On home run #300, Pujols said it was good to get it at home as the fans were more into it than he was. "My real goal is 500 or 600," Pujols stated matter-of-factly. He thought he was "probably a little anxious" as the milestone approached, but also reminded us that "I was just off the DL and my timing was off."
Pujols was philosophical about his 2008 Cardinals teammates. "We are mentally stronger every series, every game… We haven't clicked yet – all four of us playing well in the middle of the lineup together. It is tough to do but hopefully it will happen soon when we need it."
At this point, pitching coach Dave Duncan is assuming that when he gets starting pitcher Adam Wainwright back that there will be no restrictions on what he can throw. Duncan noted that Adam has continued to do special arm exercises and is working with a putty ball to maintain hand strength. Duncan acknowledged that Wainwright would probably require a rehab assignment before returning. Manager Tony La Russa said, "I think August 1 is the absolute earliest" (that Wainwright could return).
La Russa seemed mildly defensive when asked what changed about Wednesday starter Mark Mulder's status of moving from the pen to the rotation. "He is ready to go. Who is better? If you have a better choice, let me know." He never intended that the pen was a permanent assignment for Mulder, noting that he told the lefty to continue to take batting practice with the starters, not the relievers.
Once we got past that, Tony acknowledged the Phillies "will be a difficult assignment" for Mulder, who is expected to go about 80 pitches. "Our other option was Pittsburgh, which is no walk in the park, either… Giving Lohse, Looper and Wellemeyer an extra day is more important… We did what helped us and fit with him… If there is a benefit of doubt, it is better to give it to Mulder," said the skipper.
Mulder said the Wednesday start is "kind of what I hoped for. I hope to go out there and do the best I can with what I've got." The lefty acknowledged he had one good and one bad bullpen outing and went on to admit "I kind of had the wrong mental approach in that situation (when he came into a game with a runner on base). Remember that is all new to me," the career starter said. "Tomorrow is my first start. That is how I am going about it," Mulder said in closing.
"No surprises," was Duncan's affirmative answer to the question of whether the rotation would stay as-is for the final pre-break series in Pittsburgh. That would be Lohse, Wellemeyer and Pineiro to close out the first half.
Regarding the post-break rotation, all La Russa would/could say at this point is "We'll look at where it is when we get to the second half and pick the five best starters."
La Russa said "I am still excited" about the possible return of Chris Carpenter.
Pondering his team's first-half results, Tony said, "Compare us to the League and it looks like a good first-half… It took us a lot to get there."
When asked about the Brewers' trade for ace C.C. Sabathia, La Russa acknowledged "If we would add another key guy to our club, that would be nice. We've talked about it, you've talked about it…" Yet, Tony made it clear that he feels ownership and the front office shouldn't have been racheted up by the news. "They shouldn't feel any more pressure now," said the manager. His view is that management is always trying to do whatever it takes to win and hopefully the Milwaukee trade didn't alter that.
I spoke with GM John Mozeliak after the game as he and top assistant John Abbamondi are with the club. Like every other member of the media (and probably even his neighbors at home), I asked Mo about the Sabathia and Harden trades. Same as he told everyone else, "We plan to stay the course. We have a plan and it didn't change… We have some things we are working on," said the first-year leader.
It isn't realistic to think he is going to tell anyone of his plans, nor should he, so perhaps it was to keep us off the track, but Mozeliak make one comment I though was especially interesting. When I asked if he was looking for starting pitching, he said, "That is the least of my worries right now." This despite some other reports saying that is in fact his target.
I asked Mo if he thought this trade season was moving more quickly than past years. After all, he should know, with all the time he spends on the phone. A bit surprisingly, his answer was that he thinks the level of activity had been actually slower this year, though it has picked up in the last week.
The GM is headed to New York this weekend for the Futures Game and other All-Star activities.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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