Cardinals Major League Notebook: 02/27/11

Kyle McClellan

Kyle McClellan may get first shot at Adam Wainwright's rotation spot but isn't the only challenger.

INSIDE PITCH

 

   Right-hander Kyle McClellan, who has worked as a starter in the previous two spring trainings, apparently will get the first chance to inherit the starting spot left open by the loss of ace right-hander Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery.

 

   Manager Tony La Russa noted that the development of right-handed relievers Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs more easily can free up McClellan to move from the bullpen to the rotation.

 

   "Kyle paid some really good dues as a reliever, and last year he had really an outstanding year," La Russa said of McClellan, who had a sparkling 2.27 earned run average in 2010. "He's a real weapon because of his ability to get rights and lefts out. You take that weapon out of the bullpen ... the answer is we're in better shape because the other two guys have got some experience."  

 

   McClellan said, "In this situation, I'd like to start. I feel like we are in a good spot in the bullpen. I've put my time in and learned a lot in the bullpen."

 

   La Russa did not eliminate other contenders but suggested that right-handers Adam Ottavino and Ian Snell are a little behind.

 

   Ottavino hasn't appeared in a game since last July 3 because of a labrum issue. Snell, in camp on a minor league contract, was restricted early because of a facial injury. 

 

   Should McClellan falter, the club could look outside the organization for a free agent like Kevin Millwood or try right-hander Lance Lynn, a 13-game winner at Memphis last year, and P.J. Walters, who was 8-5 at Memphis and won two starts for the Cardinals.

 

   As for Wainwright, the recovery period is expected to be 12 to 15 months.

 

   "Not to be melodramatic, but you're losing an ace," general manager John Mozeliak said. "It's not something you can replace overnight.'

 

NOTES, QUOTES

 

   --INF Nick Punto was lost for between eight and 12 weeks after having surgery to repair a tear in his lower abdomen. Punto was to have seen time mostly at third base this spring, and his injury probably opens for the door for Daniel Descalso, impressive last September at third base, to fill a void as an extra man. INF Tyler Greene and non-roster INF Ramon Vazquez also are bidding for a reserve infield spot, and OF Allen Craig will be tried at third base as 3B David Freese rounds into shape after having had two ankle surgeries last year.

 

   --3B David Freese wasn't expected to play in the first few exhibition games. "March 31 (Opening Day) is what I'm pointing toward," he said. Manager Tony La Russa said he was impressed by how Freese was progressing but he added, "If it means keeping him out a week to be more certain, that's what we'll give him."

 

   --The Cardinals reached agreements with all the players on their 40-man roster, including three pre-arbitration pitchers, RHPs Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs and LHP Jamie Garcia. Earlier this offseason, the Cardinals signed RHP Kyle McClellan to a one-year deal, avoiding arbitration, and earlier in camp, they got contracts done with Freese and OFs Jon Jay and Craig, who also were pre-arbitration players.

 

   --OF Lance Berkman, who hasn't played regularly in the outfield for several years, had some left elbow soreness in early drills and took a day off from throwing to rest it. "Going from first base to the outfield you're throwing more, a lot longer and with more effort. I just want to make sure the elbow is where it needs to be," Berkman said.

 

   --That RHP Adam Wainwright was to undergo Tommy John elbow surgery was nothing new to members of the Cardinals' rotation. RHPs Chris Carpenter and Jake Westbrook and LHP Jaime Garcia have had it, as has RHP Kyle McClellan, who might take Wainwright's spot in the rotation.

 

   BY THE NUMBERS: 39 -- Wins, tops in the National League, by RHP Adam Wainwright, the last two seasons.

 

   QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's not a good day. It's a huge hit. We have to overcome this." -- Manager Tony La Russa, upon learning that RHP Adam Wainwright would be out for the season because of Tommy John surgery.

 

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 RF 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), RHP Miguel Batista (free agent from Nationals), RHP Ian Snell (free agent from Mariners), INF Ramon Vazquez (minor league free agent from Astros), INF Nick Punto (free agent from Twins).

 

   DEPARTURES: INF Brendan Ryan (traded to Mariners), LHP Dennys Reyes (free agent, signed with Phillies), RHP Blake Hawksworth (traded to Dodgers), RHP Brad Penny (free agent, signed with Tigers), RHP Jeff Suppan (free agent, signed minor league contract with Giants), RHP Mike MacDougal (free agent, signed minor league deal with Dodgers), 3B Pedro Feliz (free agent, signed minor league deal with Royals), OF Randy Winn (free agent, signed minor league deal with Orioles), LHP Dennys Reyes (free agent, signed minor league deal with Red Sox), INF Aaron Miles (free agent, signed minor league deal with Dodgers).

 

   PROJECTED ROTATION:

   1. RHP Adam Wainwright (injured)

   1. RHP Chris Carpenter

   2. LHP Jaime Garcia

   3. RHP Jake Westbrook

   4. RHP Kyle Lohse

   5. RHP Kyle McClellan                         

 

   Wainwright's injury could be a huge factor not only for the Cardinals, but the entire NL Central. The Cardinals had thought they were as set with their rotation as they've been in years and were most concerned about whether Lohse can remain healthy. Lohse, plagued mostly by forearm problems, has won just 10 games over the last two seasons after winning 15 in 2008. Depth behind the top five is sketchy.

 

   PROJECTED BULLPEN:

   RHP Ryan Franklin (closer)

   RHP Mitchell Boggs

   RHP Jason Motte

   RHP Miguel Batista

   RHP Fernando Salas

   LHP Trever Miller

   LHP Brian Tallet

 

   Little change in the makeup of a bullpen that was successful far more often than not last year. Might be a bit weak on the left side, with Miller and Tallet coming off subpar seasons, but it's very deep right-handed. Boggs and Motte rank as closer candidates if veteran Franklin falters.

 

   PROJECTED LINEUP:

   1. 2B Skip Schumaker

   2. CF Colby Rasmus

   3. 1B Albert Pujols

   4. LF Matt Holliday

   5. RF Lance Berkman

   6. C Yadier Molina

   7. 3B David Freese

   8. SS Ryan Theriot

 

   The leadoff spot is up for grabs between Schumaker and newcomer Theriot, and it might be that Theriot will lead off against left-handers and Schumaker will hit first against right-handers. Berkman is slotted fifth for now but could move to second if Rasmus is deemed capable of protecting Pujols and Holliday.

 

  TOP ROOKIES: Technically not a rookie -- he missed by a few days -- Allen Craig, the most notable power hitter in the minor league system, ostensibly is a first-year player. Craig was productive last season at the big-league level when he got to play four or five games in a row, but he had a difficult time coming off the bench as a pinch hitter or spot player, which likely will be his lot this year, too, if he makes the club.

 

    The top pitching prospect probably is RHP Lance Lynn, a 13-game winner at Class AAA Memphis. INF Daniel Descalso was impressive at third base in a late season trial but probably was ticketed for Memphis until the injury to INF Nick Punto. OF Adron Chambers (.282 at Class AA Springfield and .290 at Memphis) brings base-stealing speed, a rare quality for the Cardinals. He swiped 14 last season.

  

MEDICAL WATCH:

 

   --RHP Adam Wainwright (right elbow) was hurt Feb. 21, and he will undergo Tommy John surgery. He will miss the entire 2011 season.

 

   --INF Nick Punto (hernia) was expected to have surgery in late February. He is likely to be out until at least late April.

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