Morning, everybody. Camp is in full swing, actual games have begun, and there is finally plenty to talk about.
A couple of notable performances in yesterday's game. Jaime Garcia, for one, was very impressive. Very good velocity on his fastball, his curveball, though a little inconsistent, had very good depth and shape, and he threw a nasty little cutter that I wasn't aware he had. More importantly, his control looked very good, suggesting that his elbow really is in pretty good shape. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed, but even that limited exposure yesterday was extremely encouraging. His final line: 2ip, no runs, one hit, one BB, and two Ks.
Mike Parisi, Lboros's favourite, pitched pretty well. He looked a little shaky at first, but settled down and threw the ball well. In particular, he buckled David Wright's knees on one truly wicked bender. It was actually the first time I've seen Parisi pitch live, and he looked pretty good. He's not a world beater, but he has some tools. A guy who very well could contribute as a swingman or back of the rotation type pitcher.
Top prospect Juan Gonzalez was the offensive star of the game, of course, with his Johan Santana bashing. I'm still against the Juan Gone era, but I'll give the man his due: his bat doesn't look as if it's gone too very soft in storage. Man, that hurt to say.
Brendan Ryan continues to have a great spring, going 2 for 3 yesterday with a triple. So far, he's making it awfully tough to bet against him. He's played very solid defense, and his bat hasn't been too bad either. I'm rooting for him.
Colby Rasmus made an out. The kid's obviously not ready.
David Freese also went 2 for 3 with a triple. Unfortunately, I missed seeing the triple, but his other at bats looked good. Solid swing. He looked decent in the field, but I didn't watch all that closely there.
Wainer looked to be in pretty good shape for this point in the spring. He struggled with his location in the first, giving up two runs, but blew through the second in six pitches, which allowed him to complete his three innings. Of course, results don't mean much this early, but it was nice to see him finish his scheduled throw.
In non game action, Matt Clement appears to be progressing nicely.
"I was encouraged," Clement said. "It was one step, but I thought it was a good step. There was definitely a difference."
I'm not getting my hopes up for Clement just yet; come to think of it, though, I don't think I had particularly high hopes for him to begin with. Still, it's better news than an MRI, so I'm at least cautiously optimistic.
With Pineiro uncertain at the moment, and Clement looking as if he may still be behind the schedule of the other pitchers, there are some extra innings for the young guys to throw. I'm glad to see guys like Garcia make a good impression, even if he's not likely to receive a whole lot of consideration. Kyle McClellan, on the other hand, is receiving a ton of consideration from all sources, and it appears he'll be taking Pineiro's turn on the mound on Sunday. I'm really excited to see it. The pitching coach is absolutely in love with the kid; I want to see what all the fuss is about.
In today's game, we'll see Wellemeyer make his first start of the spring, followed by Brad Thompson out of the bullpen. We'll also see the new look Marlins, (it seems like we say that every spring, doesn't it?) for the first time.
The way this team is currently shaping up, it looks as if the 'competitions' we hear about every spring are a little more legitimate, mostly out of necessity. So here's my topic for all of you this Saturday morning:
Scott Spiezio's departure creates a spot for some enterprising young soul to seize. At least one of the spots at the back of the rotation is wide open. The outfield is just a big old mess. Choose the players you want to see winning each of the competitions below.
Wellemeyer, Reyes, or Thompson?
Brendan Ryan, D'Angelo Jimenez, or, darkest of dark horses, Joe Mather?
Juan Gonzalez, Skip Schumaker, or Brian Barton?
I know that all of these have been discussed separately elsewhere, but we're starting to see some performances from these players, and beginning to see exactly where the opportunities are going to be. So just how would you like to see this roster shape up?
One other big question: if Joel Pineiro's shoulder stiffness proves to be the tip of an injury iceberg, even if he only looks to miss a month or two, something like that, do the Cardinals finally have to give in and sign one of the remaining free agent pitchers on the market? If so, do you want Weaver or Lohse? Personally, I don't want either one, but I would be much more enamoured of a Dream Weaver return than I would be handing a sack of cash to Kyle Lohse. Like I said, I'm not all that excited by either choice, and I would rather see more kids get auditions, but at some point, you simply lose too many innings out of a rotation. To try and fill them all internally is just asking for problems to develop. I haven't been all that optimistic that the Cards will be true contenders this year regardless of what happens, but if Joel is out for any significant amount of time, I think you have to consider filling his spot from outside. Sigh.
A couple other notes:
Future Redbirds' newest poster, roarke49, (congrats to him on the spot, by the way) has a nice examination of several Cards' pitching prospects' innings totals. He's going by the Verducci Rule; if you're not familiar, essentially, an increase of more than 30 innings to a pitcher's workload from one season to the next seems to increase the likelihood of injury. Roarke explains it nicely over there, and while the rule doesn't translate exactly from major league innings to minor league ones, it's still worthwhile to pay attention to how the organisation utilises some of their valuable young commodities.
On Wednesday, I put up a poll to gauge the opinions on who should lead off for the Cards this season. The results are in.
We had 348 total votes. Of those, the top two candidates were, perhaps unsurprisingly, Colby Rasmus and Brian Barton. Colby just edged the man with the braids for first place, with 108 votes to Barton's 106. I like both of those candidates. Barton would be my first choice, but the idea of our very own Grady Sizemore is awfully enticing to me. The rest of the totals:
Skip Schumaker came in third, with 31 votes, (8%) barely edging out...
Brendan Ryan, with 28 votes, also 8%.
Ryan Ludwick received 9 votes. He wasn't one of my favourite choices for the leadoff spot, but I was a little surprised he didn't get more support.
Albet got five votes. Guess not many of us subscribe to the 'best hitter first' school of thought.
Adam Kennedy received four ballots. I'm not shocked he wasn't popular.
Bringing up the rear, with one vote, is everybody's favourite shortstop, Cesar Izturis. Also not a huge surprise.
Vince Coleman did receive 15% of the vote, 56 total, but I don't know how much luck the Cards would have talking him out of retirement. Now, if you were hoping for Rickey Henderson, that might be a slightly different story. Rickey wants to play. Rickey wants a job. Just give Rickey a chance.
Today's game is going to be the first one broadcast on the radio. I listened to the one online Thursday, but it's still exciting to hop into the car, turn on the radio, and hear a ballgame. Not too much longer, folks. It's almost here.