The Cardinals Major League Notebook 11/21

It was a modest first step, but the Cardinals' apparent agreement with free agent left-handed reliever Trever Miller began to address one of their most acute problems from last season.

The two-year contract was not finalized as of Nov. 20, and Miller still would need to pass a physical.

With Tyler Johnson out all of 2008 after elbow surgery, Randy Flores injured and inconsistent, and veteran Ron Villone durable but spotty, the Cardinals' left-handed relief was a massive disappointment. It contributed largely to the bullpen losing 31 games and blowing 31 saves.

Villone was outstanding against left-handed batters, holding them to a .176 average, but because there was little alternative, had to be used too much. He made 74 outings, and right-handers tagged him at a .300 clip.

The 35-year-old Miller, a key figure in the bullpen for the American League champions Rays, held left-handed batters to a .209 average and fanned 30 of 91. He was not so successful against right-handers, who averaged .286 against him.

General manager John Mozeliak said the club really hadn't been active in pursuit of left-handed swingman Jeremy Affeldt, who signed with San Francisco. Affeldt hadn't been that southpaw specialist the Cardinals were looking for inasmuch left-handed batters had hit .269 against him in 2008.

Look for the Cardinals to continue their quest of 39-year-old Arthur Rhodes, traditionally difficult for left-handed batters. They had interest in Will Ohman, too, but it appeared Ohman might stay in Atlanta.

--Former Cardinals star Edgar Renteria remains prominent on the Cardinals' radar as they look for a replacement for SS Cesar Izturis. Renteria hit only .270 and drove in just 55 runs for Detroit last season.

--SS Tyler Greene, having an impressive Arizona Fall League season, and RHP Matt Scherer, a reliever, were added to the 40-man winter roster. Greene, a first-round draft pick in 2005, has developed more quickly in the last year or so after a slow start in his pro career. The winter roster has plenty of flexibility with only 37 players on it.

--LHP Ian Ostlund was signed to a minor league contract. Ostlund, 30, was 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA for Detroit's Toledo AAA farm team last season, fanning 77 in 69 2/3 innings.

--1B Albert Pujols, who earned his second National League Most Valuable Player award, said 2008 was his best season "because of the consistency I had from day one to the end of the season." Pujols' average never dropped below .341 after May 8.

--RHP Chris Carpenter is expected to have another nerve exam of his right shoulder by the end of the month. Pending the results, the Cardinals have been cautious in their bid to add starting pitching help.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- Times 1B Albert Pujols has finished in the top 10 of the National League Most Valuable Player balloting. He has played only eight seasons in the majors.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's been the leader on this team probably since his second year." -- Manager Tony La Russa, on MVP Albert Pujols.

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