Cardinals Major League Notebook: 11/13/11
Is Matheny the front-runner?
Is Matheny the front-runner?

Posted Nov 13, 2011


The St. Louis Cardinals are narrowing down their list of managerial candidates from six to one.

INSIDE PITCH

 

Before the Cardinals could tackle the highly significant, and perhaps combustible, task of trying to re-sign first baseman Albert Pujols, they needed to have a manager on board. Within 10 days after their World Series triumph, they had completed their first -- and probably only -- round of interviews with six candidates and were hoping to announce Tony La Russa's successor at least several days before Thanksgiving.

The gamut of candidates ranged from former Philadelphia and Boston manager Terry Francona, who won two World Series with the Red Sox, to former Cardinals Gold Glove catcher Mike Matheny, who has never managed at any level. In fact, five of the six candidates, including Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, have not managed in the majors.

Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak said they deemed it important that the new manager have a good understanding of the Cardinals' organizational philosophy. And all six candidates, one of whom was third-base coach Jose Oquendo, presented themselves well.

But it didn't seem impossible that the job could go to the popular, well-spoken Matheny, who has become more visible in the last couple of years since his retirement. Matheny has been a catching instructor in the last three spring training camps and did some evaluating this summer in the minor league system as an assistant to Mozeliak.

If Matheny is hired, it would seem he would need a bench coach with major league managerial experience.

In any event, esteemed pitching coach Dave Duncan, who has a contract for 2012 and an option for 2013, would figure to be back. Duncan, the only Cardinals coach currently under contract, was given considerable responsibility by La Russa while operating La Russa's pitching staffs for nearly 30 years.

NOTES, QUOTES

SS Rafael Furcal is hopeful of returning to the Cardinals, who did not pick up his $12 million option for 2012. Except for one error-prone stretch in September, Furcal stabilized the Cardinals' defense in the last couple of months after coming from the Los Angeles Dodgers. But he didn't get on base the way he used to. The organization also must decide what to do with still promising SS Tyler Greene, who is out of options.

C Yadier Molina, a four-time Gold Glove winner, is a candidate for a contract extension after his 2012 option was picked up at $7.5 million. Molina might be the most indispensable player the Cardinals have.

Third base coach Jose Oquendo said he would like to come back in that position if he isn't selected as the new manager. Oquendo has been highly regarded for his work on the lines, where he has served the last 12 seasons.

INF/OF Allen Craig, a valuable utilityman, appeared at six positions this year, but he probably doesn't figure at either second or third base in next year's plans. More likely, Craig will be a corner outfielder with occasional time at first base. Of course, those plans could change if 1B Albert Pujols isn't re-signed.

1B Albert Pujols' contract issue probably won't be determined until baseball's winter meetings in Dallas on Dec. 5-8. Chairman Bill DeWitt, who along with general manager John Mozeliak made what was believed to be an eight-year offer with an option for a ninth year in spring training, indicated the club would make another offer but declined to speculate on its length.

2B/OF Skip Schumaker, INF Ryan Theriot and RHP Kyle McClellan head the Cardinals' potential arbitration list. The club isn't apt to bring back both Schumaker and Theriot and probably not McClellan, either. One or two of these players either could be traded or non-tendered.

BY THE NUMBERS: 29 - Consecutive seasons in which Dave Duncan had been manager Tony La Russa's pitching coach, counting their time with the Chicago White Sox and Oakland.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If it's not going to be me, I'm not going to be saying, 'Why not? Why not me?' If it happens, it happens."

­­­­­­­- Third base coach Jose Oquendo, a candidate for the Cardinals' managing job.

 

ROSTER REPORT

 

The Cardinals are coming off a World Series title, but general manager John Mozeliak realizes the big turnaround in the season came in late July and early August when the club changed 20 percent of its roster with five additions. There will be no standing pat, and that trend began three days after the World Series ended when manager Tony La Russa retired after 16 seasons.

 

BIGGEST NEEDS:

 

The top priority, after naming a manager, is re-signing 1B Albert Pujols, the cream of the free agent class. Secondarily, the Cardinals need to address their shortstop-second base situation, which finished with Rafael Furcal, whose option was not picked up, at short and Skip Schumaker, who is arbitration-eligible, at second. Mozeliak has indicated interest in Furcal but at a much lower figure than $12 million. Schumaker, a converted outfielder, has improved at second base, but the Cardinals might not want to pay to keep both.

 

FREE AGENTS:

1B Albert Pujols, RHPs Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel, C Gerald Laird, SS Rafael Furcal, OF Corey Patterson, INF Nick Punto, LHP Arthur Rhodes.

Every effort will be made to re-sign Pujols. Furcal and Dotel command interest by the Cardinals, but they won't be able to give Jackson a long-term deal. Rhodes is next most likely to be sought after by the Cardinals, but there won't be much money for him.

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE:

2B/OF Skip Schumaker, RHP Kyle McClellan. INF Ryan Theriot.

All, in theory, could be non-tendered. McClellan is the most likely to dealt. Either Schumaker or Theriot won't be back, and possibly both.

IN LIMBO:

 

RHP Kyle McClellan, who moved back to the bullpen when Jackson was acquired, is in competition with several young right-handed relievers who are less expensive. He wouldn't go back to the rotation, either, with the expected return of RHP Adam Wainwright, who missed 2011 with Tommy John elbow surgery. INF Tyler Greene, who had a strong Class AAA performance and who was going to get a late season look until the Cardinals got back into playoff contention, could be a trade candidate if the club doesn't figure to have a role for him. In limited duty with the Cardinals, Greene led the club in steals with 11 (in 11 attempts).

 

MEDICAL WATCH:

RHP Adam Wainwright is expected to go to Jupiter, Fla., just after Jan. 1 to begin throwing in earnest. He expects to be ready for spring training.

LF Matt Holliday might need his right hand, injured twice late in the season, attended to.



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