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ballgame today . . . .

a quick followup to erik's post yesterday on braden looper; when this nutty looper-as-starter initiative set sail back in december, i tried to construct a short history of attempted bullpen-to-rotation conversions and came up with a pitiful few examples. some time after that post, i was reminded of another case, perhaps the one that most closely resembles looper's --- the danny graves saga. never took the trouble to write it up, but here's my opening. like looper, graves was almost exclusively a reliever in the minors, pitching 131 times out of the bullpen vs only 3 starts. also like looper, he became a closer in the big leagues, logging 129 saves before he made his first start (looper has 103). graves' first 363 big-league appearances all came in relief; looper has made 571 big-league relief appearances to date. he made his first start at age 29 (looper is 32) in mid-september 2002, as the reds were wrapping up a 75-87 season and graves was finishing an indifferent season in relief (32 saves, but a 3.50 era and a 1.318 whip). he lasted 3 shutout innings in his first outing; came back to throw 5 scoreless inn in his next start, then got dinged a little bit (5 inn, 4 er), but wrapped up the late-season experiment in style: 6 innings of shutout ball and his first win as a starting pitcher. his final line as a starter that year: 1-0 with a 1.89 era and a 1.000 whip in 19 innings.

graves came to spring training in 2003 as a fixture in the rotation and bombed: 4-14 with a 5.33 era as a starter that year. they moved him back to closer in august; he pitched 3 games, hurt his arm, and took the rest of the year off. his career never recovered. he's trying to latch on with the rockies this season as an nri.

for whatever that's worth.

the cardinals have a baseball game on their schedule today, hosting the florida atlantic university owls at 12:05 pm central. here's more than you ever wanted to know about the contest --- probably more than the cardinals themselves even know:

first, you apparently can follow this game live via fau's website; there's a gametracker link (just click here) and an audio link (go to this page and look in the "next event" box at upper right). i can't promise those instruments will be active for a mere exhibition game, so no refunds if they don't work. derrick goold lists the stl lineup this way:

  1. gonzalez, 2b
  2. hanson, 3b
  3. ludwick, rf
  4. negron, dh
  5. haerther, lf
  6. bozied, 1b
  7. ryan, ss
  8. rasmus, cf
  9. esposito, c
troy cate will start the game, with andy cavazos, mike sillman, mark worrell, and brian falkenborg scheduled to follow. (matt leach also lists dennis dove among the probable relievers.)

this is the 4th consecutive year the cards have played fau; the series began in 2004, an auspicious spring indeed. tony always fills out the lineup card for this game with prospects and longshot nris, but last year it featured three guys who would become important members of the championship team: aaron miles, chris duncan and scott spiezio. here's the box score. a year ago at this time, miles was 3d on the depth chart at 2b, behind junior spivey and hector luna; spiezio was a last-minute nonroster arrival; and duncan was on nobody's radar and hadn't played an inning of outfield. he started at 1st base vs fau last year.

funny how things work out sometimes.

fau has one noteworthy st louis connection: the pitching coach is tony fossas, an old la russa favorite. (indeed, that connection very likely explains why these two teams play each other every year.) another former st louis lhrp, carmen cali, is an fau alumnus. (cali's in the twins camp this spring as an nri.) the program is on a long run of success; in 1999 the owls tied an ncaa record with 34 consecutive victories, and before an off-year in 2006 they'd played in the cws regionals four years in a row. in two of those years, they ended up in the top 25 in the season-ending poll. here's the program's home page. the owls stood 27th in last monday's poll at collegiate baseball (a new one's due out today) before losing a couple of close ones to ranked teams on the road over the weekend --- 4-2 to rice (ranked #6 nationally) and 9-8 to nebraska (#17).

fau has one of college baseball's best pitchers, mickey storey. collegiate baseball named him national freshman pitcher of the year in 2005, and he earned 3d-team all-american honors; last season he struggled to a 7-9 record but still threw a no-hitter. he might get an inning in vs the cardinals today, but it wouldn't shock me if the kid sits out altogether; he threw 100+ pitches vs rice on friday night and likely is scheduled to start vs villanova on friday.

in the p-d this morning: some interesting info about colby rasmus' upbringing.