Cardinals New York State of Mind: 07/25/08

Cardinals news from New York's Shea Stadium on Friday as St. Louis takes on the Mets. Manager Tony La Russa talks in depth about his bullpen.

I borrowed Billy Joel's song title, which not only fit the locale, but also plays into his recent pair of concerts over the All-Star break, the last two ever to be held at Shea Stadium. Sorry, but there is no fresh Billy news following.


A few general comments follow before we get into the manager's remarks about his bullpen.


Probing Wainwright's role


In a most friendly manner, the writers were really pumping Adam Wainwright for any signals that he might be heading to the bullpen upon his return. Answering the same question many ways, he made it clear there have been no discussions about that.


I didn't stay as long as the others, as I felt the probing was being overdone, but I didn't see that his role is uncertain as others have written. Though in all fairness, apparently the GM and the manager have been sketchy about the matter.


The rehabbing righty is scheduled for 50-55 pitches in Saturday's bullpen session and plans to try out his curveball for the first time. That looks like a starter's program to me, at least at this point, but I guess we will see.


See you, Shea


New Citi Field almost touching the centerfield wall of Shea is a vivid reminder of the fact the old ballpark is in its last season. I asked Al Hrabosky if he would miss it.


"Heck, no," was his reply. Hungo says it was a long time ago he pitched there and while did well, he won't miss the park one bit. He did agree the animation of the New York crowd fit his motivational techniques as a pitcher.


Saluting Yadi


Speaking of booing, while it was not surprising to me that Albert Pujols was negatively saluted by the Mets fans, it might be that Yadier Molina received an even higher decibel level of raspberries. What a pleasant reminder of the 2006 NLCS!


UNLV guys sticking together


When some players graduate, they remain close to their alma mater. The UNLV group seems to fit this bill. When I mentioned to Ryan Ludwick that I had been with the Batavia club last week, his face lit up. The outfielder wanted to know what I thought of fellow Rebel player, Batavia first baseman Xavier Scruggs.


Hagin at the mike (not Mike)


It was great to see former Cardinals and now current Mets radio broadcaster Wayne Hagin. Wayne seems genuinely delighted to be in the nation's largest media market. "They are great here. They just let me be me," he happily explained.


Hagin had a lot of catching up to do with members of the St. Louis contingent such as the FSN Midwest crew and talked on the field with Rick Ankiel for some time. A good man.


Tony La Russa on the bullpen


The Friday pre-game discussion with the manager focused on the bullpen. Matthew Leach and Derrick Goold have covered bits of this, but I thought I would share more of the details, as this reflects La Russa's current thinking - or at least what he wants us to think.


I wondered at times if the manager was giving us the answer that was politically correct. Note he often did not answer questions directly. Whether or not he believed it all, I am not sure. I don't fault him for it, but I felt I should make the observation.


The session began with me asking Tony if any of his relievers were unavailable Friday, though all seven showed up on his lineup card, as customary.


La Russa confirmed not all are available, but would not disclose who, believing that information could get back to the opposition and might affect the game. A consistent answer from La Russa, but I felt I had to ask, anyway.


My next question was on the usage pattern of Russ Springer, who seemed to be following the starter in recent games.


"It depends on who is hitting, who is going to bat. If there is a lineup that is suitable to him, match-ups are a little bit better... I put a lot of things together. Right or wrong, that is the strategy."


How many of the bullpen guys are worn down?


"Worn down? (pause) I don't think any of them. We just came off a break. The guy that is probably the closest right now is McClellan. (Counting from a sheet of yellow paper on his desk.) (He's) pitched one, two, three, four, five times in eight days…


"No, I don't think… I think we have been very careful with our relievers. There are a lot of days, we take a chance to lose the game not to work a guy too much. You point to me games where guys have been used repetitively, I'll challenge you (looking at his paper the entire time).

"A little nervous time out there right now. Sometimes it happens to the rotation, or it happens to the offense."

On whether tight games are more stressful for the bullpen.


"We just played eight games, four games against Milwaukee. Their bullpen is pitching the same kind of stress games. I think there is no doubt it is different, but that is ok. It is good.  It should be different. You should be stressed, otherwise you don't get another chance."


On whether it is more stressful on the pen with no definitive ninth-inning man.


"When have we not had a definitive ninth inning guy? … Who has almost always been there? It's been definitive. The thing is like yesterday (Thursday) when he is rested… Sometimes you have to stretch guys out because you have to get to the ninth."


(Oddly, Franklin's name was never mentioned.) Did a couple of recent hiccups change Franklin's status?

"What changes his status is that he threw 35 pitches yesterday (Thursday). That changes his status.

"I will tell you what is counterproductive. It's counterproductive for me to comment about the status of these guys. Because they'll read into stuff. You don't have a blueprint of what's going to happen. And all of a sudden you'll say something that the game strategy changes.

"I have as much confidence in Franklin right now as I ever have."

The manager goes on to put the previous remark into context by including his entire bullpen in the same morale-building pronouncement.

"I am looking at this now that there isn't anybody that I have any less confidence that I did prior to this."

Is there any connection between the timing of Franklin's struggles and Izzy's return?


"I noticed that. It might be a bit unsettling to him. I'm a great believer in human nature. Those guys are out there… Franklin is a good guy, and he may be uneasy because Izzy wants it so bad. I don't discount it. Except that I know that Ryan knows we are going to take our best shot to win."


On whether two returning starters, Carpenter and Wainwright, will help the pen.


"Here's my problem with that. These are the starters we've got. They are what we have to win with. (pause) That is what we have to win with."


What about the recent pattern, scoring early in the game, not later?


"I think there's got to be something there. I think it says a lot about the fact that we're ready to hit early in the game. We haven't figured it out. We are trying to improve it. It is only marginally better… It is a legitimate question."



Brian Walton can be reached via email at


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