Cardinals Washington Whispers: 06/03/08

What's being discussed in Washington as the St. Louis Cardinals prepared to play the Nationals in a three-game series.

Mike Parisi was upbeat and optimistic about his next start, scheduled in the series finale on Thursday. "I hope to do better this time out," the right-hander said. His manager, Tony La Russa showed his confidence in the rookie, but it is not infinite, noting, "It is an opportunity for Mike, but if he has a few more (starts) like that first one…"

If a replacement is needed anytime soon, it probably won't be Brad Thompson. The manager noted the swingman is "on his throwing program and is progressing", but also acknowledged that with the amount of time Brad has missed that he could not step in to the rotation without a rehab assignment first.

 

Joel Pineiro, the owner of that rotation spot, is "not yet able to do a full bullpen without some kind of issue", said the manager. The righty is not with the team, as La Russa noted that being in St. Louis is the best place for him to "get in the kind of work he needs to do". Tony also reminded us there is no reason Pineiro couldn't catch up with the team later in the road trip if ready. In other words, if there is a fast return, there doesn't appear to be a rehab assignment in the plans.

 

Speaking of rehabbing pitchers, Mark Mulder is with the team and was seen doing stretching exercises with elastic ropes prior to the game. No stated change in his status, though…

 

Like his father, Parisi is a history buff, so is excited about returning to the Nation's Capital. He, Colby Rasmus and Kyle McClellan attended MLB's rookie orientation session here in January. Parisi especially enjoyed his tour of the White House and joked that he must have sent 50 photos from the trip back to his family.

 

Joe Mather is lockering next to Skip Schumaker with the veteran looking out for the rookie. (Odd to call Skip a vet, but in this case, he truly is.) Mather told me a funny story about how every time he decorated the walls of his apartment in the minors with posters and the like, he was promoted. Sure enough, that is what he did in Memphis about two weeks ago. Now, it is up to his (former?) roomies Jarrett Hoffpauir, David Freese and Rasmus to enjoy the art. Coincidentally, those three were the offensive players called out in Tuesday morning's Memphis Redbirds Report from Bart Pohlman right here on our site.

 

Schumaker waved off any ongoing concern over his heel, saying, "That was blown way out of proportion. I am just fine, no restrictions." Good to know.

 

Is Brendan Ryan growing up? As they do in every series, there are afternoon pitchers and hitters meetings to go over the opponent. A few moments after La Russa's door closed for the hitters' version, out popped Ryan. I jokingly asked him if he had been banished from class. He said, "No, I am looking for Ank. Have you seen him?" Turns out I had and directed Ryan to the trainer's room, where he fetched the outfielder and the two (re)entered the meeting.

 

Ryan took full batting practice though he had tweaked the muscles between his shoulder blades in an at-bat last series and had received treatment earlier in the afternoon. Ryan is available to hit and was apparently grabbing a bat in the ninth inning on Monday had the Cardinals been able to extend the series-ender vs. Pittsburgh.

 

Rick Ankiel is also not starting Tuesday as he scraped the palm of his hand on a diving defensive play in St. Louis. Stitches were not required and Ankiel "could play tomorrow" (Wednesday), said La Russa. Like Ryan, Ankiel is available off the bench Tuesday night.

 

The Cardinals seemed universally impressed with the facilities at the Nats' new park. First base coach Dave McKay went as far as calling it "the best road facility we've seen", citing the weight room and clubhouse, specifically. The park reminds me of Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, designed by the firm HOK, as are many of the new parks in the majors and minors.

 

Not that it matters to the reader, but the press box and broadcast facilities are spacious, but they are up very high, sixth and seventh floors, respectively. There was debate over where the distance from home plate ranks with Pittsburgh and Busch. I still think Pittsburgh is the highest up. Busch is the least opulent.

 

Like the other rookies, I gave reliever Chris Perez an update on Memphis' fortunes since he left. He wasn't worried, as he noted "the players are there to get here". I asked him if he was relieved to give up his first run, having allowed just one in his first nine outings. Perez noted, "No one has ever had a perfect ERA. I am just glad the run didn't cost us the game."

 

Perez admitted he was a "bit surprised" that he received the first call-up of his career as early in the season as it occurred. Neither he nor Mather seemed upset about each having been informed of the possibility of their respective call-ups a week or so before they actually happened. It is understood that the team has to prepare contingency plans before they always have all the facts on injuries, but the first trip to the majors is also a special time for the player.

 

I asked Perez about his progress in reducing his walks. He is pleased with his 2008 results to date in both Memphis and St. Louis, noting he generally doesn't walk righties, with his problems up and away on lefties. Perez seemed enthused that MLB umpires seem to call more low pitches strikes than minor league arbiters, at least in his opinion. The MLB men in black are not as forgiving inside or outside, though, suggested the reliever.

 

Pitching coach Dave Duncan agrees the low pitch is hardest to call and notes that is one of the more inconsistent aspects between umpires. "I've umpired spring training games and the angle and trajectory on low pitches are the hardest to read by far."

 

In response to my query, Duncan said he is not involved in preparation for the upcoming draft. But, his comments make it clear he would like to see more recruits similar to last year's supplemental-rounder. The coach reiterated his positive assessment of Springfield's righty Clayton Mortensen. "He is one we don't have to teach how to pitch. All he needs to do is be able to master that sinker." 

 

No dumb jock stereotypes in the Cardinals clubhouse as starters Adam Wainwright and Todd Wellemeyer engaged reporters on an informal discussion of the presidential race before the game.

 

If Troy Glaus has a big series in Washington, it would be a prediction come true from his manager. Coming down the tunnel before batting practice, La Russa patted the third baseman on the back, saying, "It's your town, buddy!"

 

At 6:00 P.M., after batting practice was over, Albert Pujols was in the cage underneath the stands, alone with hitting coach Hal McRae, getting more cuts in. Even the greatest don't take it for granted...

 

 

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

 

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