Tag:Tony La Russa
Posted on: October 14, 2011 6:38 pm
 

La Russa reminisces about a young Hairston

Jerry Hairston Jr.

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- A cool story came out of Friday's pregame interview for Game 5 of the NLCS when Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was asked about Jerry Hairston Jr., who first met La Russa when Hairston's father, Jerry Hairston Sr., played for La Russa on the White Sox.

Hairston and his brother Scott Hairston are third-generation big-leaguers, with not only Jerry Hairston Sr. playing in the big leagues, but also their grandfather, Sam Hairston, who played in the Negro Leagues and for the White Sox.

After Thursday's game Hairston told some reporters that he remembered playing in the White Sox clubhouse as a kid and his dealings with La Russa. La Russa was then asked about that on Friday:

"Well, that's an emotional one, because of his grand dad. For any of you that have been around a while, Sam Hairston, not just for the White Sox, was an institution in baseball. Great, great man. And when I got to the White Sox and met Sam, he had a lot of idiosyncracies that were really neat, and whether you were the worst Minor Leaguer or the best Big Leaguer, just an amazing man. 

"I met his son, and then we had a unique experience -- I'll tell you quickly. During the strike of '82, Roland Hemond went to México to scout two or three guys, and young manager, he took me with him. We got rained out of a game, so we went back to the capital, and we drove all the way out, someplace out in the country to see a left-hand pitcher, a guy named Angel Moreno know who ended up signing with the Angels.

"We saw a night game, Mexico City Reds were playing against the Mexico City Tigers, and I watched that game and I watched and there was this young right-handed reliever, and I said, "Roland, look at this guy." Salomon Rojas, pitched for us the next year. Maybe it was the '81 strike. And the other one was Jerry Hairston who I was running into in the Minor Leagues and he's taking these at-bats, he's in great shape, and Roland was and still is a great baseball man, very emotional, and knew Sam. 

So in September, we brought Jerry up, and he lit us up as a pinch-hitter. So he was with us the next year, I forget exactly how many years he was with us, but just do anything, ready all the time. I really enjoyed Jerry, one of my favorite players, and then he had these two little kids, two little jerk kids running into my office telling me to play their dad more than I'm playing him. 

"I'd say, "Okay, maybe I should, but get out." I really enjoyed his family and his wife. Yeah, makes you feel real old to see Jerry, Jr. kicking our butt like he does, but I hope Sam is appreciating it." 

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Posted on: October 14, 2011 6:27 pm
 

Furcal wants Cardinals, but should they want him?

Rafael Furcal

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Rafael Furcal has seen enough of St. Louis that he'd love to return in 2012 and beyond. The question is how much of a pay cut he'll be willing to take and if the Cardinals want him back.

"When I come here with Atlanta, or I come in with the Dodgers, I play those guys, I'm always in a big competition, and I love it here," Furcal said before Game 5 of the NLCS. "I love the fans and the players and everybody is on the same page and everybody wants to win. Who wouldn't want to play for one of the best managers in all of baseball?"

Furcal has been a definite upgrade defensively for the Cardinals, who had Ryan Theriot start 87 games at shortstop, resembling the statue of Ozzie Smith outside Busch Stadium than the Hall of Famer that patrolled the former incarnation of Busch Stadium.

However, despite hitting better than he did in Los Angeles (.197/.272/.248), Furcal hasn't lived up to his career numbers in either batting average (.282) or on-base percentage (.348), hitting .255/.316/.418 with St. Louis in 50 regular-season games and .200/.220/.325 in the playoffs. He has as many stolen bases as Lance Berkman and Yadier Molina.

Furcal will also turn 34 on Oct. 24, the scheduled day of Game 5 of the World Series. For a player who has based so much of his career on his speed, Furcal's age is a real concern. The Cardinals have a $12 million option for 2012, and that seems highly unlikely to be picked up. His three-year, $30 million contract runs out after this season and will likely be granted free agency.

Are the Cardinals better with Furcal than without him? Yep. And he could be a decent pickup, and he certainly wouldn't be the first player to resurrect his career playing for Tony La Russa, but in the end it comes down to the biggest question in the offseason -- is the price right?

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Posted on: October 14, 2011 2:32 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 2:47 am
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 4

Francisco Rodriguez

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers' bullpen has been a strength since the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez, but a bullpen is a strength you don't really want to rely upon, especially in a postseason series.

Coming into Game 4, no Brewers starter had gone more than six innings in the NLCS and only once -- in Game 1 of the NLDS -- had a Brewers starter done it in the postseason. In the first three games against the Cardinalds, the Brewers bullpen had pitched 11 innings to 15 by the starters.

Now, there's been plenty of rest in between and there are enough arms to get it done, but it's not exactly a good sign when relievers are pitching that much. In Game 4 Friday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was finally about to use his bullpen just like he wanted it -- Rodrigue in the eight and closer John Axford in the ninth, simple as that.

That was due to the performance of Randy Wolf, as the veteran left-hander threw seven innings, allowing just two runs and none after the third inning of MIlwaukee's 4-2 victory over St. Louis.

NLCS Coverage

Wolf, actually, was the first starting pitcher in this series to go into the seventh inning -- and he breezed through his last inning, finishing the day having allowed six hits, striking out six and walking one. He threw 107 pitches, 74 for strikes and retiring the final six batters he faced.

"There's no way I could put into words of just the intensity that's there every inning," Wolf said. "You know how important every out is. You know how either team, if they have an opportunity to score, how good they are at taking advantage of that opportunity."

• Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on using his bullpen: "We had a chance to win today. This is October. This is not the season where when this series is over you have to play for another 20 days or something. It's real simple. This is the end of the season for these starters, too, so they are probably not as strong. Go as far as you can, as long as you can and we have plenty of bullpen help."

• Wolf on Matt Holliday's second-inning homer: "Off the bat, I first thought i was a foul ball, and then I saw the ball staying fair, i thought it was going to be a fly-out. But you know, he's one of those guys that has brute strength. He's just a big, strong guy, and you know, I think all three of us, me, George (Kottaras) and Matt, we were all kind of surprised that went out. But he's a strong enough guy. It's like trying to pitch to Brian Urlacher. He's a beast."

• Cardinals right fielder Allen Craig on Wolf: "We jumped on him early, and then he went away from his change up and started going to his curveball. That made it tough on us and we just didn't adjust."

• Brewers manager Ron Roenicke on the decision not to pinch-hit for Wolf in the sixth: "There was a lot going on there. You know, really, if we decided -- we decided that if we had a great opportunity with Wolf's spot, that we would probably hit for him. But how it came up, really, if we were going to do that, probably we were going to have to also hit for George. So you go through (Jonathan Lucroy) and then use a pinch-hitter. If we used Corey (Hart), they would have walked him, left-to-lefty and probably to face Nyjer (Morgan). There was a lot going on. They had some options. They had (Octavio) Dotel down warming up. They had a lot of options, and we did, too.

"I don't know why we decided to leave it as is. We already were up a run, which had a lot to do with it (and) felt good with George facing Arthur Rhodes and putting it in play and at least getting us one run. And he did a good job there."

• Craig Counsell on Jerry Hairston Jr.: "Every time he comes up, his at-bats are so solid. He's been a great addition. I don't think anybody anticipated him playing that great a role, but I know he's impressed everyone in here, that's for sure."

• Hairston on the team's loose attitude: "You know what, we are a loose bunch of guys. Even when we were getting beat pretty good in Game 2, we were still kind of loose. They just caught fire and really beat us pretty good, and I think one of the guys said we need to score two touchdowns to get back in the game. That's the type of team we have to be, we have to be loose, because, you know, I think it was in late August or early September, we tried to tone it down and we lost three or four games in a row, and we said, you know, we can't be that way. We have to go out there and have fun. No disrespect to any team, but we have to go out and have fun and enjoy ourselves, and we've been doing that and we've been successful."

• Hairston on the Brewers' breaking their eight-game playoff road losing streak: "Eight? Oh, like in '82? Come on man. I guess we can blame them for most of those losses, right? They were a great team, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor. Listen, that was a long time ago. We felt that we had been a pretty good road team the last six weeks of the season and we felt our team really started to get complete. We felt we could play anywhere."

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 9:36 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 12:06 am
 

Holliday gets first extra-base hit of playoffs

Matt Holliday

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Holliday has hit bigger blasts than the 342-footer in the second inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, but the solo homer had to be a relief for Holliday and the Cardinals.

The  opposite-field homer off of Brewers starter Randy Wolf was his first homer in 58 at-bats; the last one coming on Sept. 6 against Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo. Since then, he's had an issue with his hand that has sapped his power. Before the home run on Thursday, Holliday hadn't had an extra-base hit in the postseason and none since a double on Sept. 26 in Houston, the day before he left a game early when his hand began to hurt too badly to play.

Tony La Russa had moved Holliday from fifth in the lineup to fourth for Games 2 and 3 before moving him back to fifth for Game 4, batting behind David Freese. He filled a hole left by Lance Berkman, who wasn't in the starting lineup.

"He's caught between a rock and a hard place," La Russa said of Holliday. "He's missed some key at-bats. I think his hand is all right, but here he is trying to get his stroke and his timing in the most pressure you feel all season, and it's a little bit unfair. So I'm going to keep him out of that four spot, hit Freese there today. He does well against lefties, and then the rest of the time against the right, I'll hit Berkman, keep Matt fifth."

Holliday has started every game of the LCS so far and entered Thursday's game 3 for 10, but he was just having no success driving the ball. Not that he drove the ball too far in the second inning, as from the right field auxiliary press box I had a pretty good view and watched Brewers right fielder Mark Kotsay drift and drift until the ball went over the fence. But this isn't Rock 'N' Jock, so the distance is nothing more than bragging rights, what's matter is that it cleared the fence, not by how much.

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 6:50 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 6:54 pm
 

Berkman, Hart sit due to matchups

Lance Berkman

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman won the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award, but if he gets a chance to show why in Game 4 of the NLCS, it'll be in the late innings as a sub.

"Guys are kidding me, his reward for the award was a spot on the bench, so they were giving him a hard time," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. 

It's not just Berkman getting shown the seat for Game 4 -- the Brewers are also going with a different right fielder, sitting Corey Hart in favor of Mark Kotsay.

NLCS Coverage

Both Berkman and Hart have had trouble with the starting pitchers, Randy Wolf and Kyle Lohse, respectively. Berkman is just 3 for 32 lifetime against Wolf and Hart is 2 for 17 against Lohse.

While those aren't the largest sample sizes, Berkman said it's enough for him to understand the move by La Russa.

"I think off of an individual pitcher, once you get 15 at-bats, you probably have a decent idea about -- and even if the numbers are not -- don't tell the whole story, at least personally, you know how you feel when you go up there, like whether you feel like -- I can see the ball fine, and I've lined out eight times, and I haven't gotten any; or, if it's, man, I've got no chance and I've really struggled, this guy, he's just got my number or whatever," Berkman said. "You can tell that as a hitter pretty quickly; I would say as many as 10 at-bats, or as few as 10 at-bats I should say. Certainly I think when you compile 15 or 20 at-bats against a guy, you can have a decent idea. And again, none of this is hard and fast. I mean, heck, if I had started tonight, I might have gotten three hits. You just don't know. But, being a game of percentages and playing percentages, I think that -- I mean, I have 30 at-bats against Wolf, so I think that's plenty to figure out that I don't hit him very well at all."

Berkman is also slightly hobbled after getting hit by a pitch Wednesday night in the leg.

With Berkman out, La Russa moved David Freese up from seventh in the lineup to fourth and moved Matt Holliday back to fifth. Holliday has just two extra-base hits in his last 53 at-bats. In Berkman's spot in right field is Allen Craig, batting second. Craig's not exactly been a world-beater against Wolf either. Craig is 1 for 15 lifetime against Wolf and 0 for 12 this season.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told Hart after Wednesday night's game that he'd be sitting him for Game 4.

"Just Corey's scuffling lately, and he scuffled against Lohse," Roenicke said. "So I talked to him last night after the game, and it sounded like putting Kotsay out there was a good way to go about it."

Kotsay is just 1 for 13 against Lohse. But Kotsay did have a home run Wednesday night and walk twice, while Hart is 1 for 12 in the NLCS and 6 for 33 in the playoffs. But Roenicke did say he'll be ready to use Hart as a pinch hitter if needed.

"it's really nice for me knowing that Corey Hart is on the bench as a pinch hitter," Roenicke said. "He's dangerous. They can't bring in a right-hander to face him because they think it's going to bother Corey."

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 6:12 pm
 

Greinke doesn't regret Carpenter comments

Zack GreinkeBy C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- There was a mini controversy earlier this series when Brewers starter Zack Greinke said some of his teammates didn't like Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter and felt he was "phony."

Before Game 4 of the NLCS on Thursday, Greinke was asked if he regretted his comments. The quick answer? No.

Here's the longer answer: "I guess I didn't get a whole lot (of feedback), my wife likes to read stuff and she gets mad. She gets mad that I said it. It just happened and we don't need to talk about it any more."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he was "disappointed" in Greinke's comments, but other than that, not much has come of them -- other than to give people something to write for a day (or, two now). 

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Posted on: October 12, 2011 9:58 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 10:23 pm
 

Pitchers struggle early in NLCS Game 3

Yovani Gallardo

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- That pitchers duel we expected in Game 3 of the NLCS? Well, that's not quite what we've got so far.

The Cardinals batted around in the first inning, scoring tour runs, while Chris Carpenter needed two double plays in the first three innings to avoid giveng up any more than three runs he allowed in the first third of the game. 

Both pitchers struggled with their control, as Gallardo needed 82 pitches to get through three innings, Carpenter 67. Carpenter walked just one in the first four innings and hit another batter. Both were done after five innings. Carpenter gave up three runs on six hits, striking out three and walking one. Gallardo gave up four runs on eight hits, walking five and striking out two. He's the first pitcher to walk at least five and throw three wild pitches since St. Louis' Rick Ankiel in 2000. In fairness, though, two of Gallardo's walks were intentional.

"Carp's not sharp, Gallardo's been sharper," Tony La Russa said during the TBS in-game interview.

Carpenter walked the second batter he faced and hit the third -- but was bailed out when surprise starter Mark Kotsay wondered too far off second base on Prince Fielder's liner to center and was doubled up to end the inning. 

Gallardo got no such help in the bottom of the first -- with Mark Kotsay unable to make a diving catch on Jon Jay's sinking line drive to score the first run and then Albert Pujols doubled in another. Another run scored on a Yadier Molina double play and then David Freese doubled to right on a ball Corey Hart just missed.

The Brewers were able to get to Carpenter in the second on three straight singles that scored one and then a sacrifice fly by Gallardo. Kotsay then homered to lead off the third.

Both teams have very good bullpens, and it looks like they'll need them.

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Posted on: October 12, 2011 7:20 pm
 

NLCS hopes to dodge the rain

Octavio Dotel

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers starter Randy Wolf isn't starting tonight and he say he wasn't worried about getting Game 3 of the NLCS in ahead of rain here, but he did worry enough to check out the forecast. 

"According to my AccuWeather I have on my iPhone, we are not supposed to get any rain, so I think we are going to be OK," Wolf said. "It's usually pretty right, too."

The Weather Channel app on my iPhone said there was supposed to be rain all afternoon and possible through the night, but I haven't felt a drop yet, so maybe I should change apps -- even though the skies have been gray all day and it's looked like it could rain at any minute.

"Cautiously optimistic is kind of the way I would explain it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said before the game. "They think -- the latest check was 3 p.m. They are going to check again at 5 p.m. They are optimistic that we can play. But they are also, by the way, they were very clear, the Commissioner does not want a lot of delays, interruptions and (the like.)"

Ron Roenicke said he'd talked to Joe Garagiola Jr. of the commissioner's office and they don't want anything to mess with the starters -- especially with the matchup of the team's two best pitchers.

"I think probably if we get to about the 6:30 mark is really an important time when -- if we are going to start this thing on time and what we are going to do. Because you get farther than that, and we run into a situation where we ran into this year, where both starters were warmed up and walking off the field and we had an hour-and-a-half delay," Roenicke said. "Something I'm sure the Yankee-Detroit game had something to do with that and what happened. So those are tough calls, because there's some times when -- right now it looks like it's drizzle, but something can happen later on where it builds up more."

With rain being the only thing to mar this postseason so far, it's obvious that baseball wouldn't want another game changed by the weather. Both the Detroit-New York ALDS and the ALCS have had delays and rainouts. The National League has been lucky so far -- helped by the fact both Milwaukee and Arizona have retractable domes. But of course, today's the first game the Brewers have had without a dome in the postseason, so there's rain in order.

Maybe it's just following Wolf.

"You know, my first years in Philadelphia, I was nicknamed the Rain Man, because it seemed like every time I pitched, it rained," Wolf said. "But I learned, you just get ready for the game and you don't worry about what the weather is, because that's another external thing you can't control. But I think (Yovani Gallardo), today, he's going to be ready to pitch; he always is. I don't think that will be much of a concern."

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