Tony La Russa's Cardinals Comments – 3/12

The St. Louis Cardinals manager spoke with the press as he does each morning. Wednesday's focus was on position players, specifically the middle infield.

On Adam Kennedy this spring: "From day one, he has looked better every time. He is moving better, looking more like himself at the plate… He was showing more of his normal stroke in the drills so when he got off to a fast start, it was a fast start. I am not playing him today (Wednesday), after he had two nice ones in a row and I will play him in the next one (Thursday).

On Kennedy last year: "He knows better what happened than I do. He is a veteran who has had a lot of success. Started pressing and never got it together."

On whether Kennedy's knee was bothering him earlier last season: "He says ‘no', but I was hoping he would say ‘yes', because that would explain. Because if you don't have your wheels underneath you, then all of the sudden, you start changing your stroke. But he says not until the end did it really start to bother him."

On Cesar Izturis' defense: "I know I've had to answer some questions defensively, but if you watch… he is a real good looking fielder. He has a great quiet hands and an accurate arm. He is very quick. He makes the double play like it is nothing. I am very impressed… When you can play defense like that, you have a winning-type player…

"He is really fun to watch catch a ball. You watch him play, he understands. Playing against us, you could tell he knew the difference in the inning and what the scoreboard was saying. I think I mention that I spoke with (Izturis' former manager Jim) Tracy this winter and he told me he is a very intelligent player."

On Izturis' offense: "Offensively, he hasn't had a big hitting string or anything like that, but he is putting the ball in play. He is working. He also has shown, by the way, good legs. It is an important part of his game… He is a very useful offensive player. He can do anything. You can put on a play, he can bunt…

"I think he will steal some bases. I just talked with him today. He's had twice in his career hamstring issues. He had a little one in LA and the big one in Chicago. I said, ‘You know how your legs feel. You've got to really monitor it. If you feel tired or fatigued, don't do anything crazy. I will give you a day (off) or whatever. But if I give you the green light, don't push it.' The legs that we've seen so far, would be a plus for us because he can steal some bases and he can go from first to third as well as anybody.

Given all that praise, do the others still have a chance to start in the middle infield? "Sure, Miles and Ryan. They are both playing today. Yeah. If somebody is better than Izturis, then we will play him. If they are better than Kennedy, we will play them. "You need to evaluate. Otherwise, you could just sit in the stands and figure out who should play. He (Izturis) has been impressive defensively. I think in a couple areas, he just laid back on the ball, which sometimes happens in spring training on these fields where you're not quite as aggressive as you have to be."

On Brendan Ryan: "The thing I talked about with Brendan (Ryan), ‘Just don't take for granted that just because Scott (Spiezio) is not here, that you are automatically on the team. That is not the way it works. You are going to be evaluated in situations. You might pick up somebody during spring training or D'Angelo (Jimenez) could walk in there and take the job.' But the numbers are quite a bit less (with only five position players left to cut)."

On the timing of the next position player cuts: "After the game Monday (before the day off Tuesday), we will probably do a little more. But 18, that is not a big number. That is five away." (Confirming again his intent to carry 12 pitchers.)

On Chris Duncan: "I waited until I talked to him today and he is ok. He is in the lineup and in left field."

On Colby Rasmus: "He had a little bit of a tough day yesterday because he punched out (late in the game with runners in scoring position in a tie game). But he walked twice. He didn't get a good read on that first ball (in the outfield). He got a little look and approach different from early in camp. I just made a comment about what he looks like when he is more himself. I think he will work in it today.

On Skip Schumaker: "He is playing tomorrow and probably Friday."

On Jason LaRue: "Very smart, very competitive. He's got a cannon. Very quick release. You just have to be careful with him. His knee. It is a great situation for him. I think if someone tried to catch him for 120-130 games, I am not sure that would be good for him right now…

"He was on the free agent list. We jumped on him right away. I told him when he was in Cincinnati, we would not run against him out of respect. I just loved the way he competed and whenever he didn't play, I felt we had a better chance to beat the Reds."

Additional pitching comments:

On Hugo Castellanos: "Good ball movement, very versatile. Willing to do anything and everything… A great personality, a really good one. A very popular teammate. He's pitched innings before. He was a starter in Mexico."

Is the skipper ready to put pitchers in situations? "Not now. Right now you are still in the conditioning stage where you are just trying to stretch them out and build some stamina, touch, feel, timing – all that stuff."

On Anthony Reyes this spring: "He's been aggressive with hitters. He's throwing strikes. I think what Dunc said last time is that he is not putting guys away. But, you've got to get the count in your favor. That's a plus."

On Reyes in 2007: "He never got down. He had plenty of reason to, but he showed great toughness.

On the most encouraging thing in camp: (Long pause.) "I don't think we've ever embarrassed ourselves in practice or in games with our effort. That goes a certain distance, but at some point… This is the big leagues. At some point, you have to either do it or you don't. It starts with trying, but…"

The Cardinals have not won in their last four games.



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

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