Posted on: March 18, 2009 2:29 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2009 3:36 pm

As goes Carpenter, so go the Cards?

JUPITER, Fla. -- Tony La Russa has a simple way of describing what Chris Carpenter means to the Cardinals.

"We've missed the postseason the last two years," La Russa said this morning. "And he hasn't pitched in two years. So he's very important. If he's healthy, he's as good as anybody."

By all indications, Carpenter is healthy. He pitched six scoreless and nearly spotless innings today against the Orioles, and in four starts this spring he has pitched 14 innings without allowing a run. Of the 17 balls put in play, 16 were hit on the ground.

"It's like old Carp," second baseman Skip Schumaker said. "He had one ball in the air. Is that good? When you get a 3-1 swing off the end of the bat every time . . . well, I can play second base then."

Carpenter's four starts this spring match the number he has been able to make the last two seasons combined, as he has battled elbow and shoulder problems.

In Carpenter's five seasons with the Cardinals, the team is 67-29 in games he starts.

Carpenter was the Cardinals' opening day starter from 2005-07, but it appears that Adam Wainwright will start on opening day this year. The way the Cards have set up the spring training rotation, Wainwright would be followed by Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer and then Carpenter and Joel Pineiro.

Asked how important he feels to the Cardinals' hopes, Carpenter pointed to the rest of the rotation.

"I think it's all five of us," he said. "I think we have five guys who have a chance to be really good, and who have proven they can be really good."

That obviously includes Carpenter -- a healthy Carpenter, anyway.

"It's nice to be able to go out and pitch and not be concerned that something's going to hurt," he said.

The last two years, through Tommy John surgery on his elbow and surgery to transpose the ulnar nerve leading to his shoulder, something almost always has hurt.

Nothing hurts now, except maybe the chances of the teams that Carpenter will be facing.



Category: MLB
Posted on: December 10, 2008 11:18 pm

Angels have interest in Fuentes

LAS VEGAS -- The Angels, who allowed record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez leave for New York as a free agent, have discussed the possibility of signing Brian Fuentes to replace him.

Fuentes is the most significant closer remaining on the market, with Rodriguez gone to the Mets, Kerry Wood gone to the Indians and Seattle's J.J. Putz traded to the Mets as a setup man. The Cardinals have long been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Fuentes, who the Rockies haven't tried to retain.

The Angels have internal options to replace Rodriguez, and they had plans to use some combination of Scot Shields and Jose Arredondo. But with the Angels already missing out on CC Sabathia, and with the possibility they could miss out on Mark Teixeira as well, there's a chance they'll have money to add a closer.

Category: MLB
Posted on: December 10, 2008 3:56 pm

Cardinals trying to get Putz from M's

LAS VEGAS -- The Cardinals have shown interest in Mariners closer J.J. Putz, and could offer Rick Ankiel and a prospect, according to major-league sources.

Several teams have had interest in Putz, including the Tigers.

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 4, 2008 12:51 pm

The marathon vs. the sprint

As he tried to explain what's happening to the Cubs, Mark DeRosa said the other day: "We were the best team in the marathon. We need to be the best team in the sprint."

DeRosa got it right. In the wild-card era, history shows that the best team in the 162-game marathon often can't make it through the one-month October sprint.

In fact, in the 13 years of the three-tier playoff system, only three times has the team with the National League's best 162-game record represented the NL in the World Series. The Braves did the double in '95 and '96, and the Cardinals made it in '04.

Meanwhile, the "best team" has been knocked out in the first round four times.

The story is a little different in the American League, where six "best teams" have made it to the World Series in 13 years (counting the '07 Red Sox, who tied for the best record with the Indians). But even there, four "best teams" have lost in the very first round.

Who knows why this is true? Maybe it's that a short series is too much of a crapshoot. Maybe it's that the "best team" is often the first to clinch (as the Angels and Cubs were this year), and loses its edge through too many meaningless games leading up to the playoffs.

It is unusual for the team with the best record to exit the playoffs in a three-game sweep, which both the Cubs and Angels are in danger of doing. It has happened, but only twice. The 2000 White Sox (95-67) were swept by the Mariners, and the 2001 Astros (who tied for the best record at 93-69) were swept by the Braves.

As for a 100-win team like the Angels losing in the first round, that's surprisingly common. The Angels would be the ninth 100-win team in the last 11 years to fail to make it out of the first round.

Posted on: September 30, 2008 1:36 pm

Scott's wrong -- but not on everything

The great thing about awards is that you can argue about who deserves them. And the great thing about the 2008 awards for me is that for the first time in almost 20 years, I don't have an actual vote on any of them.

That means I'm completely free to tell you what I think, and you're completely free to totally ignore it.

And as much as I respect Scott Miller, I'm also completely prepared to tell him where he's wrong.

You can read Scott's picks for the postseason awards here, if you haven't already.

To save time and avoid repetition, I'll just say I agree completely with Scott on the AL Cy Young award (Cliff Lee), and on both managers of the year (Joe Maddon, Lou Piniella). I agree with him on both rookies of the year (Evan Longoria, Geovany Soto), although the AL decision is a tough one, with Longoria getting just a small edge over Alexei Ramirez.

No argument on executives of the year, either (Andrew Friedman and Doug Melvin).

Of course, those were the easy picks.

The MVPs were the tough ones. Too many candidates in the National League, not nearly enough in the AL.

But think about who had the most effect on this season. What will you remember about 2008?

In the NL, you'll remember how Manny Ramirez changed the Dodgers into winners, and how CC Sabathia did the same for the Brewers. You'll remember all those Ryan Howard home runs that put the Phillies over the top in the East. I'd put all three of them of them ahead of Albert Pujols, who had a very nice season but only turned the Cardinals into fringe wild-card contenders. The MVP: Manny.

In the AL, Dustin Pedroia is a nice pick. But it's the wrong pick, because Francisco Rodriguez's 62 saves made the difference this year. Sure the Angels won by about 50 games, but if you don't think a closer can be valuable, ask all those teams that are sitting home in October primarily because they didn't have one. The MVP: K-Rod.

That leaves the NL Cy Young. I admire what Tim Lincecum did. I love Sabathia. But Johan Santana didn't lose after June, and he nearly pulled a flawed Mets team into the playoffs. Yes, I know that Sabathia DID pull his team into the playoffs, but I'll give the edge to the guy who was there all year. The Cy Young: Johan.


Posted on: July 23, 2008 4:02 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2008 7:26 pm

Phillies focus on Grabow, Sherrill

The Phillies, who had been among the more aggressive teams pursuing Colorado closer Brian Fuentes, have shifted their attention to Pittsburgh left-hander John Grabow and Baltimore lefty George Sherrill, according to sources.

Phillies special assistant Charley Kerfeld has been in Houston watching the Pirates, and the Phillies had three different scouts in to watch the Orioles during their current homestand. While the Phillies have also shown interest in Pittsburgh outfielder Xavier Nady, a deal for Grabow is considered a much stronger possibility.

As for Fuentes, there's still some question about whether the Rockies will trade him. Even if they do, the Phillies now consider him too expensive in terms of the players they would have to give up.

The Orioles seem increasingly likely to trade Sherrill. The Baltimore Sun reported that both St. Louis and Milwaukee have shown interest, but the Angels might have a better chance to get him by offering shortstop Erick Aybar. As one scout who has followed the Orioles said: "Baltimore is dying for a shortstop, and Aybar could be a regular for them."

Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has told people that his phone has been ringing off the hook since Sherrill pitched so well in the All-Star Game last week.


One scout who has watched Seattle regularly this season said that while he doesn't really like left-hander Jarrod Washburn, he still thinks Washburn would be a decent fit with the Yankees.

"That's who he needs to pitch with, because he needs runs," the scout said. "He's another Bill Bavasi mistake. If the Mariners can get rid of Washburn, they should. If they get rid of him, that would help whoever gets that (Seattle GM) job next year."


The Mets know they have little chance of winning without closer Billy Wagner, and they also know there's no way they have enough chips to trade for someone who could successfully replace Wagner if he can't pitch. That's why they still list a corner outfielder, preferably one who bats right-handed, as their primary need, with relief help and even another starting pitcher behind that.

The Mets have talked about Nady and also Jason Bay, but it's doubtful they have enough to get either one from the Pirates. It might be more realistic to think that they could get Casey Blake from Cleveland, or Austin Kearns from Washington. Seattle's Raul Ibanez has also been discussed, even though he bats left-handed.


Posted on: June 27, 2008 6:51 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2008 7:25 pm

Watch out for the Lions? Hurdle has hope

The Detroit Lions have one playoff win in the last 51 years. There's no reason to think they're headed for the Super Bowl.

No reason but this one: Clint Hurdle says the Lions of 2007 were a lot like his Rockies of 2006. And the 2007 Rockies, as you may remember, made it to the World Series.

Hurdle was born in Michigan, and he remains a big fan of the state's teams. With the Rockies in Detroit this weekend, Hurdle had a chance to speak with long-time Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell -- and also with Lions coach Rod Marinelli.

"I felt the same way about the Rockies as I feel about the Lions, that they'd have their day, and then they'd be off and running," Hurdle said. "Rod and I talked about the common fabric of their '07 season and our '06 season. Because in '06, we were on top of the division after the All-Star break, and within a three-week period we had fallen to the bottom of the division."

The Lions started last season 6-2, then lost six straight games before finishing 7-9.

"I told him we'd get together and share some of the lessons I think I learned from that ('06) season," Hurdle said. "You never know how close you really are."


The Cardinals lost two of three this week in Detroit, but they left an impression.

"The Cardinals are a much better team than I thought," Tiger manager Jim Leyland said. "I think they're really good. I was really impressed. They run the bases better than anyone we've played. They compete as good as anyone we've played."

Leyland was especially impressed that Albert Pujols was able to go 4-for-4 in his first game off the disabled list.

"That's the worst thing that could have happened to general managers," he said. "Now nobody will want to go on a rehab assignment."


One thing to think about as baseball discusses the future of maple bats: Some players could have trouble making an adjustment.

One hitting coach said that maple distorts hitting almost the way that aluminum bats do, because maple is a harder wood than ash. Some hitters have been using 31-ounce maple bats, and because the wood is so hard they can still make solid contact when they get jammed.

"With ash at 31 ounces, you've got nothing," the coach said.


Trot Nixon is just 5-for-32 in his first nine games for the Mets, so it's hard to say he's made much of an impact. But there are those in Cleveland who think the Indians miss his presence, if not his .251 batting average.

"We've struggled to get an identity this year," third baseman Casey Blake said. "I think last year Trot Nixon really helped us."


Last August, the Tigers' Carlos Guillen hit a 3:30 a.m. walkoff home run to win a rain-delayed game against the Yankees. Wednesday night against the Cardinals, Guillen went 4-for-5 in a game that included a 2 1/2-hour rain delay.

Is there a connection?

"Someone told me a long time ago that a lot of guys waste time during rain delays," Guillen said. "A lot of guys just play cards. I try to stay loose. I ride the (stationary) bike. I stay focused. In this game, you've got to take advantage of anything you can."

Posted on: June 26, 2008 2:56 pm

Will someone take Chacon? Probably so

The Atlanta Braves have a saying that applies to players like Shawn Chacon, who admitted to grabbing Astros general manager Ed Wade by the neck and is now on the way out in Houston:

"Not a Braves-type player."

I heard exactly that a couple of weeks back, when I asked a Braves person about Sidney Ponson. I knew the answer, but I asked, anyway. After all, the Braves were looking everywhere for starting pitching help.

"Not a Braves-type player."

When Ponson had his trouble with the Rangers, causing disturbances and causing Texas to designate him for assignment, officials from several organizations predicted that he wouldn't get another job. Of course, he did, and now he's scheduled to start for the Yankees Friday night against the Mets.

I wouldn't have done it. They did. And when a team like the Yankees is willing to sign a player with as bad a track record as Ponson, you start to figure that almost anyone can get another chance these days.

Anyone but Barry Bonds.


Yes, the Cubs winning this year would be a great story, now that it's been 100 years since they last won. Just don't expect the Cardinals to buy in.

"I feel like our story's just as good as theirs," Cards outfielder Ryan Ludwick said. "There were people picking us to finish fifth. We saw one magazine that said we'd only win 56 games. That'll get your blood boiling."

The Cards survived their two weeks without Albert Pujols, who returned today (a week earlier than expected).


Did you notice that Tigers manager Jim Leyland batted Gary Sheffield, Edgar Renteria and Pudge Rodriguez in the 7th, 8th and 9th spots in his batting order for two days this week?

That's three guys who each have 2,000-plus career hits (and two who have 2,500-plus). That's 897 combined home runs, 3,591 combined RBIs.

Sheffield hadn't hit lower than sixth since 1989, according to research through baseball-reference.com. Before this year, Renteria hadn't hit lower than seventh since 1996. And before this year, Rodriguez hadn't hit lower than sixth since 1995, and hadn't hit ninth since 1992.

In case you're wondering, it's not unheard of for a future Hall of Famer to bat near the bottom of the order, even in the middle of his career. Johnny Bench actually hit eighth for Cincinnati two times in the 1979 season.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com