Sunday Morning Coffee with Ray Mileur

With St. Louis finishing in fourth place last season, I have forgotten how bad it is as a fan, to have to, "Wait Until Next Year". I'm beginning to appreciate what it must mean to be a diehard Chicago Cubs fan. Catchers and pitchers report in 27 days, ending a very frustrating and prolonged offseason for Cardinal fans.

This weekend it is the Cardinals annual Winter Warm Up in St. Louis, so certainly time must be marching on, even though it feels like we've been marking time on the home front since Thanksgiving.

This past week the big news, basically the only news coming out of St. Louis leading up to the Winter Warm Up was that outfielders, Chris Duncan, Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick, along with pitchers Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson, all filed for salary arbitration.

Deals for Chris Duncan, Brad Thompson and Todd Wellemeyer are expected to be wrapped up as early as next week, with negotiations with Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick likely to continue with salary figures for potential arbitration hearings likely to be filed on Tuesday, with arbitration hearings being scheduled sometime between February 1 and February 21.

The Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has made it clear in the past that he would like to avoid arbitration with all five of the eligible players. Historically the Cardinals have been very effective in avoiding arbitration hearings, the last hearing coming back in 1999 with the player back then coming out on the short end of the stick.

Ankiel is represented by super-agent Scott Boras, so the Cardinals long streak of avoiding arbitration hearing may be in jeopardy.

Ankiel and Wellemeyer are both five-year players and can be free agents at the end of next season and will likely be playing for someone else in 2010. Remember, you heard it heard it here first, or you already figured it out for yourself. I don't expect Ankiel or Wellemeyer will get a multi-year deal.

Chris Carpenter, who underwent surgery on his right elbow in November in a procedure that included decompression and transposition of the lunar nerve, is expected to begin throwing from the mound in February. The debate continues as to when he should be ready to pitch without restriction, it is possible he could be ready to step into the rotation soon after the season begins.

The former Cy Young Award winner, told reporters and fans in St. Louis, Saturday, that he is hoping to make 28+ starts for the Cardinals this season, leading me to believe, he hopes to be ready to pitch by the first week in May, while others think he'll be ready on opening day.

Carpenter, 33, made four appearances for the Cardinals this past season - the last coming on September 2 after missing the entire 2007 season after opening day due to his right elbow and later, shoulder. Carpenter opted out of nerve surgery on the shoulder at the end of last season.

Discussions about Carpenter closing or pitching out of the bullpen have been tabled for now.

In other news, right hander Kyle McClellan, who had 30 "holds" last season, we be conditioned this offseason to be a starter. McClellan, who has expressed a desire to move into the starting rotation, will likely remain in the bullpen this season, regardless if the Cardinals add another starter or not. Long term, I think you have to consider McClellan as an option in the rotation, I just don't see him be a viable option in 2009.

Russ Springer, the 40-year-old right-handed pitcher was told that he will not be receiving an offer to return to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009, another case of a role player who experienced too much success to be able to keep on the team.

RUMOR CONTROL – I don't see the Cardinals bringing in another starter before the 2009 campaign begins, that said, we don't always see eye-to-eye. Among starters who could still be in the mix, or at least potential prospects for a St. Louis contract include; Oliver and Odalis Perez, Randy Wolf, Jon Garland and Ben Sheets. If I had to rank them in order, as to the most likely to sign with St. Louis, I would go with Garland and Wolf as the most likely candidates to wear the "Birds on the Bat" with Oliver Perez and Ben Sheets being long shots.

OLD NEWS – Former St. Louis Cardinals' starter, free agent Mark Mulder, is expected to throw off the mound for scouts in the very near future. It will be interesting to see who takes a chance on Mulder, or if the Cardinals send a scout to watch him throw.

Mulder appeared in three games for the Cardinals in 2008 for $6,500,000.00, finishing with a record of 0-0, with a 10.80 ERA. Another pitcher the Cardinals were counting on last season to bounce back from injury, that wasn't able to contribute. On October 21st, the Cardinals paid $1.5 million to buy out the $11 million salary Mulder was due to earn in 2009. The move made Mulder a free agent and the oft-injured pitcher could use a fresh start with a new club.

Mulder was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in December of 2004, in exchange for pitchers Kiko Calero and Dan Haren and catcher Daric Barton, a deal that will go down as one of the worst trades made during former general manager Walt Jocketty's era in St. Louis.

MEDICAL WATCH: – Outfielders; Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan, & Joe Mather and first baseman Albert Pujols are all expected to be healthy and ready for spring training.

ON THE AIR – Ray Mileur will co-host with Bill McCarty, a weekly "This Week in Cardinals Baseball" show, sponsored by the Birdhouse, on WXAN, 103.9 FM, a full-service Christian radio station serving Southern Illinois and Southeast Missouri.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – 78 days until opening day – St. Louis hosting the Pittsburg Pirates at Busch Stadium, on Monday, April 6, 2009.

92 – The number of wins I'm predicting for the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals. Will 92 wins be enough?

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