goes. The reason I do it is to balance our lineup," said Tony La Russa. The skipper also acknowledged being aware that Glaus has been more productive in the past hitting lower in the order.
La Russa on whether the shortstop will be penned into the number nine spot in the order in the regular season as he is on Monday: "No. He could hit at the top." It is early, but Izturis' .100/.143/.200 line in his first 20 at-bats this spring is hardly comforting. Tony then went into a long discussion about the pitcher hitting eighth. I will post more about that coming later.
Infielders in the outfield
Cardinals fans likely recall infielders like Marlon Anderson, Tony Womack and Hector Luna having been tried in the outfield in the past. La Russa hasn't abandoned the idea. When asked about the idea of putting Brendan Ryan out there, Tony didn't count it out. "You could. They (infielders) are used to working on jumps. It is just a little bit of training. They can go out there and get a fly ball. Usually, they don't hit enough to go out there."
I suggested that was theoretical, but asked was it also practical in terms of infielders getting time in the outfield in drills or even games? "That is practical, too. But right now, they are competing in the infield and I don't want to distract them," the skipper said.
Where's Juan in the OF?
"A lot of these guys (outfielders) are interchangeable, but I think Juan is more comfortable in right," says the skipper about 38-year-old Juan Gonzalez, who is playing his first game of the spring in the field on Monday. He will get three at-bats "unless the game is really dragging", per La Russa.
Matt Clement update
"He threw BP today. I am anxious to see the results of that," said Tony.
After Anthony Reyes was scratched from Sunday's start in Orlando, La Russa provided an update. "I heard he feels better. It wasn't the dehydrating kind of sickness. It was just fever and sore throat and all that. He is better today."
McRae and Knucksie
It was fun to see Hal McRae, a fine player in his day, speaking in reverent terms with Braves Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro. Knucksie was in uniform and brought out the lineup card for Sunday's game. Hal said they didn't face off much in their playing days, but he saw and admired Niekro.
That took us into Hal's view of the importance for a club of having a .500 pitcher who can regularly pitch deep into games as the number five starter, along with a long reliever who can keep his club in games. Both can help preserve the bullpen and enable clubs to better compete in the six month marathon.
La Russa and the coaches were going over pitching charts in the morning, which seemed to delay the posting of the lineup. While waiting, I watched the clubhouse comings and goings with more attention than usual. As Colby Rasmus and Jason Motte crunched on their Froot Loops, I noticed an oddity. Both players were eating with their left hands.
Motte laughed when I asked him about it. "Yes, I do everything left-handed except baseball – write, eat, play pool, all of it. I do everything baseball right-handed, though," the 98 MPH fireballer explained. He has no idea why he turned out that way. When I asked if he wouldn't rather have those reversed, Motte said "I am pretty happy with how things are going now." Well put.
Brendan Ryan was searching out anyone in the clubhouse who has knowledge of Slingbox. Turns out the Southern Californian is an avid Lakers and Clippers fan and never misses a game. He is trying to coordinate his satellite, TiVo and Slingbox so he can watch games on his laptop on the road.
Though not in the lineup Monday, outfielder Skip Schumaker signed autographs for an extended period down the left field line for the many, many red-clad fans in attendance.
Cards road draw
I was told by the Braves media relations staff that the Cardinals are consistently the top draw at Disney's Wide World of Sports, holding seven of the top ten crowds in Champion Stadium's ten-year history.
Expect the next round of cuts later tonight when the club returns to Jupiter or in the morning. "Not too many," says La Russa. Look for Joe Mather to get a start at first base on Tuesday, spelling Pujols.
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