First order of business: Cardinals go at 12:05 today; Gameday thread here.
For what it's worth, here, in the old Rob Neyer construct, are two relief pitchers. Their parents, in a fit of Dadaist clairvoyance, named them Relief Pitcher A and Relief Pitcher B.
Of course you guys know who's who—these things work better when the blog isn't focused entirely on the roster minutiae of one team. It seems weird that the battle for the last spot in the bullpen came down to Chris Perez and Brad Thompson when such a close analogue spent much of Spring Training trying to figure out why he couldn't get anyone out.
Kyle McClellan has options; he has problems; he has almost no track record, something La Russa suggested as a motivator for Perez's departure; most importantly, he has a muddled role on the pitching staff, set-up relief with a side of he-could-probably-start. Nobody on the staff—not even the minor league catcher—could better use a month or two to figure things out.
But perception is important. McClellan has a whole year in the pen, one with some wonderful high points, and La Russa—perhaps rightfully—sees that as "track record" where Perez's time in the bigs is a test run. But seeing them as anything but similar players with similar strengths and weaknesses is, I think, an illusion of McClellan's service time.
As for WonderBrad, erstwhile long reliever, he is what he is—he doesn't strike out enough people to start, he doesn't play in middle relief because his sinker is knuckleball-like in the fear it instills in managers wary of the late-innings wild pitch, but he'll soak up all kinds of low-leverage innings while remaining on the right side of adequate. I'd rather have Chris Perez lurking in the bullpen, but Thompson is not a scrub so much as a barely-average guy with no chance to excite (which makes it stranger than ever that he was the one, all those years ago, who threw 58 scoreless minor league innings in a row.)
Meanwhile, Joel Pineiro is the latest pitcher to finish up his Grapefruit season, and the latest to be turned into an ace by small samples, Roger Dean Stadium, et al. I officially have no idea how, or if, to treat Spring Training pitching statistics. I'm glad I didn't come to this conclusion until now; it would have been a rough spring slate of posts.