Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:32 am
Edited on: December 14, 2011 7:00 am
The market for Carlos Beltran is heating up, with at least five clubs and possibly more seriously talking with the free agent outfielder. Among them, according to sources: The Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals and, as CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reported earlier Tuesday, the Colorado Rockies.
At least two other unidentified clubs are said to be engaged in talks with Beltran, with most of the clubs talking multi-year deals.
The Blue Jays' emergence as one of the clubs is noteworthy in that Toronto is in rebuilding mode and general manager Alex Anthopoulos has made several moves this offseason already, notably acquiring outfielder Ben Francisco from the Phillies, closer Sergio Santos from the White Sox and catcher Jeff Mathis from the Angels. The Jays are set with Colby Rasmus in center field and slugger Jose Bautista, who finished third in this year's AL MVP voting, in right field.
Colorado has been surprisingly aggressive in the free agent market this winter and made a hard run at Michael Cuddyer, who late Tuesday night appeared to be closing in on ex-Twin status with Minnesota close to a deal with Josh Willingham. Willingham's deal, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Joe Christensen, is reported to be worth three years and $21 million. While the Rockies also talked with Willingham, multiple sources say that both Cuddyer and Beltran ranked higher on Colorado's wish list than him.
Beltran, 34, makes sense for the Cardinals, who are reeling in the aftermath of losing three-time MVP Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels last week. Most likely, Lance Berkman will move to the infield and play first base for the Cardinals and, given their current scenario, Allen Craig and Matt Holliday would play the corner outfield spots and Jon Jay would play center field.
In that arrangement, however, the Cardinals wouldn't have much depth and the middle of their lineup might be thin.
Beltran batted .300 with 22 homers, 84 RBI and a .385 on-base percentage in 142 games last summer for the Mets and Giants. He has had serious knee issues in his past but came back in 2011 to produce an All-Star season.
It is not yet clear which other clubs are in on Beltran. The Giants earlier this winter all but declared themselves out of the running because they expect to cap their payroll at $130 million in 2012. General manager Brian Sabean talked like they would stay in touch with Beltran but would not extend a large offer.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 11:22 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Forget "Go crazy, folks." This year, this autumn, this team, boil legendary broadcaster Jack Buck's famous phrase down even more than that. Strip it down to its base. To the one word.
The St. Louis Cardinals are World Series champions in a season in which things looked so bleak, they didn't even send advance men out to scout potential playoff opponents.
Champions in a season in which they were 10 1/2 games out of a playoff slot on Aug. 25.
Champions after general manager John Mozeliak and manager Tony La Russa in late August all but apologized to the Knights of the Cauliflower Ear -- a local civic club that meets to promote area sports -- for a lousy season.
Champions after whipping the Rangers 6-2 an anticlimactic Game 7 following a sensational Game 6 to win the 11th World Series title in franchise history, but please don't tell anyone around here about anticlimactic.
Kids, all that stuff your parents tell you about hard work and never giving up. ...
Ask Chris Carpenter, who was sensational in the first World Series Game 7 since 2002, working on short rest and extra guts.
Ask Albert Pujols, he of the record 14 total bases in Game 3, and David Freese, who delivered a two-run triple and game-winning homer in Game 6 that will be discussed for generations around here.
Ask Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday and a bullpen that provided the blood and guts that powered the Cardinals through one must-win situation after another during the month of September.
On a chilly Friday evening that pulled the curtain on a sensational final month to close the 2011 season, Carpenter held the Rangers to two runs and six hits over six innings.
It was only the second time in his career that he worked on short rest. The first? Game 2 of the Division Series in Philadelphia, when Carpenter was knocked around for five hits and four runs over just three innings.
La Russa said before Game 7 that he thought Carpenter learned something from his one other short rest outing. He wouldn't say what it was, but it was clear Carpenter did. Just one more example of the trust La Russa places in his elite players, and they in him.
That, along with the talent, has been an essential ingredient in the Cardinals' three World Series appearances since 2004, and two titles.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:02 am
ST. LOUIS -- Slumping Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday left Busch Stadium following Game 6 with his right pinky finger encased in a splint and with his Game 7 status questionable.
"I should be able to play," he said.
The injury occurred when Holliday dove back into third base while getting picked off in the sixth inning. Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre "stepped right on" the finger, Holliday said, catching part of it with a spike.
"It bled a little bit," Holliday said.
And, he noted, "It's pretty swollen."
"We thought at first he had fractured it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "But I was told by the trainer later on that it's not a fracture.
"I think there's swelling, and he's got a pretty good bruise there. So it may be we need to replace him tomorrow."
Holliday said the biggest issue with it will be whether he can properly grip a bat. Already, he's been nursing tendinitis near the base of the middle finger in his right hand.
Though Holliday says that's better now than it was at season's end, and though La Russa predicted big things from him in Game 6 and/or 7, he's hitting just .158 in this World Series and was dropped from fourth to fifth in the lineup by La Russa in Game 6. Before leaving in the sixth, Holliday walked twice and reached on first baseman Michael Young's fielding error.
If Holliday cannot go in Game 7, Allen Craig likely would play left field in his place.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 11:14 pm
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- The Cardinals are on a World Series record-grabbing binge.
One night after the Albert Pujols Show, starting pitcher Edwin Jackson threw a few balls for the ages. And a few more. And a few more. ...
Jackson walked seven Texas Rangers, tying Wild Bill Hallahan (Game 2, 1931) for the most walks ever by a Cardinals starter in a World Series game. The main problem: Two of those walks came directly in front of Mike Napoli in the sixth inning, Jackson's parting gifts to reliever Mitchell Boggs.
How did that go? Napoli drilled the very first pitch from Boggs deep over the left-field fence for a three-run jack, the final touch on Texas' 4-0 two-step evening this series at 2-2 heading into a pivotal Game 5 featuring the two clubs' aces, Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals vs. Texas' C.J. Wilson.
Derek Holland gave Texas what it needed nearly as much as rain over the summer: A starter who went deep into a game and gave the bullpen a chance to kick up its cleats and relax.
Holland just missed firing World Series' first complete-game shutout since Josh Beckett clinched the title for the Marlins over the New York Yankees in Game 6 in 2003. Manager Ron Washington hooked him with one out in the ninth after he walked Rafael Furcal, in favor of closer Neftali Feliz.
As it was, Holland became the first World Series pitcher to last at least 8 1/3 innings and surrender no more than two hits since Greg Maddux in Game 1 in 1995.
It could not have come at a better time. There are growing questions regarding whether Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver and Co. are threadbare given how much Washington had to rely on them during an ALCS in which Rangers starters didn't earn a win. Holland's eight innings were a godsend.
Also a godsend: Holland holding Pujols to two ground balls and a harmless foul to first base.
That's where things get especially interesting as this series steams into it's final two or three games: For all we heard about Pujols and his record 14 total bases in Game 3, his other three games have been exceptionally ... silent.
Fact is, despite his outburst Saturday, Pujols is hitless in three of four games during this World Series. He was hit by a pitch and intentionally walked in Game 1, but that's it.
Just as Texas needed a starting pitcher -- and now needs a couple beyond Holland -- to move into position to win the state's first-ever World Series, the Cardinals cannot go it with Pujols alone. Matt Holliday, in particular, has been quiet behind Pujols: He's hitting .143 (2 for 14) with three walks and three strikeouts.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 6:19 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 6:20 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Yanked out of their comfy and productive home park, the Brewers at least have ace Yovani Gallardo starting Game 3 Wednesday as this National League Championship Series shifts scenes.
Lifesaver for them, right?
Um, maybe not.
Milwaukee's Misery Index in Missouri is uncomfortably high as the Brewers face the pivotal Game 3: Gallardo, lifetime against the Cardinals, is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 11 starts. Extract a smaller sample size to just 2011, and it's 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA in four starts.
Amplifying the situation is this: Gallardo right now appears to be Milwaukee's best shot. He's 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two postseason starts for the Brewers, while those starters not named "Gallardo" -- Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf -- are 1-3 with an 11.52 ERA in five starts.
Milwaukee's first-year manager, Ron Roenicke, has only see Gallardo's 2011 starts against the Cardinals and has no explanation for the struggles.
"There's not a good reason why," Roenicke says. "You know they have a good offense. Sometimes an offense matches up better against a certain type of pitcher. If it's a power pitcher and you have an offense that really handles the fastball well, that could be a reason. And same on the other end. If an offense matches up really well against guys that have the off-speed, slower stuff. ...
"I don't know what the case is with this, but I know we expect him to pitch a good game."
Elementary as it sounds, it starts at the beginning for both Gallardo and the rest of the rotation. While St. Louis leadoff man Rafael Furcal is just 2 for 10 against Milwaukee in the first two games, No. 2 hitter Jon Jay has severely wounded them with a .500 on-base percentage in the two games (.444 batting average).
When these two reach base consistently, that means Albert Pujols -- and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman behind him -- is even more dangerous. Jay has scored four runs in the first two games of this NLCS, three of which were included among Pujols' five RBI in Game 2.
"We're not too concerned with what we've done in the past," Jay said of the Cards' success against Gallardo. "We just try to have good at-bats. He's a great pitcher. You have to make him throw strikes. If we can have good at-bats and work the count, we'll be all right."
As for Pujols' Game 2 fireworks, it's hard to imagine the Brewers pitching to him any more than they have to from here on out. But when they do, Roenicke said, the key is simple.
"We have to make good pitches," the manager said. "Even Albert, as good a hitter as he is, if you put the pitch exactly where you want to, he's still, percentage-wise, going to have a tough time to continue to hurt us like he has."
Easier said than done. Especially given the current numbers of a rotation of which Roenicke said, "Our starters, that's why we are where we are today. Our starters have pitched great all year, and our relievers have been great, too. ... The playoffs, we have not pitched as well with our starters. But if we are going to win this thing, our starters need to pitch well.
"That's the four of them. We can't get by with just one or two pitchers."
Among other things, expecting a low-scoring pitcher's duel between Gallardo and Chris Carpenter on Wednesday night, Roenicke hinted that he my start Carlos Gomez over Nyjer Morgan in center field in a nod to Gomez's defense.
Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:58 pm
MILWAUKEE -- Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, battling an inflamed tendon near his right middle finger, said Saturday he's "as good as I can be" and proclaimed himself ready to go for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series here Sunday.
Holliday said he is undergoing two therapy sessions a day, each one lasting about 20 minutes. In addition to that, he said, he's taking laser treatment on his hand has well that "supposedly helps healing."
He took a numbing shot before a game the other day, which he said lasts for about four hours, but is not going to take another one.
"I couldn't feel my fingertip," he said. "It was fine for hitting, but not for throwing."
Plus, the shot itself, he said, was excruciating.
"That shot pretty much was the worst experience of my life," he said.
Holliday played in four games against the Phillies during the Division Series, batting .222 with no homers and no RBI. In 10 plate appearances, he was hit by one pitch and struck out three times.
Posted on: April 6, 2011 10:33 pm
Edited on: April 6, 2011 10:34 pm
SAN DIEGO -- Matt Holliday can say he's going to avoid the disabled list in St. Louis, and maybe he will. The White Sox can hope that Adam Dunn only missed "up to five games", as they said on their Twitter account Wednesday.
But Andres Torres is here to tell you: Good luck with that.
Like Holliday and Dunn, with what suddenly has become the Injury of the Year in these early days of 2011, the Giants' outfielder underwent an emergency appendectomy last September.
As Holliday and Dunn hope to do, Torres avoided the disabled list and returned before anybody reasonably expected.
But that was after rosters had expanded in September, so the Giants weren't necessarily playing a man short.
"If we wouldn't have been so close to the playoffs, I would have taken more time, to be honest with you," Torres said Thursday. "I wasn't 100 percent, but I told myself, 'Go for it.'"
There were times when Torres wondered whether he was crazy.
He missed 12 days following the emergency appendectomy, came into a game as a defensive replacement on September 24, then started the next day ... but was removed mid-game because he still wasn't right. Then he sat for two more days.
"I hope [Holliday] gets better quick, but if he does it in a week, that's amazing. Seriously," Torres said. "I came back and played in one game, and I felt something pop out in my stomach and they had to take me out for two more days.
"The thing is, you've got a belt on. And let's say you reach or jump for the ball, you've got stitches."
Granted, neither Holliday nor Dunn is in Torres' speed category, but Torres said running is the biggest problem in returning from an appendectomy.
"It's painful," Torres said. "Diving for balls, too. I'm a sprinter but for me, when I came back, to be honest with you, it was painful.
"We were just going for the playoffs, and I wanted to be there."
Torres explained that surgeons make three small holes across your stomach in the procedure, and that, along with the stitches, can't be wished away.
"The pain, I'd say, lasts for 18 to 20 days," Torre said. "The pain is going to be there."
Likes: Best thing I've seen this spring, hands down: Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, 50, at San Diego's Petco Park on Wednesday. Gwynn, after a tough battle through radiation treatments to remove a tumor from his mouth, looks terrific and has lost weight. The twinkle is back in his eye, the life is back in his laugh and he looks even younger than the last several times I'd seen him. Just terrific. ... Tim Lincecum when he's on. ... Fun times with the traveling Giants' road show: They activated closer Brian Wilson on Wednesday, and he came on to pitch the ninth to a loud, raucous ovation. In San Diego. ... XM Radio during baseball season. ... The MLB Extra Innings package on television (which I still need to order before the Early Bird special expires this weekend). ... A list of CDs to pick up and being back home near my local record store to grab them. First up: The Drive-By Truckers' Go-Go Boots, which was released back in February.
Dislikes: What's with all of these appendicitis attacks? Not only St. Louis' Matt Holliday, the White Sox's Adam Dunn, and last September, the Giants' Andres Torres. Lesser known because it was right after the season, the Twins' Michael Cuddyer had an emergency appendectomy in October. Cuddyer was stricken not long after the Twins were eliminated by the Yankees in the playoffs and watched part of the World Series from his hospital room, post-surgery.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
Posted on: May 26, 2010 1:26 am
If you're wondering whether there might be a correlation between St. Louis ranking 11th in the NL in runs scored and controversial new batting coach Mark McGwire ... don't even go there around the Cardinals.
At least, not when Big Mac is just seven regular-season weeks into the job.
"I've been really impressed by him," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa says. "He's got a relationship with everybody. He's done a good job of making things clear that he's here for them.
"He's everything that we thought he'd be, except I think he's got an even better feel for coaching as far as communicating. He's got a good message, he cares a lot."
Aside from Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina, the Cardinals are fielding a fairly young lineup in rookie third baseman David Freese, center fielder Colby Rasmus, second baseman Skip Schumaker and even right fielder Ryan Ludwick.
So there is a learning curve that at times has gone along with the early struggles of Holliday and, in the month of May, Pujols.
Case in point: First inning of St. Louis' 1-0 loss in San Diego on Tuesday night, with one out and the bases loaded, Rasmus whiffed.
"He's got to put that ball in play there," La Russa said afterward. "He'll learn."
Among what Rasmus is learning, from McGwire and through experience: Two-strike technique. How to cut down on his swing and better defend the plate, which will leave him -- and, by extension, the Cardinals -- less vulnerable.
Led by La Russa and McGwire, the Cardinals continue to work through it. Heading into this trip, they ranked ninth in the NL in on-base percentage and 10th in slugging percentage.
"He's a great person," says Holliday, who has worked with McGwire in past winters in Orange County, Calif. "He's real easy to work with, real positive. I think he's doing a real good job.
"He's a real cool guy. Somebody you enjoy being around, and somebody you enjoy talking hitting with."
Likes: Fabulous pitching duel between St. Louis' Adam Wainwright and San Diego's Jon Garland in the Padres' 1-0 win Tuesday night at -- where else? -- Petco Park. Wainwright equaled a career-high 12 strikeouts and had his killer curveball going wherever he wanted it to. Garland now is 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA over his past eight starts and is 3-0 with an 0.84 ERA in five Petco Park starts in 2010. ... The squirrel that ran onto Target Field on Tuesday night in the rain at the Yankees-Twins game and frantically looked for cover running the warning track while the crowd chanted, "Let's go squirrel! Let's go squirrel!" ... St. Louis rookie third baseman David Freese. Good-looking player. ... Who said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz was done? Sure am glad I never ventured anywhere near THAT prediction. ... Toronto manager Cito Gaston. ... ... Really enjoying Hampton Sides' gripping book Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin. If you like history or have any interest in the subject matter, I highly recommend it. ... Bob Dylan's 69th birthday this week.
Dislikes: Somebody stole the Drive-By Truckers' backdrop for their shows earlier this month from the House of Blues in San Diego. You've got to be kidding me. That's so weak.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I was so much older then
-- Bob Dylan, My Back Pages