"From what I've seen of how he's throwing and the shape he's in, I expect he'll pitch well," La Russa added.
After La Russa's announcement, it's clear, barring any injuries, the Cardinals rotation shapes up to consist of five right-handers; Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer and Pineiro.
La Russa's perhaps unexpected announcement came a day after Pineiro had expressed his frustration with Cardinals coach Jose Oquendo. Oquendo, the manager of the World Baseball Classic, Puerto Rico team, made the decision this week to go with a three-man rotation consisting of major league pitchers; Javier Vazquez, Ian Snell and Jonathan Sanchez, rather than carrying Pineiro on the team as a starter.
Pineiro has been slated to be the Cardinals #5 starter this season, as such, off the record; the front office and management were against Pineiro participating in the WBC if he wasn't going to be a starter and going to be pitching out of the bullpen. Once Oquendo made the announcement of his decision to exclude Pineiro from the rotation, the unhappy pitcher announced he was withdrawing from the competition to focus on getting ready for the regular season with St. Louis.
Pineiro signed a two-year, $13 million contract extension with St. Louis in October of 2007 with the Cardinals expecting more of a return on their investment from Pineiro than his 7-7 record and 5.15 ERA. Bumped from the rotation at one point, there has been some debate in the offseason, as to what Pineiro's role will be with the Cardinals in 2009.
Pineiro made 25 starts for the Cardinals last year, and until La Russa made his announcement on Thursday expressing his confidence in the Puerto Rican pitcher, there was some speculation that the Cardinals would find someone else to be the club's #5 starter. Pineiro will have to have a terrible spring training before La Russa will change his mind on this decision.
Staff ace Chris Carpenter (pictured left)continues to make progress this spring and is expected to face batters this Saturday. Carpenter is schedule to make his first start in Grapefruit League action on Saturday, February 28 against the Washington Nationals. At this point it's reasonable to expect Carpenter to be ready to start the season by opening day.
Mitchell Boggs, who is dealing with some tightness in his right shoulder, had his scheduled bullpen session on Thursday cancelled. Boggs has been throwing long-toss and could be throwing off the mound by this weekend. I have Boggs on my depth chart as the Cardinals #7 starter, his chances of breaking with and going north with the team after spring training, were slim before he had shoulder issues. In light of La Russa's announcement about Pineiro and the continued progress demonstrated by Chris Carpenter, Boggs will almost certainly start the season at Triple-A Memphis.
Chris Perez, the Cardinals' "closer of the future" is competing against Jason Motte, Josh Kinney and Ryan Franklin for the closer title, to starter the season. Perez has had some issues with bone spurs in his left ankle that may be affecting his mechanics and release point. So far Perez is focusing on his mechanics and pitch location and he's able to participate in the daily drills and workouts without restrictions despite the nagging bone spurs. Perez is probably the organization's front runner to be the closer, though I give a slight edge to Jason Motte at this time. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that Perez could start the 2009 season with Triple-A Memphis, for that matter, the same holds true for Jason Motte.
Thursday, Manager Tony La Russa continued discounting competition as good for the club, as he insisted that despite a crowded outfield, outfielder Chris Duncan holds an edge over his teammates, as far as making the 25-man roster out of spring training. Duncan should be considered the fourth outfielder at this time, but the Skip Schumaker experiment at second base and the pending arrival of the Cardinals' top prospect, Colby Rasmus, could have a profound effect on Duncan's playing time this year.
Third baseman Davie Freese, (pictured right) who batted .306 with 26 homers and 91 RBIs in his first season in Class AAA, likely will open the season at third for the St. Louis Cardinals in place of the injured Troy Glaus who is apt to miss the first month of the regular season, recovering from shoulder surgery.
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