Cardinals Philly Cheese – July 9, 2008

A slice of the hottest St. Louis Cardinals news coming fresh from Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park prior to game two of the Phillies series on Wednesday.

Tony La Russa was not yet aware that Randy Flores had made a first successful rehab outing with Memphis on Tuesday, but "we'll have to wait and see" was his most definitive answer as to when Flores will return to St. Louis. I get the impression it won't be until after the break.

The manager was not overly concerned about having only one lefty bullpen guy, Ron Villone. He noted his decision to use Villone is between a pinch-hitter early or against Ryan Howard late. La Russa also expressed confidence in Ryan Franklin, Jason Isringhausen and Kyle McClellan in getting lefties out. Looking ahead to Pittsburgh, the manager said that Nate McLouth and Adam LaRoche do well against lefties, anyway.

Hit in the foot with a ball in the Detroit series, second baseman Adam Kennedy has been playing with a hairline fracture in his foot. La Russa praised the veteran second baseman's toughness. He is not being prescribed to be out of action for any set period; instead it is a day-to-day thing. He should be starting in Thursday afternoon's series finale.

Joel Pineiro has a small blood blister on the tip of one of the fingers on his pitching hand, but should be ready for Sunday, says La Russa. It will be the Cardinals' final game of the unofficial first half.

La Russa discussed the use of closer Jason Isringhausen, only saying he will continue to pitch in "critical situations". The manager acknowledged that Izzy "may grow impatient with it, but that is ok. I expect it. He is a competitor." La Russa would not anoint Ryan Franklin or Izzy as his ninth inning guy, saying matchups will determine who gets the ball late in the game.

Despite the tough start by Skip Schumaker against lefties, La Russa defended the outfielder. "He hangs in there real well. If you looked at his career numbers, they would be better (than this year). He, Dunc, Ankiel all do things good against left-handed pitchers." La Russa admitted that Ankiel has more pop in his bat and has earned the chance to start against basically any pitching. (Note: Skip is batting .167 against LHP this season in 72 ABs and .286 in a total of 35 career ABs against lefties prior to 2008.)

Asked to comment on the Cubs and Brewers trades for front-line starting pitching, La Russa gave a very frank answer, I thought. "Both those two teams improved themselves with quality depth in an area they needed it. It is not the best news we've had this year."

La Russa went on to recognize the time value for his club's rivals in getting these players early and in acknowledging his job is to win with the players he is provided. Yet, he is not satisfied with the promise of what might happen a month in the future. "Those guys are here now. That is a big edge to have the help... I don't get comfort in knowing we have guys coming back later."

Tony believes there is no reason the players on his club can't continue at their current pace, however. "Other than Ludwick coming down from the stratosphere to the high .200s, I don't see anyone who can't repeat their first half in the second."

La Russa and GM John Mozeliak keep repeating the same answers to the same questions about trades. TLR: "‘Is there a move that will help you?' is the question." The manager acknowledged there was a recent meeting to discuss this. "We had our meeting the other day. They asked me what I thought and I told them," the manager said. Guess it is up to Mo to deliver…

While he didn't divulge what he said he wanted, La Russa made it clear that a leadoff hitter is not on the top of his wish list. "I am not worried about the one spot." He then repeated the sentence for emphasis.

Tuesday's slice: link

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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