Sunday Morning Coffee with Ray Mileur

Saturday, rookie Mitchell Boggs remained unbeaten with St. Louis as the Cardinals finally defeated the Kansas City Royals for the first time this season. Meanwhile Cardinals management continues to play 'Roster Roulette', carrying an injured Jason Isringhausen and a suspect Mark Mulder, in a tired beatup bullpen that leads the league in blown saves and lost games.

The Cardinals continue to play a baseball version of ‘Russian Roulette', a deadly game that can kill a potential pennant drive. The Cardinals continue to spin the wheel hoping to find lightning in a bottle, if you will, carrying players on the active 25-man roster who are either injured, not available or will be less than 100% or ineffective at best, when available. A game they have gotten away with, so far.

It makes you wonder, what happen to perception that this organization had at the beginning of the season, that there was little margin for error, if this team was going to compete this year. Apparently that concept of operation has been thrown out the window as the Cardinals continue with their active roster.

The latest spin of the wheel, involves Jason Isringhausen, who apparently avoids the DL for now. An MRI taken late Friday night by Dr. George Paletta indicated a strained ligament in Isringhausen's right knee. Usually when you get that type of report, you'd think that a player, especially a pitcher will be out for at least a couple of weeks. Yet the Cardinals have decided not to place the beleaguered former closer, closer in waiting, on the DL. The plan is, for now, he will rest for a couple of days, wear a brace on the knee and then, hopefully, return to action sometime in the coming week.

The coming week includes, the Cardinals having to play the pesky Kansas Royals Sunday, before they can return home to face the New York Mets for four games and the Chicago Cubs for three games, back to back, with their next day off not coming until Monday of next week.

Herein lies the problem with the Cardinals Hope Plan. The bullpen is now at least one pitcher short, in the body of Izzy, trust me, if he makes an appearance out of the bullpen next week, I'll shave my head. Besides Izzy, the Cardinals have decided to activate Mark Mulder and he's in the bullpen, basically as a left-handed specialist only at this time, and he's essentially just one pitch away from returning to the DL or perhaps even ending his career.

The roster roulette becomes even more dangerous as you shift your attention from the bullpen and take a look at the Cardinals rotation.

Todd Wellemeyer, who has had elbow troubles, was removed after just 76 pitches in his last start on Thursday against the Tigers.

Wellemeyer hadn't pitched since June 13, when he gave up eight runs in 3 1-3 innings against Philadelphia, but he's now 7-2 with a 3.46 ERA this year. The good news is, he's has been cleared to pitch in his next scheduled start, but there still has to be some concern about his arm, and how deep he can go into a game.

The rotation situation is somewhat aggravated, considering along with Todd Wellemeyer, Kyle Lohse, Joel Pineiro and Mitchell Boggs have all had problems going deep into games, that is at least into the sixth frame, thus requiring a greater dependence on the bullpen, than I, personally would like, especially now.

It's amazing the Cardinals are where they are at today, just 3.5 games back of Chicago, considering all the injuries and challenges this team has faced during the first half of the 2008 campaign. You have to give the team, the organization and manager Tony La Russa a ton of credit, for them to be in the thick of things, regardless of what happens the rest of the year.

That said, as you look at the Cardinals bullpen, the news isn't all that great. They are tied with the San Diego Padres for the most games lost, with 18 and they lead the Majors in blown saves with 19 and they have lost seven extra innings games as well, also the worst mark in the Majors.

Do the Cardinals really have a rotation and a bullpen that they can afford at this time, the luxury of carrying an injured Jason Isringhausen in the bullpen and a basically lefty only specialist in the bullpen, in a fragile Mark Mulder? I would suggest that they do not.

This week the Cardinals should have called up LHP Jaime Garcia from Memphis, rather than activating an injured, ineffective Mark Mulder. Then Saturday, the Cardinals should have placed Jason Isringhausen on the DL and called up Brad Thompson to shore up the bullpen. As it is now, the Cardinals are playing roster roulette, a deadly game that could cost them a shot at the postseason, if they insist on playing out this game.

Oh well, give me another cup of coffee, because in a week from now, we'll know if the gambled paid off and the Cardinals won or if they took one right between the eyes, killing a chance for them to catch the Cubs.

On a positive note, Saturday the Cardinals finally beat the Kansas City Royals, after losing the first four games to their I-70 Series rivals. Rookie Mitchell Boggs worked his way out of a jam in the first inning against what has been one of the hottest teams in the majors and allowed only four hits and one run in six innings. The Cardinals are 4-0 in the six starts the 24-year-old right-hander has made since being called up on June 6 from Triple-A Memphis.

Boggs the benefactor of the most run support of any Cardinals starter, over seven runs per nine innings, continues to get better and should be able to contribute at the major league level for the rest of this season, if necessary.

The Cardinals avoided a season-high fourth straight loss with a 5-1 victory over Kansas City on Saturday night, leaving St. Louis with a 4-4 record on the current a nine-game interleague road trip. The Cardinals opened the trip by taking two of three at Boston, then they lost two of three at Detroit before falling 7-2 to the Royals Friday night in series opener.


...St. Louis activated Mark Mulder from the disabled list Friday with the intention that he will initially work out of the bullpen. Mulder's first relief assignment will be the first of his career after 202 Major League starts.

...Catcher Bryan Anderson, RHP Jess Todd and LHP Jaime Garcia will participate in the Futures Game as part of All-Star Game festivities at Yankee Stadium...for Anderson and Garcia, it will be their second trip to the Futures Game while Todd will be making his first appearance.

... The Cardinals are tops in the N.L. with a .987 team fielding percentage, just percentage points ahead of the Padres in the N.L. The Cards finished 15th among N.L. clubs in team fielding last year at .980.

... Troy Glaus leads all ML third basemen in fielding (.986).

... Todd Wellemeyer has a clean bill of health, after pitched five shutout innings Thursday, in what would eventually be the Cardinals 3-2 loss to Detroit in 10 innings.

Wellemeyer, who has had elbow troubles, was removed after just 76 pitches. He hadn't pitched since June 13, when he gave up eight runs in 3 1-3 innings against Philadelphia, but he's now 7-2 with a 3.46 ERA this year.

... Braden Looper is looking for his 10th win in his 17th start of the season. Sunday's start will be his 2nd start vs. KC this season Braden allowed just one run on five hits in 7.0 innings in a no-decision on 6/18 vs. KC (3-2 STL loss). This month Braden is 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 5 June starts.

That's it for this week, I'll see you at the ballpark.

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