Warming Up the Winter

I’ve often thought I might like to make the effort to go to the Cardinals’ traditional Winter Warm-up. It’s baseball talk in the winter, a chance to actually see the players and hear some news. I’ve never been able to afford it, though, nor take out the time to get up there. Plus I’m not much on crowded areas.

The good thing about the Warm-up, combined with the internet, is that we finally get some Cardinal news. So let’s take a look at what came out over the weekend.

First off, Chris Carpenter is throwing again. The whole dynamic of the season could change if he’s healthy and effective earlier than schedule. He’s not pushing himself too hard, which is great. It’d be outstanding if he was back in June, but I wouldn’t count on it. My prediction is still mid-August, enough time for him to get back into baseball shape and let the Cardinals see what he’s got for 2009.

Staying on the injury theme, it looks like Josh Kinney could be back by time the season starts. A valuable part of the 2006 bullpen, he could help bolster the 2008 version as well. It’ll be interesting to see what he has when he comes back and if he can be effective.

The same article talks about the rehabbing of Chris Duncan and Braden Looper. Both sound like they are doing well and are basically ready to go, but there was no reason to think that they wouldn’t be. Still, nice to hear there aren’t any unexpected setbacks.

At the end of that article (wow, Goold really packed it in, didn’t he?) was a note about Ryan Franklin planning to be a reliever again this year. Larry at VEB has repeatedly made the case that Franklin should start, but with the number of starting pitchers already in camp, it probably does make sense to have a solid part of the bullpen return to that role. There’s nothing to say TLR won’t move him into the rotation halfway through the year anyway.

Which is bigger news, that Scott Spiezio is doing well in his personal rehabilitation, put out a CD, or that he doesn’t have the famous red facial hair anymore?

Then there are plenty of WWU posts over at Bird Land. Definitely check out the quotes quiz. I don’t see the answers yet, but the quotes are worth reading.

Oh, and some Santana news, one that the Cardinals did inquire, the second that they’d “kick the tires” if he became a free agent.  It makes you want to see what’d happen if he didn’t get traded, doesn’t it?

The Warm-up finishes today, so maybe more news will be made!


The First Annual Cardinal Blogger Awards

The votes have been cast. Now let’s see who won!

First off, a comment from Kujo at Rockin’ the Red for a new title for the group:

How about Cardinals Bloggers United, in the likeness of the soccer hooligan firms in England?

That’s not bad. Those involved, what do you think? Or perhaps United Cardinal Bloggers would be more your style? If we are going to keep doing projects, we gotta find a name. And I do hope we keep doing projects.

OK, to the awards. I’ll post some quotes from those bloggers that elaborated on their selections.

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My Ballot for the Cardinal Blogger Awards

This is the first attempt at a Cardinal blogger collaborative project. I hope that the bloggers involved enjoy it enough to try doing more things together in the near future.

Those scheduled to post their selections today include Readin’ Redbird, Redbirds Fun, CardinalsGM, Rockin’ the Red, Redbird Ramblings, and CardinalsNationGlobe. Check all of them out (I’ll direct link to their post when they get them up) and then come back here next week for a consolidated ballot. (Future Redbirds has theirs up now as well.)

So, without much further ado, let’s see my selections for the CBA. My selections are noted in bold.

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Playing a Hard 9

One of the trademarks of a Tony LaRussa team, especially since he’s been in St. Louis, has been the concept of a “hard 9”.  Playing until the final out, never giving up, never giving away at bats.  The team, in the past, has responded to this idea and really come up with some remarkable wins.

Earlier this year, that concept seemed to be lost somewhat.  The struggles of the team seemed to be reflected in some of the effort of the players.   This recent hot streak, though, has shown that while the idea may have been dormant, it hasn’t left the building.

Last night was another indication of that.  Looper pitched a pretty solid game.   One run in six innings is about the best you can expect from him, and with Pujols hitting a home run in his fifth straight game (a personal record, plus it got him to his normal 30 per year), he had a 3-1 lead after six innings.

Unfortunately, that’s when LaRussa got a little greedy and sent Looper out there for the seventh.  I noted in the past the stat that his BAA after 75 pitches was closing in on .400.  A leadoff double was enough to send Tony to the bullpen and bring in the normally reliable Ryan Franklin.

I’m not sure what was wrong with Franklin last night, but everything he threw seemed to get hit hard and, after a Jeremy Hermida home run, the Cards trailed 4-3.  After last night’s rally, it looked like the Marlins were going to turn the table on us.

However, that pitching change was a double switch that brought Jim Edmonds into the game, and he smacked the home run that won it in the bottom of that inning.   If Edmonds and Rolen can get going like they’ve shown signs of doing, this offense is going to be good enough to hang with most anyone.  If the pitching staff holds up like they have been, the Central Division title is still possible, with October surprises within the realm of possibility, as well.

That is, of course, if the Big Guy is OK.  Apparently Pujols had some numbness in his leg last night and it caused some concern with him and especially the manager.   Of course, that was right before he hit the home run and he played the rest of the game, so maybe it’s not as bad as some want to make it out to be.  But if we lose him even for a 15-day DL stint, that’s a blow I’m not sure this suddenly resilient team can come back from.

Checking the scoreboard, Milwaukee lost and the Cubs won in extras.  So it looks like this:

Chicago       —
Milwaukee 1.0
St. Louis     3.0

Cards go for the sweep tonight behind Anthony Reyes.  Should be a good game to watch.