Cardinals Major League Notebook: 12/18/10

Will the Brendan Ryan-Maikel Cleto deal be the last move by the St. Louis Cardinals this winter?

INSIDE PITCH:

   When starting shortstop Brendan Ryan, his job having been given to new signee Ryan Theriot, was traded to Seattle, the return wasn't much. The Cardinals got a hard-throwing but erratic Class A pitcher, right-hander Maikel Cleto, which suggests that Ryan's value was not as high as some of his St. Louis fans might have thought.

   Also, there are suggestions that the trade was made based not only on Ryan's disappointing .223 offensive season last season but on the fact that his talkative clubhouse personality rubbed some veterans the wrong way.

   General manager John Mozeliak would say only, "Changing the culture of the clubhouse was important to us. Given the personalities involved, we felt this was an appropriate way to make a change."

   Ryan hit .292 in 2009 and fielded in Gold Glove fashion. However, Ryan slumped most of this year after belatedly undergoing left wrist surgery in January.

   "When you look at 2010 and the fact that we never really got going offensively, we had to look to change some things," Mozeliak said. "We didn't have a lot of opportunity to change certain positions.

   "I recognize that Brendan's an outstanding defensive player, but we had to try. If we rolled it out like last year, I don't know if we could count on taking the next step."

   Ryan, who didn't curry any favor with right-hander Chris Carpenter one night when he didn't have the right glove as he headed for his position, said of his implied clubhouse issues, "I think you can spin it any way you want. I think I was the same guy in '09 that I was in '10. But when you're struggling, it's easier to point to certain things to explain what's going on.

   "It's cute and fun when things are going well. But when you're struggling, it's easier to say, 'He wasn't focused or prepared.' I don't think that's the case. It's more about lost confidence and feeling lost."

   Ryan took the high road, though, when discussing manager Tony La Russa.

   "I have nothing but thanks and gratitude for what he's done for me," Ryan said. "It's both exciting and sad. Change can be scary, but at least I'm going somewhere I'm wanted. They were clear Theriot is their guy. That stuff is out of my control."

 

 

NOTES, QUOTES

   --RHP Maikel Cleto, though he never has pitched above Class A, was added to the 40-man roster after being acquired from Seattle for SS Brendan Ryan. Projected as a closer or setup man, Cleto, 21, compiled a 4-9 record and 6.16 earned run average as a starter at Class A High Desert last season before going 2-1 with a 7.91 ERA in six starts during the Arizona Fall League. He throws in the mid-to-high 90s.

   --After making a play to sign Bengie Molina, older brother of Cardinals Gold Glove C Yadier Molina, the club signed former Texas and Detroit receiver Gerald Laird to a one-year deal that calls for a $1 million base plus $300,000 in incentives. Laird, 31, batted just .207 in 2010 with the Tigers but is a .242 lifetime hitter and is considered a strong thrower and good receiver with occasional home-run power. Pending Yadier Molina's ability to stay healthy, Laird probably won't start many more than 30 or 35 games.

   --Even with the addition of Laird, the Cardinals' bench figures to be very young. None of the other four projected bench men -- infielders Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene and outfielders Allen Craig and Jon Jay -- has ever played a full season in the majors.

   --The Cardinals' potential 25-man roster seems relatively set, but the club might have to add some left-side infield help in the spring if it is determined that 3B David Freese, who had surgeries on both ankles during the 2010 season, isn't ready for regular duty.

   --The Cardinals' interleague schedule for next season isn't a terribly attractive one. St. Louis will play at Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Baltimore and will be home against Kansas City and Toronto.

   BY THE NUMBERS: .740 to .573 -- Drop in SS Brendan Ryan's on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) from 2009 to 2010.

   QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was almost like having to relearn everything I did last offseason. I know it sounds like an excuse. But being honest about what went on, it didn't help." -- SS Brendan Ryan, whose season never really got going offensively after he had left wrist surgery in January.

 

 

ROSTER REPORT

   The Cardinals entered the offseason with one of the best core groups in baseball: 1B Albert Pujols, LF Matt Holliday, RHPs Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and Gold Glove C Yadier Molina. They have tried to upgrade the supporting cast, particularly by signing outfielder Lance Berkman.

   ARRIVALS: C Gerald Laird (free agent from Tigers), RF Lance Berkman (free agent from Yankees), LHP Brian Tallet (free agent from Blue Jays), SS Ryan Theriot (trade with Dodgers).

   DEPARTURES: INF Brendan Ryan (traded to Mariners), LHP Dennys Reyes (free agent, signed with Phillies), RHP Blake Hawksworth (traded to Dodgers).

   BIGGEST NEEDS: At the top of the Cardinals' wish list is a contract extension for 1B Albert Pujols, now that general manager John Mozeliak has filled most of the other priorities.

   FREE AGENTS: 3B Pedro Feliz, RHP Mike MacDougal, OF Randy Winn, INF Aaron Miles, RHP Jeff Suppan, RHP Brad Penny.

   It is probable that none of them will be brought back.

   ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Kyle McClellan.

   McClellan is one of the best middle relievers in the game but doesn't have much in the way of stats covering saves and wins.

   MEDICAL WATCH:

   --3B David Freese (right ankle surgery in August 2010, left ankle surgery in September 2010) should be ready for spring training.

   --LHP Jaime Garcia (left arm fatigue), RHP Adam Wainwright (right forearm strain) and C Yadier Molina (right knee inflammation) all were shut down at the end of the season. All are expected to be ready for spring training.

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