Lohse Coming to the Cards Rotation's Rescue

Free agent right-handed starting pitcher Kyle Lohse is on his way to St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp. Assuming he passes a scheduled physical on Friday, he could sign with the club right away.

Free agent and Scott Boras client Kyle Lohse is on his way to the St. Louis Cardinals spring training facility in Jupiter, FL for a physical examination scheduled on Friday morning. The next step would be to sign the right-hander to a contact to join the Cards' beleaguered rotation.

The AP reports the deal is for a base of $4.25 million, with an additional $100,000 at 160, 170, 180, 190 and 200 innings each, totalling a possible $4.75 million. The player would receive another $500,000 on top of that if he is traded.

Lohse, 29, is the top remaining free agent hurler in the market after pitching in two hitters parks last season - for the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies. He started 31 games and pitched 192 2/3 innings with a 4.62 ERA in 2007, a commodity the Cardinals badly need.

Originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1996, Lohse was traded to the Minnesota Twins, for whom he pitched in the majors from 2001 until midway in the 2006 season. He was swapped at the deadline two years in a row, first to the Reds, then to the Phillies in July 2007. His career record is 63-74, 4.82 ERA over seven big-league seasons.

Lohse would join Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper at the front end of the Cardinals rotation. Two other starters, Joel Pineiro and Matt Clement are out of action, with the latter yet to reprove himself after 2006 shoulder surgery. The former has pitched just three spring innings and has been shut down twice since.

Three others are competing for the last two rotation spots, Anthony Reyes, Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson. Mark Mulder and Chris Carpenter will miss the start of the season as they recover from surgeries, as well.

Late Thursday afternoon comments from Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak. (Questions are paraphrased, but Mo's responses are verbatim.)

When did Lohse throw last?

"He threw yesterday."

Did the Cardinals have anyone there?

"No, we did not."

What has changed?

"I don't think it was about him or any certain individual. It was more about what was happening with our staff. And the fact is, we are going to need someone to eat those innings. At some point, we started to have some concerns about who that was going to be. If we could find somebody that we knew could eat the innings, it would make a lot of sense for us to pursue it. Hopefully, by this time tomorrow, we will know."

(Is there still flexibility to add players later or) is this it?

"I don't think so. This is something that that ownership and I felt we needed to address as far as innings and I feel we have done that. As far as what we look like in a month or two or at the end of the season, I think the dynamics are very fluid and could change."

Will Lohse be ready Opening Day?

"That is my understanding, but obviously, we will know a lot more tomorrow."

Will there be a numbers problem later?

"Well obviously, I think some roles will have to be redefined and so forth. I think after we get past tomorrow morning, we will have a bit more to say about that."

What do you like best about Lohse?

"What I think for us what makes sense is his durability and what he has been able to do as far as pitch innings. When you look at what we need to address, and the question marks we have, it seemed to make a lot of sense if we could get this put together. Tomorrow we will know more."

Did the fact this deal happened in 48 hours underscore the urgency to act out of necessity?

"No, I wouldn't characterize it that way. If you look at the time from when we got down here for spring training, we always said we were going to look at whatever options might be or what opportunities might present itself at some point. And I think we were always clear in saying that it could come in a day, it could come in a month, it could come in two months. And we got to the point where we felt we could get something worked out if it would make sense for us to go down that path."

Some in the organization said as recently as 72 hours ago that he wasn't being considered…

"I can't explain what they are saying, but he was somebody in terms of what he is capable of doing was something that we felt was attractive."

Is Pineiro a major worry and did that change things?

"It is not a major worry. But the fact is that he is not pitching every fifth day. To ignore that, it wouldn't be prudent on our behalf."

Was this just a health concern or also quality of innings concern?


Where does Lohse fit with Mulder, Carpenter, etc. coming back?

"Well, if it was a perfect world, we wouldn't have had to go down this path. But, it's not. And we are going to need someone to pitch every fifth day. At some point, we may have access to starting pitching. And at that point, we may be dealing from a strength instead of a weakness."

Walton's take: Given the amount and duration, this is a good deal for St. Louis, who badly needs able-bodied major league-caliber starters. Worst case, if Mulder and Carpenter come back strong, in May and July, respectively, Lohse or one of the others can be flipped for help elsewhere. On the upside, the Cardinals could have themselves a short-term Jeff Suppan, which isn't bad at all.

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

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