Cardinals in the hunt for pitching help

The St. Louis Cardinals need dependable relief help behind Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs.

INSIDE PITCH

 

The Cardinals, who finished the first half on a high note with six wins in their last eight games, will contend, but they are unlikely to be a playoff team unless they fix the front half of their bullpen.

 

Right-handers Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte have been excellent at the back end, but the sixth and seventh innings have been an adventure.

 

The club surely is looking for one or two veterans, preferably one from each side.

 

With the return of two pitchers, left-hander Jaime Garcia (shoulder strain) and right-handed reliever Kyle McClellan (elbow strain), unlikely before mid-August, general manager John Mozeliak also might be on the outlook for a starting pitcher. However, right-handed rookie Joe Kelly has handled himself well in six starts.

 

The offense, statistically the best in the league, will get a second-half boost from first baseman Lance Berkman, who has been out virtually all season with hamstring and knee injuries, the second of which required surgery that has sidelined him for nearly two months.

 

Right-hander Chris Carpenter, out with shoulder weakness from spring training on, had been counted on for a second-half lift, but surgery will sideline him for the remainder of the season.

 

The rotation should be all right, though, if right-hander Adam Wainwright continues to improve following Tommy John elbow surgery that put him out all last season.

 

If the Cardinals do attempt to trade for pitching help, they do not have much other teams want. One exception would be prized prospect Shelby Miller, a 21-year-old right-hander who is having a terrible time with Class AAA Memphis. Another is burly first baseman Matt Adams, who acquitted himself well in a month-long call-up, although he was sidelined with a bad right elbow at Memphis after having a string of good games.

 

NOTES, QUOTES

SS Rafael Furcal, whose average had been dropping, knocked in three runs Sunday, including two on a bases-loaded single off a 1-2 pitch by Miami RHP Heath Bell, giving the Cardinals a 5-4, walk-off win over Miami. "I know I've been struggling a little bit with men in scoring position," Furcal said. Noting that two earlier hitters, including 2B Daniel Descalso, who had an excellent at-bat, had drawn walks in a three-run ninth, Furcal said, "You've got to be patient. Heath Bell is not the closer he used to be. He's a little wild this year."

3B David Freese was not in the starting lineup because of a left leg bruise sustained when he was hit by a pitch Saturday. He did pinch-hit in the ninth inning Sunday, walking on four pitches and then sliding in with the winning run when Miami C John Buck couldn't handle the ball cleanly on a throw from the outfield on a two-run single by SS Rafael Furcal.

RHP Victor Marte and RHP Michael Cleto both struggled in the seventh inning as Miami erased a 2-1 lead. Cleto allowed a walk and a double, and Marte tossed a bad 2-0 slider that wound up as a three-run homer by PH Austin Kearns.

RHP Joe Kelly, making his sixth start, didn't give up an earned run in six innings, although he walked five. The rookie's ERA is 2.70. Manager Mike Matheny said, "Joe really attacks the zone, and the next thing you know, he's pitching behind in the count. The thing is, he pitches himself into trouble and typically gets himself out of it." Kelly said he mostly had trouble controlling his fastball Sunday.

RHP Mitchell Boggs retired only one man but was the winner, striking out Miami 3B Donovan Solano with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. Manager Mike Matheny didn't plan to use Boggs with the team behind, but LHP Marc Rzepczynski had walked two and allowed two hits in the ninth, and he was replaced by Boggs.

RHP Fernando Salas, who led the team in saves last year with 24 but has struggled this year, worked a scoreless eighth inning, fanning two and being helped by a good play by LF Matt Holliday. Manager Mike Matheny said it was a fair question why Salas wasn't used in the seventh, but Matheny said he thought rookie RHP Maikel Cleto had earned a chance to pitch that inning. Cleto may have blown that by allowing a double and a walk after rookie LHP Barret Browning had retired his 13th consecutive hitter since coming up from Class AAA Memphis.

By the Numbers:

31 - Home runs given up St. Louis bullpen, the fourth-highest total among major league relief corps. The Cardinals' starters have allowed 43 homers, the second-lowest total in the majors. The Cardinals' relievers are allowing a home run every 7.4 innings, while the team's starters are allowing one every 12.3 innings.

Quote to Note:

"It will be nice to stew on that one for a while."

- Manager Mike Matheny, after his team rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 win over Miami in the final game before the All-Star break.

MEDICAL WATCH

LHP Jaime Garcia (left shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 6. After further examination, it was determined that he has tearing in his rotator cuff. He threw 40 pitches from 60 feet on flat ground for the first time in a month July 4. He is out until at least mid-August.

RHP Kyle McClellan (strained right ulnar collateral ligament) went on the 15-day disabled list May 18, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 30. He won't need surgery but likely will be sidelined until at least late July. He threw from flat ground for the first time July 3 and reported he felt good July 4. He could be back in early August.

1B Lance Berkman (torn meniscus in right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list May 20. He had arthroscopic surgery May 25, and no ACL damage was found. He took batting practice July 2, and he could begin a rehab assignment during the weekend of July 13-15.

RHP Chris Carpenter (weak right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 10. He threw for the first time since March on June 13 and then threw another 40 pitches on June 15. He threw to hitters for the first time June 22 but then had a setback June 25 when he felt renewed weakness in the shoulder. He said it felt better the next day, and he had an extensive throwing session off flat ground June 27. On June 28, he was told he has thoracic outlet syndrome, which can cause, among its effects, weakness in one's shoulder. A July 2 bullpen session was canceled. On July 3, the Cardinals announced that Carpenter would undergo season-ending surgery July 19 to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.

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