Cards Philly Cheese – July 25, 2009

Day two of the Matt Holliday era with St. Louis continues in Philadelphia as Colby Rasmus sits due to a minor injury.

Colby Rasmus is out of the Cardinals lineup again on Saturday in favor of Rick Ankiel. The rookie has a sore heel and is on the injury report, so Tony La Russa has given him a couple of days off. The manager said Colby could play Sunday but also noted Rick Ankiel is swinging the bat well.


Who says the backup catcher's job is the easiest in the game? At noon Eastern, 30 minutes before the team bus was even scheduled to leave the hotel, Jason LaRue was on the field going through a series of strenuous drills in short left with strength and conditioning coach Pete Prinzi. 


Matt Carroll, Cardinals Coordinator, Baseball Operations/Professional Scouting is among the Cardinals brass along on this trip.


Any lingering concern, real or imagined, between La Russa and John Mozeliak as the result of the Chris Duncan trade, or anything else for that matter, was not evident Friday night as the two spent a time chatting in the manager's office post-game. Amazing what a big trade and a nice win can accomplish.


La Russa had a warm banter back and forth with Dick Stockton, who is covering the game on FOX with Tim McCarver. TBS's Chip Caray, who will be doing the Sunday game nationally, was also in the manager's office with us pre-game. In a classy move, Stockton introduced himself to me. Usually it is the other way around.


While the Cards took infield at about 12:45, their batting practice was in the cages as it is Photo Day, as the fans are let onto the field to shake hands with Phillies players. The Cards take infield before all night games, home or away and occasionally on day games as today.


I asked Brendan Ryan if there was any adjustment with new infielder Julio Lugo. He said a bit, but mostly it is automatic. Ryan says Skip Schumaker pretty much lets him go wherever he wants while Ryan recognizes the need to respect Lugo's range. Ryan said he is looking forward to a close play with new left fielder Matt Holliday to get a better feel for how they will work together. Having said that, Ryan is a bit concerned on the road due to all the fan noise as he certainly doesn't want to get leveled by the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Holliday.


Speaking of the newest Cardinal, Holliday seemed enthused as his bats and gloves arrived from Oakland (who was playing in New York). He noted that he used Pujols' and Ankiel's bats on Friday to get his four hits. Equipment manager Rip Rowan got in some size 14 shoes from Nike and before Holliday arrived, he was busy with a red highlighter Cardinalizing a pair of blue and white Nikes by filling in the white swooshes. It is a temporary fix until the proper color shoes can be shipped.


Bullpen sergeant Ryan Franklin calls fellow reliever Jason Motte by the nickname "Otter". The rookie has a pretty pink Hello Kitty backpack in his locker that is used to deliver water bottles to the bullpen. Not exactly serious hazing, but amusing nonetheless. Motte was very matter-of-fact about it, saying he has more important things to worry about.


Will Farrell and John C. Reilly in the movie "Step Brothers" was a clubhouse hit as the players and coaches worked to fill in time before the 4 p.m. Eastern start. Even La Russa sat down to watch a bit, but got up saying he wanted to see it from the start.


La Russa would not commit that his three right-handers in the middle of the order – Pujols, Holliday and Ludwick - would remain in that sequence for tomorrow or against the Dodgers, calling it a series-to-series decision.


The manager was impressed with Lugo, noting that "his tools are alive, which is a good sign." Lugo gets the start at short on Saturday batting second after leading off and playing second base on Friday against a left-handed pitcher.


While there was a lot of pre-game discussion about versatility of the roster, La Russa called out Mark DeRosa at third and Skip Schumaker at second as infielders that aren't likely to be moved around - at least with the current roster construction.


Speaking of roster construction, La Russa's commitment to 12 pitchers is very soft. He said "if we have the wrong type of game today" he would be back to 13 pitchers tomorrow. "We're going to protect our bullpen over everything else," he said. That will apply for the next nine days until the team hits days off in August.


Asked about coming back in 2010, La Russa noted the pressure is on him to win. In response, he cracked, "if we are not in first place with this roster on August 1, I won't be here next month."


Khalil Greene came up. La Russa was non-committal. "I see Khalil as getting work (in the minors) but I don't want to look ahead… (Playing third) took pressure off him when he was struggling. We are a different team now. I don't know…"


Asked to characterize closer Ryan Franklin, La Russa said:

Starter's repertoire

Effective against hitters right or left

Fields position well

Can't run on him

Not overpowering stuff

Can locate well



He also noted two factors he quoted from Don Zimmer:

1. Never makes excuses

2. Always into the competition with the hitter – never takes an at-bat off


That sent TLR off into a Dennis Eckersley set of stories. The one that was most notable was La Russa's observation that Eck "used to feature the 1-2-3 ninth inning in less than five minutes and ten pitches." The manager said he got to the point in Oakland where he would time Eck's outings by the scoreboard clock and said Franklin has had some quick innings as well.



Link to Friday's report: Cards Philly Cheese – July 24, 2009



Brian Walton can be reached via email at Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.


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