Cardinals New York Minutes – 06/24/09

Brian Walton's report from the new Citi Field in New York as the St. Louis Cardinals visit the Mets.

Greetings from New York as the St. Louis Cardinals take on the New York Mets in the third game of their four-game series. Brad Thompson faces Fernando Nieve, one of three Fernandos in the Mets lineup (along with left-fielder and former Cardinal Fernando Tatis and centerfielder Fernando Martinez.

With drizzles and some rain off an on, the infield was kept covered until about 6:00 p.m. and the clubs took batting practice in the cages underneath the stands. The Cards hit from 5:30 until 6:20.

Tony La Russa was asked if he had any concerns about following one sinkerball specialist (Joel Pineiro) with another (Thompson). He initially said "no", but seemed to come back around to the idea later in the discussion.

Thompson is not one who refuses to talk on a day he is starting. He alternated between working a crossword puzzle with Josh Kinney and studying video. As I was heading back into the clubhouse from the dugout, Brad asked me about the humidity, which is considerable, but not stifling.

La Russa was asked about Albert Pujols' fading away from the bag on throws at first, calling it "stylish" and "a signature play". I asked if he was worried about Pujols getting run into, but with some confidence, TLR cracked, "I worry more about the runner." He did admit it is "a bit unorthodox." Jose Oquendo says Pujols practices the play and it is a result of the first baseman shading a bit more toward second base.

Speaking of infield throws, I asked Brendan Ryan why he throws overhand in practice and more of a sidearm fashion in games. He said he uses the overhand to prepare for backhand plays and to strengthen his arm, but is "more comfortable with the sidearm. I feel like I will never overthrow that way and I feel I am throwing harder than before," he explained.

The day after an intense 60-pitch session, Kyle Lohse said he is "good sore" and will now focus on his command while La Russa admits Lohse is "progressing but still has a way to go."

One might have expected Yadier Molina to get Thursday afternoon off, but instead he sits on Wednesday night. TLR wants to have Molina catch Chris Carpenter in the series finale Thursday afternoon – a game La Russa called a "marquee match-up". "He (Molina) does well with Carp and (Jason) LaRue does well with everyone."

The ace Carpenter is drawing other aces. In his last four match-ups, he has faced Jason Johnson of Florida, former AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee two starts ago and draws two-time winner Johan Santana on Thursday.

I asked La Russa what he would do facing Pujols with the bases loaded. "In the ninth inning with a two-run lead, I'd probably walk him. Late in the game I would."

La Russa proudly showed off a black Mariucci bat that Pujols used on Sunday to collect his first hit of the game. Albert signed it with a message to the manager to commemorate TLR's 2500th managerial win. La Russa didn't mind one bit that the broken bat had been glued together. "This one is going up at the Foundation next to Springsteen's guitar."

After leaving tickets for Mountain's Leslie West on Tuesday, the manager had a copy of the group's CD, "Masters of War" on his desk on Wednesday.

On Ryan Ludwick sitting on Wednesday in favor of Colby Rasmus: "He (Ludwick) hasn't swung well the last couple of days. It is his turn today. He'll play tomorrow (Thursday). He can rest his legs."

Tyler Greene's chance to start dried up when Khalil Greene returned from the DL. La Russa complimented Tyler's pinch-hitting, noting he "did nice – had a couple of pinch hits." "He is playing enough that he is not digressing, but if I did it for long, I don't think it would be a plus."

Asked if Greene projects as an MLB starter, the answer was a quick and loud, "Are you kidding me? Yes. If he hits at all, he will be a regular… He is a plus runner. If he is going to hit enough, he is going to be a star."

The manager seems content carrying 13 pitchers indefinitely. "Unless there is some compelling reason… if someone gets hurt and you don't want to disable him…" His explanation is that he has a "young bullpen you're trying to bring along. Most are young guys. Most are better fresh, including our closer."

La Russa visited Bob Costas of MLB Network for a 1-1 interview that will run on Sunday. The manager called the Secaucus, NJ facility "a very impressive place." The subjects include historical aspects, Pujols, "a bit about Mark" McGwire as a hitter and how he might be as a coach, but steroids did not come up according to the manager.

Futures Game manager Jose Oquendo was apparently sharing his view of a possible World roster with GM John Mozeliak in the dugout before the game. He will oppose Ozzie Smith's US squad.

I ran into former Cardinals broadcaster Wayne Hagin before the game. The Mets radio man extraordinaire pointed me to this post from his blog at It is mandatory reading. "The Dreamer".

Here is the link to yesterday's report which I posted at my blog, The Cardinal Nation.

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