With just six posting days left before the beginning of the 2012 season, I don’t have much time to get things going in the whole preview department. So the hope is to hit several topics over the next few days to round it all up.
Last season the Cardinals starting pitching took a big hit in spring training when Adam Wainwright was lost in February to Tommy John surgery. The injury advanced Kyle McClellan into the rotation. Lance Lynn made two starts when McClellan missed a couple due to an injury in June before Edwin Jackson was acquired near the deadline to replace McClellan in the rotation.
Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jake Westbrook all made over 30 starts for the Cardinals. They hadn’t had that many starters make more than 30 starts since all 5 starting pitchers did it in 2005.
The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have purchased the contract of Scott Linebrink, the final step required to make him a member of their 25-man roster for Opening Day. It was a move that was expected after the Cardinals’ had sent RHP Eduardo Sanchez to minor league camp where he is expected to start the season with the Memphis Redbirds. With the move, the Cardinals are now at 40 men on their 40 man roster, likely having alternative effects on other jobs.
Linebrink, 35, just misses out on being the oldest man on the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster this year. LHP J.C. Romero is two months older to the day and Lance Berkman takes the honor at six months older than Linebrink. Berkman turned 36 on February 10th, interestingly enough, the day that Linebrink was signed by the Cardinals’ to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
In 2011, Linebrink was 4-4 with a 3.64 ERA in 54 1/3 innings with the Atlanta Braves. He expected to get more phone calls from teams than he did get, but ultimately chose the Cardinals as his best option. The question in many teams’ minds, I think, was the 6.17 ERA he posted after returning from a DL stint last August. However, he did have a 2.95 ERA when he went on the DL in July.
The commercials are back according to a press release that arrived in my inbox this morning. Every year the St. Louis Cardinals (and really teams around baseball) do annual commercials that get shown during their games. In previous years there was a theme like “Play like a Cardinal” or “We are Cardinal Nation.” However this year there doesn’t seem to be an overriding motto.
Rather than release them all at the same time as they have in previous years, the organization is using a “film festival” style release with each ad being released on the internet on their web and social media presences. What this means is, you’ll have to keep coming back for more. Unless you just wait until Friday night to view them all at once.
Right now three commercial spots are released. Skip Schumaker showing off his impressive glove collection to Allen Craig, Adam Wainwright telling Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse about his personal twitterer, and then one of all the players still finding confetti everywhere.
Just as St. Louis Cardinals fans thought we were going to get our twin aces back, they’re gone just like that. Last year it was Adam Wainwright needing Tommy John surgery. This time, it’s Chris Carpenter who has been shut down indefinitely with no current timetable for a return.
A couple weeks ago Carpenter was diagnosed with a bulging cervical disc. That’s in the neck and it can cause stiffness, pain, and numbness in your arms. For a pitcher, that’s problematic. As soon as I heard, I expected it would easily set him back at least a month in his preparations for the season. Since then he has been being treated by the team and had a limited throwing schedule. It appears that today the team decided he wasn’t making enough progress and shut him down. He has now returned to St. Louis for further tests, including potential nerve damage.
What’s scary for Cardinals’ fans is that Carpenter dealt with nerve issues before, during the 2007 and 2008 seasons where he made a total of 5 starts between the two years. Is this a major issue that will take the entire season to rectify or will he be back in April or May? We hope to find that out over the next week or two.
What will this mean for the Cardinals going forward?
Right field. It’s a position that many expected to be handed to Allen Craig after his outstanding 2011 season coming off the bench and providing crucial hits for the Cardinals in the World Series. Not so fast though. With Craig potentially spending time on the disabled list to start the season, the Cardinals went big and signed Carlos Beltran to a two year contract.
Last year Lance Berkman primarily played the position. He played it quite well too, posting what was the best season of his career by OPS+. He made the All Star team and finished 7th in National League MVP voting (Personally, I felt he should have won the award). He surprised as many feared he couldn’t handle the outfield anymore. However his influence, in my opinion, had a great deal to do with the Cardinals putting the run together that they did.
Allen Craig broke out as the Cardinals’ fourth outfielder last season too, putting up MVP quality numbers over his 200 at bats. Good enough that if you extrapolate his WAR out to a 600 at bat season, he led the league. Not too shabby. However, a June collision with an outfield wall in Houston put a big gap in his season and led to offseason surgery which could delay the start to his 2012 season. It was enough of a question that the Cardinals seized the opportunity to make a big move to show fans that they weren’t just going to stand pat after parting ways with Albert Pujols.
If you’d told Cardinals’ fans in March of last year that Colby Rasmus would be traded and Jon Jay would be our everyday center fielder, you would have been laughed out of the room. Even more so after Rasmus posted a line of .301/.392/.476. Finally, our stud five-tool center fielder was going to be something. However, things went south from there, as Rasmus posted a line of .221/.306/.396 from May 1 until his trade on July 27. He got even worse in Toronto, but admitted that he basically gave up on the season and was waiting for a fresh start in 2012.
Enter Jon Jay. In the 2010 season, he was stated as the reason for being able to trade away Ryan Ludwick, contrary to many fans’ wishes. Over his time in St. Louis, Ludwick had been one of the most productive #4 hitters in the major leagues. However, young Jay was hitting .383 when the team chose to trade Ludwick. It put the spotlight on Jay and it wasn’t in a good way as he struggled down the stretch, hitting just .244, but still finishing the season above .300.
In the 2011 season, Jay was penciled in as the fourth outfielder for the Cardinals. His ability to play all three outfield positions was going to be useful for Tony LaRussa. After a slow start, by mid-May Jay was again hitting over .300 and finished May with a line of .349/.408/.514. He was starting to push Colby Rasmus for playing time and slowly fans were starting to support that idea. Rasmus, despite his hot start, was struggling and Jay was outplaying him offensively and defensively.