Ladies and gents,
I hope your week was swell. Five days off from Cardinals baseball isn’t as bad one would presume. Think about the carefree days you endured. The lack of anxiety. For a few days, you didn’t see a Rosenthal save chance, a Matheny double switch or a Carlos Martinez bat flip.
Consider yourself loose and ready for the final 66 games. The season is moving quick. Time is running out on the Redbirds. Remember when I proclaimed a couple months ago that there was plenty of time left. That statement will start to wilt as the summer heat sets in.
Let’s talk about a few things I wish to see from these Cards as the season enters its stretch run. I won’t slap a number on you. I will just load up the tommy gun on the hands and type until the ammo magazine is empty. This team has put local writers through a workout this year so it’s no time to slow the keyboard punching squad.
*The Allen Craig resurgence. Please, let this man break free of the shackles squeezing his once wide and mighty swing to the tiny production of weak ground balls and confidence zapping strikeouts. When Craig struck out in Milwaukee on Sunday, I wondered what went through his head on his way back to the dugout. What really happened at the end of Sopranos or what happened to his swing? The health concerns are there because the man isn’t taking the pitch to right field for power. Pitchers are doing something they haven’t done in three years. Beat him inside with fastballs. Craig got five days off to clear the head and recharge the batteries. If he clicks, the rest of the lineup becomes a force. Matt Carpenter scores more runs and gets the pack of whiners calling his season average off his back. Matt Holliday benefits from a better Craig. Peralta would welcome a Torty blast here and there. Craig is slugging below .400 and has one HR and 5 RBI in the past 3 weeks. It’s sad. A man who produced so well has suddenly lost something. What is it? Is the Lisfranc healed up or is the swing forever broken? Mike Matheny will play him if he isn’t on the DL. Craig will get a chance to bust out. Let’s hope he does.
*Shelby Miller Returns. Have you seen that talented Rookie of the Year candidate these past few weeks? Miller hasn’t been rough lately. He has been quite bad. In the last 10 starts, Miller has allowed 4 earned runs or more 6 different times. He hasn’t pitched 7 innings since June 7th. He is getting rocked by quite a few teams. Apparently, bullpens sessions haven’t brought anything to life. Dave Duncan works of the D-Backs so he can’t SKYPE in for a session. Derek Lilliquist has no answers. He is young and still raw but this is ugly. Michael Wacha is also young and raw but hasn’t looked as bad as Miller has for 2 months. After pitching great in Toronto and at home against Washington, Miller somehow lost his ability to place his curve and can’t locate his fastball. Hitters are teeing off. What is the remedy? There was an outcry when I suggested sending Miller to Memphis to tune up and relax. Oh no, a 23 year old can’t go to Memphis. Why not? How many more games will he be allowed to go out and blow up? The Cards don’t need a 5th starter with the off days until early August so it wouldn’t hurt anything. It may just get Miller right. Any better ideas? Please tell me.
UPDATE-Ask and I shall receive. Via Jenifer Langosch of MLB, Miller will be sent to the bullpen for the time being and Adam Wainwright will take his start against the Rays on Tuesday. Once again, Cards have three open dates in next 3 weeks. Sending Miller to the bullpen may be better than Memphis so he can stay with club, work on pitches and see game time. He also gets to stay with his starters group and not depart and lose the wisdom of guys like Waino and Lynn. Shelby Miller can spend at least 2 weeks in the bullpen and figure a few things out.
*How far has the offense come? What does this team do against high caliber talent? The Dodgers provide a quick firm second half test right out of the gate. This is the team that held Cardinal hitting to 3 runs in four games last month. What happens now? How far has this suddenly HR happy Cards team come since that series in LA? Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez will be tested. Dan Haren, Zach Greinke and Clayton Kershaw will throw for the Dodgers. After they depart, the Cards will be served up a heavy dose of inner division action for the last two months of play. The four teams in this NL Central Race are close today and they will face off against each other plenty before the playoffs name one team a winner. The Cards are projected to win and are the favorite in Vegas but baseball is best played away from poker tables. The Dodgers will tell us how sound and able this team is because the excuse of “Well, they had great pitching going for them” has run dry. Time for the Cards to beat good teams and do it more consistently.
*Tony Cruz holds the fort. This is obviously a huge demand for a guy who has only accumulated 131 at bats in a single season. Cruz went from studying video, chewing on sunflower seeds and learning from Yadier Molina to the starter within 24 hours. Molina went down and Cruz became the man. George Kotteras seems to be on this team somewhere, but Matheny is running with Tony and that’s a good move. Since the Yadi injury, Cruz is 4-17 with a pair of doubles and a few more stolen bases allowed. This isn’t going to be an easy transition for Cruz. He can learn from the best all he wants but turning it into a reality on the field takes time. I hope Cruz hops the hurdle and the rest of the Cards lineup helps supply the missing offense.
*Center Field Issues Start To Disappear. It will be interesting to see how Matheny handles center field in the second half. Jon Jay has gotten the bulk of the playing time there since June and Peter Bourjos has received a few starts here and there. What Jay brings to the lineup with his bat is obvious, but I would like to see Bourjos find more time in center field. With Oscar in right, it would be wise to have Bourjos in center so the defense is there. It would also just be nice to see Peter Bourjos again. The Cards traded for his defense and he can’t do much from the bench. How many starts Oscar gets in center will play a part as well as that aforementioned Craig resurgence. Center Field needs some clarity in the second half.
*Ease up Trevor. While he has been successful in converting the majority of his saves(right around 85 percent), Rosenthal likes to make it interesting and that is something I want to see happen a bit less. I hope that’s not asking too much of the big guy to walk a few less and ease up on the blood pressure. I take a tiny pill to help with my BP and if Trevor keeps putting runners on base, lighting fires on the mound and readjusting his hat fifty times, I may need to take more. Let’s hope the bullpen gets a stress relief from the starters in the second half.
If you really need a trade bit to chew on, my fellow Cardinals scribe Joe Schwarz took aim at Giancarlo Stanton right here in a very sharp piece. Have at it, folks.
Closing statements. Nice and quick. The bullet round wish list finish.
- Joe Kelly start to accumulate more innings with each start and turns into his 2013 self.
- Carlos Martinez matures off the mound and on it. No more angry bat flips. There is only one Carlos Gomez.
- Matt Adams keeps beating the shift….by hitting on the other side of the fence.
- Jhonny Peralta keeps scooping up balls at shortstop and hits better with RISP.
- John Mozeliak just says no to the rehab project that is Dan Uggla.
- Lance Lynn has a strong August and quiets the critics for good.
- Kevin Siegrist returns to pitch out of the bullpen or possibly(wait for it) out of the rotation. Who knows? Probably a bad idea but I had to throw it out there.
All in all, for the Cardinals team to not be as unbearable as the heat will be in St. Louis in August and September.
Welcome back to real games, folks. This is the last stop.
Thanks for reading and for more rambling Cards talk, follow me on twitter, @buffa82.