Cardinals Major League Notebook: 10/31/09

The St. Louis Cardinals offseason opened with the expected return of Tony La Russa and the surprise addition of Mark McGwire.


   Manager Tony La Russa will return for a 15th season, which wasn't a big surprise other than that he signed for just one more year rather than the customary two- or three-year deals he had before.

   But the big surprise was that La Russa lured former Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire away from eight years out of the game and hired him as his sixth hitting coach in those 15 years.

   One of the issues, of course, is that McGwire will be buttonholed, at least initially, with questions about steroids -- a topic McGwire basically has refused to discuss before. While McGwire was not at the press conference announcing the rehiring of La Russa and the retention of the entire coaching staff, sans hitting coach Hal McRae, club officials made it clear that McGwire, 46, would be available to the media later this offseason.

   This presumably would take place after the World Series.

   "By no means is he trying to hide, and by no means are we trying to hide him," general manager John Mozeliak said. "How he answers questions is really going to be up to him. But if you look at how (the organization) is trying to push this, we look at what he's contributed to the game of baseball and look at it in a very positive way. More importantly, we think his attributes can make us better. None of us ... know exactly what happened in the past, and what we do know is that he is very energetic. ... We recognize Mark's importance in the game and the legacy he left."

   Commissioner Bud Selig, a longtime fan of McGwire, said he was "delighted that Mark's coming back to the game.

   "I give (manager) Tony La Russa a lot of credit and (chairman) Bill DeWitt a lot of credit for making this happen. I was -- and am -- very supportive of their decision. I wish everybody well. When Mark was there, I had a lot of affection and admiration for him."

   Selig said he had no problem with McGwire being hired despite the persistent linking of McGwire to a steroids culture that once had engulfed the game.

   "I'm proud of where the sport is," Selig said. "We had two or three positive (drug) tests all year, and we've since banned amphetamines. The culture has completely changed.

   "I have no misgivings about this at all. Mark McGwire is a very, very fine man, and the Cardinals are to be applauded."




   --Pitching coach Dave Duncan, like manager Tony La Russa, will return for a 15th season with the Cardinals. Duncan has been with La Russa since 1983, when the two were with the Chicago White Sox. They later worked together in Oakland.

   La Russa said he came back, in part, because of the tradition of the Cardinals, including the many Hall of Famers who are still actively involved with the club.

   "You've got to be a mummy not to be affected by that," La Russa said. "The next guy to manage is going to be lucky. Selfishly, to heck with them. I'm going to take it."

   --INF Mark DeRosa had surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. DeRosa, a potential free agent, will be ready for spring training, although general manager John Mozeliak has said that St. Louisan David Freese would get a real shot to win the third base job next spring.

   --Hal McRae, dismissed after five years as hitting coach, left without complaint. "The way I look at this is that it was a good five years. When it's over, it's over," McRae said. McRae indicated he wanted to keep coaching.

   --1B Albert Pujols did not have the serious elbow surgery that had been feared. Instead, he had some bone chips and spurs removed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., and said he would be ready for spring training. After telling a Dominican Republic radio station that he was not "desperate" to sign a contract extension, Pujols told a St. Louis radio station that he wanted to finish his career as a Cardinal. The two-time Most Valuable Player who surely will win a third MVP crown this year is signed for one more season, plus a club option.

   --C Bryan Anderson, who has been at Class AAA the past two seasons, is trying to restore his image as a prospect by playing in the Arizona Fall League after suffering from shoulder issues much of the 2009 season. Anderson had five hits in his first 12 AFL at-bats.

   BY THE NUMBERS: 28 -- Consecutive seasons manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan will have been together when the 2010 campaign begins.

   QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's relentless with his work. He goes until you're tired. He'll be there all day long if you need him, and he doesn't leave until he knows you're ready." -- 2B Skip Schumaker, on new hitting coach Mark McGwire, with whom he has worked for several years in the offseason.




   The Cardinals didn't have many needs as the season ended although they probably could use one more veteran starting pitcher to go with RHPs Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse. RHPs Joel Pineiro and Todd Wellemeyer, who filled out the rotation, both likely will be gone as free agents.

   BIGGEST NEEDS: When the Cardinals were dismissed early from the playoffs, they set the wheels in motion to try to re-sign free-agent LF Matt Holliday and also 3B Mark DeRosa. Holliday, however, seemed likely to go into the open market.

   FREE AGENTS: Free agents likely to file are RHP Joel Pineiro, RHP Todd Wellemeyer, RHP John Smoltz, C Jason LaRue, INF Khalil Greene, INF Mark DeRosa, 3B Troy Glaus, OF Rick Ankiel, LF Matt Holliday. The Cardinals have large interest in keeping Holliday and DeRosa and some interest in both LaRue and Smoltz. The others probably are gone.

   ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Brad Thompson, 2B Skip Schumaker, OF Ryan Ludwick.

   Thompson, left off the postseason roster, probably won't be tendered. Schumaker will make more as a second baseman than an outfielder. Ludwick likely will get close to $7 million and might have to be traded for payroll relief if Holliday signs a multi-year deal.

   IN LIMBO: Thompson won't be back. Ludwick, a candidate to be traded last year, could be dealt this time. RHP Josh Kinney, a playoff hero in 2006, probably won't return.


   3B Mark DeRosa (left wrist surgery in October 2009) should be ready for spring training.

   1B Albert Pujols (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October 2009) should be back at full strength for spring training.

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