The Cardinals Major League Notebook 09/29

Perhaps more than anything else, the Cardinals had it reaffirmed to them this year that they can't afford to count on injured pitchers, even a little.

When spring training began, they hoped that right-handers Chris Carpenter and Matt Clement and left-hander Mark Mulder all would be in the rotation by mid-season, if not before. Well, they were only one-third right, at best. Carpenter, recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, rejoined the rotation a couple of weeks after the All-Star break but lasted just three starts before encountering shoulder and nerve issues that basically shelved him for the rest of the season. Mulder made his first -- and last start -- on July 9 in Philadelphia and recorded one out before his shoulder acted up again. And Clement, who had missed all last season after shoulder surgery, never threw a pitch for the Cardinals and was released.

Total victories: zero.

The rotation didn't turn out all that badly as Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer, Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper all won at least 11 games, with Wainwright, who had a sprained middle finger on his pitching hand, getting his 11 in just more than half a season.

But, there was no top-of-the-line starter when Wainwright was out, and the bullpen was sketchy, at best. There were 31 blown saves and 31 losses by the bullpen. Young relievers Chris Perez and Jason Motte came on the scene later in the season and offered hope for 2009, but they are still raw and basically one-pitch pitchers, so the club is looking for a veteran closer, perhaps Jason Isringhausen (coming off elbow surgery) to bridge the gap.

The offense was not quite as productive as the .280 team batting average would suggest, but there was a terrific one-two punch in first baseman Albert Pujols and outfielder Ryan Ludwick, both of whom had 37 homers more than 100 RBIs, with Pujols hitting .357.

Third baseman Troy Glaus finished with 99 RBIs and played Gold Glove-caliber defense, setting a club fielding record with just seven errors and a .982 percentage. Center fielder Rick Ankiel showed 25-homer power while healthy for only two-thirds of a season. He missed time with a lower abdominal strain. And outfielder Skip Schumaker, playing every day against right-handers although having trouble with left-handers, batted .302 for his first full season.

Left-handed relief was somewhat of a wasteland with Tyler Johnson out all season due to injury, Randy Flores ineffective and injured and Ron Villone durable but a little too wild. The Cardinals must get two left-handed relievers, one more starter besides Lohse, who is expected to agree to a multiyear contract, and decide whether infielder Felipe Lopez, who hit .385 after being released by Washington in August, is good enough defensively to re-sign, probably as a second baseman.

The club also has to determine whether Cesar Izturis, a light hitter but solid defensively, is good enough at shortstop, or whether a more productive hitter needs to be brought in.

CARDINALS 11, REDS 4: The Cardinals defeated the Cincinnati Reds 11-4 to end both teams' seasons. Felipe Lopez drove in three runs and emergency starter Brad Thompson threw five effective innings as the Cardinals marked their best run to end a season since 1943.

NOTES AND QUOTES:

--RHP Kyle Lohse (15-6) was scratched from his start in the season finale because he was taking a physical, leading to speculation that he is being signed to a multiyear contract. A press conference is scheduled for Sept. 29.

--The Cardinals' season-closing six-game winning streak was their longest of the season. It was the top streak in the majors at the end of the season, just as the Cardinals' season-closing five-game streak was the longest last year.

--1B Albert Pujols' 37th home run Saturday gave him 100 runs. For the first time in his eight-season career, Pujols had at least 100 walks, runs scored and RBI in the same season. In his first six seasons, Pujols had 100 RBIs and 100 runs before he finished with just 99 runs last year. He had never walked 100 times until 2008.

--OF Ryan Ludwick, after slumping in mid-September, closed well. He finished with an 11-game hitting streak, and he hit his 37th homer in the first inning of the season finale.

--INF/OF Adam Kennedy, playing right field at the end of the season after playing mostly second base for his entire career, hit safely in his last five games, going 8-for-15 (.533).

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 -- 1B Albert Pujols had at least 100 walks, runs and RBIs.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a frustrating process. It's disappointing and hopefully we can figure out what's going on and take care of it." -- RHP Chris Carpenter on the nerve problem he is having near his right shoulder.


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