Cardinals Major League Notebook: 12/25/09

While waiting for the rest of his 2010 roster to be added, Tony La Russa ponders lineup alternatives.



  While the Cardinals still were waiting for a decision from free agent Matt Holliday and perhaps from free agent Mark DeRosa, manager Tony La Russa also was considering who would hit ahead of NL Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols, as well as who might protect Pujols from behind and what kind of balance the lineup might have.


   Much of the Cardinals' pop last season was from the right-handed side, with Pujols, Holliday, Ryan Ludwick, Yadier Molina and DeRosa. But La Russa said, "A lot of clubs win with right-handed hitting. It's more dangerous if you have a lot of left-handed hitting.


   "We don't know who the left fielder is. Right now we have a left-handed-hitting second baseman, (Skip) Schumaker, and a left-handed center fielder, (Colby Rasmus). There's room for a left-hander or a switch hitter. I mean, I'd take Matt. I'd take a right-handed-hitting third baseman. Good hitters are good hitters."


   Schumaker and Rasmus often were the Nos. 1 and 2 hitters ahead of Pujols, and Holliday batted fourth exclusively after he arrived. Before that, Ludwick, who had 22 homers and 97 RBIs, often hit fourth behind Pujols. La Russa said he could do it again.


   "He's a year older, (he's) more experienced, and it's more fair," La Russa said.


   Rasmus, one of the team's swiftest runners, didn't run much from the No. 2 spot and, in fact, stole just three bases in four attempts. But La Russa debunked the theory that Rasmus didn't run because Pujols didn't want anybody moving on the bases while he was hitting.


   "Albert never has said anything about him not running," La Russa said. "I don't give the 'run' sign to Rasmus a lot because it opens up a base for Albert."


   But La Russa didn't rule out that Rasmus, who had 16 home runs, might be used elsewhere in the lineup, too.


   "He hit in the middle of the lineup, and his average as fourth or fifth hitter was about the same as it was before, maybe even better," La Russa said.


   "I think we'll see how much he develops and slot him in wherever we need him."




   --CF Tyler Bighames, who was with the Cardinals' rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate, was suspended 50 games for a second positive drug test. The release from the Major League Baseball offices said Bighames tested positive for a "drug of abuse" each time. Bighames was drafted in the 31st round of the most recent draft, meaning he's had two positive tests since he entered the Cardinals' system in June. Bighames hit .216 in the GCL last season with a .300 on-base percentage.


   --The Troy Glaus era, a two-year span, apparently came to an end when he agreed to a deal with the Braves, according to multiple media reports. Glaus, who hit 27 homers and drove in 99 runs in 2008 after coming from Toronto, was limited to just 14 games last season after undergoing belated right shoulder surgery in January.


   --3B David Freese, charged with driving while intoxicated in mid-December, was found to have been arrested for DWI in 2002, also in the St. Louis area. Freese, who has entered the club's Employee Assistance Program, will get the first shot at the vacant third base job next spring.


   --The Cardinals' 2009 payroll, which was just shy of $103 million, ranked 11th in the majors but only third in their division behind Chicago ($141 million) and Houston ($108 million). The Cardinals have indicated their 2010 payroll will be between $105 and $110 million.


   --With Glaus and INF Joe Thurston both heading to Atlanta, the Cardinals' bench is sure to take on a different look. OF Rick Ankiel is a free agent and is unlikely to return, leaving C Jason LaRue and SS Julio Lugo as the only returnees.


   BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Regular-season hits for 3B Troy Glaus in 2009 after he hit 27 homers for the Cardinals the year before.


   QUOTE TO NOTE: "No question about it. It is a concern." -- Farm director Jeff Luhnow, discussing the fact that three Cardinals minor-leaguers have incurred 50-game suspensions for "drugs of abuse" in the past year.




   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.


   ARRIVAL: RHP Brad Penny (free agent from Giants).


   DEPARTURES: RHP Brad Thompson (released, signed minor league deal with Royals), INF Joe Thurston (free agent, signed minor league deal with Braves), 3B Troy Glaus (free agent, signed with Braves, pending physical).


   FREE AGENTS: RHP Joel Pineiro, RHP Todd Wellemeyer, RHP John Smoltz, INF Khalil Greene, INF Mark DeRosa, OF Rick Ankiel, LF Matt Holliday.


   The Cardinals have large interest in keeping Holliday and DeRosa and some interest in Smoltz. The others probably are gone.


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


   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 multiyear deal.


   IN LIMBO: OF Ryan 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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