The Cardinals Major League Notebook

While manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan are hopeful of landing a veteran reliever to bridge the gap until it is time for Chris Perez or Jason Motte to become the closer, general manager John Mozeliak said he had faith in his young pitchers.

"I know it's not optimal the way Tony looks at it," Mozeliak said. "But we went with a very young outfield last year that got the same type of scrutiny and questions that now our bullpen is getting. I'm using that as a barometer that it works.

"We had the same type of faith in (Ryan) Ludwick and (Rick) Ankiel and that group as we do with Perez and Motte and (Kyle) McClellan.

"People don't like to hear that, and I'm not trying to sell it. But there was a similar model we used for outfield last year that was successful, and I think it's capable of being a successful group here."

Mozeliak was speaking after the Cardinals lost out to the Angels for free agent left-hander Brian Fuentes.

"I think when we weren't able to sign Fuentes, we took a step back," Mozeliak said. "He's a proven, legitimate closer. I really don't see another answer (from outside the organization) as clearly as Fuentes."

La Russa said the Cardinals had interest in free agent right-handers Juan Cruz and Brandon Lyon, both of whom pitched for Arizona. Setup man Cruz, whose signing as a Type A free agent would cost the club a draft pick as compensation, was 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings last year. Lyon had 26 saves but a 4.70 ERA.

--General manager John Mozeliak said his team would owe at least $10 million more this season to their five arbitration-eligible players -- OFs Ryan Ludwick, Chris Duncan and Rick Ankiel and RHPs Brad Thompson and Todd Wellemeyer. Ludwick, coming off a 37-homer, 113-RBI season, may get 10 times as much this season as he did last year, when he made $411,000. Thirteen-game winner Wellemeyer, one year from free agency, may see his salary rise from $1 million to $4 million.

--Besides the raises due the arbitration-eligible players, the Cardinals' payroll for 2009 will include hikes for RHP Adam Wainwright, whose salary will go from $500,000 to $2.6 million, and C Yadier Molina, whose pay will jump from $1.75 million to $3.25 million, as part of the escalation in their tiered multiyear deals.

"So there isn't as much freedom as people felt we had with guys like (Mark) Mulder coming off the books. There's definitely some internal increases that we're dealing with," Mozeliak said.

--The Cardinals' position of depth clearly is the outfield. However, Mozeliak said that a trade of an outfielder wouldn't be made because of payroll but rather the potential overload at the position, which encompasses minor league prospects Jon Jay, Shane Robinson and Daryl Jones. Yet, Mozeliak said there was also a way that Ludwick, Ankiel, Duncan, Skip Schumaker, Joe Mather and Colby Rasmus all could be on the roster at the start of the season. "There is a scenario," said Mozeliak.

--OF Joe Mather, whose season was short-circuited last year by a broken bone in his left hand, will see time at third base, first base and possibly even at second base this spring. The 6-foot-4 Mather was signed as a shortstop in 2001.

--Mozeliak said he thought there would be pitching available, notably starting pitching, even deep into spring training, as teams release some veteran players because of salary issues. "I think you could see activity in the month of March because teams may realize their revenues might not be more than their payrolls," Mozeliak said.

--LHP Royce Ring, signed to a one-year contract, has been with four previous organizations, including Atlanta where he was 2-1 with an 8.46 ERA in 42 games covering 22 1/3 innings last year.

BY THE NUMBERS: 30 -- "Holds" by RHP Kyle McClellan in his rookie season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think there's a chance we go into spring training with the club the way it is and react accordingly." -- GM John Mozeliak, practicing patience on signing free agents or making trades.


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