Cardinals Sign Clement

According to sources, the Cardinals have signed pitcher Matt Clement to a one-year deal with a club option for 2009.

The best thing about it, in my mind, is the club option.  If Clement is healthy and effective, he’ll help out ’08 but would really be a boon in 2009, when Carpenter is healthy and the team has hopefully signed another top pitcher to go into the rotation with him and Wainwright.  A 2009 staff of Carp-FA-Wainwright-Clement-? would probably be enough to put the Cards back into contention fairly quickly.

This also may mean that the Cardinals are close to dealing Anthony Reyes.  Right now, the rotation is Wainwright, Mulder (if ready for ST), Pineiro, Clement and Looper.  That leaves Reyes and others such as Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson out of the picture, at least for now.  Of course, we don’t know how Mulder is going to start the season or if he’ll be ready, but I’d think a deal like this would give Mozeliak more breathing room to send Reyes somewhere for a hitter or perhaps package him with Duncan for a bigger name.

It’ll be interesting to see how this deal compares to the Mark Prior deal.

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Down, But Never Out

We’ve discussed the TLR “hard 9” principle before, but last night might have been one of the greatest examples of that philosophy. If LaRussa does decide to hang it up or leave St. Louis after this year, I hope either the next manager (whether it be Oquendo, who seems to be groomed for it, or not) or the players (like Pujols) remember this philosophy and keep it around. Because it sure makes for exciting baseball.

I wasn’t able to watch much of the game, being away from home, but turned on the static-filled radio on my way home, trying to piece together what the score was and what was happening. When I finally heard that Philly had been up 12-0 and it was now 12-10, it got me more excited about a game than I’ve been in a while. (Losing streaks will do that to you.) Then it was 12-11 with Pujols at the plate. You knew he wasn’t going to get anything to hit, though they did challenge him more than I expected in that situation.

I got home in time to see Ludwick’s drive to the outfield. Watching it, I really thought it was going to be down and the game was going to be at least tied. Rowand made a nice catch, and you figured that was the end of that. Momentum gone, big bats gone, etc.

When Izzy gave up one in the ninth, you really didn’t think there’d be much more than three outs in the bottom, but again, credit the team. One out (those were some pretty tough pitches to Ankiel) and you get the go-ahead run to the plate before a pop out and a strike out. Still, that was a more “satisfying” loss than you’d expect down 12-0 in the sixth. You expect to come to the message boards and read a lot of doom and gloom, but after one like that, at least you respect the team and I think, if there was anything to be fired up about, a game like that could turn around a team.

In the rest of the NL Central, Chicago rallied–again–and beat the Reds, keeping their one-game edge on Milwaukee. I don’t know about you, but when I see a team continually winning late to keep their lead, it makes me think that it’s meant to be. I hate seeing the Cubs in the playoffs, but I’m afraid that’s what’s going to happen.

Cardinals and Phillies tangle again today. Wainwright goes for the Cards, Hamels for the Phillies so there shouldn’t be any replay of last night’s high scoring game. You’d expect a 2-1 type game tonight, so it could be fun to watch.

EDIT: OK, that’s what the P-D’s site said this morning, but apparently it’s Hamels vs. Wellemeyer.  That doesn’t bode as well for a pitching duel, at least on the Cardinal end of things.  Stranger things have happened, of course, and with Hamels just coming off the DL, the Cards should get into the Philly bullpen fairly early, which is where you can do some damage, apparently.

Ankiel!

So, when does it become ridiculous?  When does it become crazy enough that Hollywood won’t make the movie, citing believability issues?  When does the man come back to earth?

Hopefully, a long, long time.  Because the bat and, in a different way than expected years ago, the arm of Rick Ankiel may be the only way that this team makes the playoffs.

Seriously, it’s getting nuts.  A grand slam, against a lefty, to give the team the lead?  What are the odds of that?  He’s hitting in the .330 range, even higher against the lefties that are supposed to give him fits.  He’s made some amazing throws from the outfield and played all three outfield positions.  And the team took off when he was called up.  That’s mainly from the good pitching the team got, but I believe he provided a bit of a spark as well.

Good pitching has become a little scarcer lately.  Anthony Reyes surely didn’t have it tonight.  It’s never good when the one big inning you are prone to giving up happens in the first.   A little help by his fielders would have been nice, but most of the problems could be lain at his feet.  He’ll have to improve somehow if he’s going to stay in the rotation, at least for 2008.  Another couple of rough outings and Walt will be actively shopping him in the offseason, I’d expect.

Thankfully the bullpen held the Reds in check, being credited with no more runs after Todd Wellemeyer came in to take care of Reyes’s problems in the second.  Hopefully Wainwright can give an ace-like performance tomorrow and help rest some of those arms.  The stretch run is really just starting, so we don’t need to blow them out too early, even if reinforcements are coming from the minors starting tomorrow.

And there has to be some serious concern about Albert Pujols.  He is limping around, not being able to really use his legs as much as he should.  Problem is, his bat is still too necessary to have him sit out a day or two.  But there may come a time where the team has no other option.

Congratulations to Tony for passing an all-time Cardinal legend, Red Schoendienst, on the all-time Cardinal win list.  I know that Tony thinks Red should have had the record for all time, but at least if someone was going to pass him, it’s a Hall of Famer to be.

Cubs lost, so the Cards move to two behind them again.  Milwaukee hung on to win, so they are only a game and a half back.  If the Cards can’t win this thing, hopefully the Brewers can!