No look back on the 2011 championship season would be complete without following the progress of David Freese. Here we see his first game of the year. I think we remember his last few.
Freese-ing Them Out
We’ve been waiting for David Freese to get into the ballgame. Apparently, so has he.
On a day where everyone was hitting, perhaps the loudest noise of all for Cardinal fans was the sound of Freese’s bat as he stroked two hits and collected three RBI, all without injuring himself. He also handled his only chance in the field without incident as well, bolstering optimism that the third base conundrum will be less of an issue than we expected. (Side note: you can see Derrick Goold discussing Freese in this video.)
Even with his strong start, though, the Cardinals aren’t going to deviate from the plan. Freese will sit today when they take on the Boston Red Sox and still alternate days playing and not playing. Cardinal fans are breathing a little easier today, though, with him finally getting on the field.
Freese wasn’t the only one that had a strong day yesterday. When you win 10-4 over the Twins, I guess that’s not too surprising. Looking at the pitching first, Jake Westbrook went three scoreless innings before stumbling a bit in the fourth. Still, 3 2/3 innings with just one run allowed is much better than the 50-pitch two inning outing he had in his first shot. Every pitcher is key this year, of course, but having Westbrook eat innings will be very valuable to a pen that may get used a lot every fifth day.
Lance Lynn didn’t have quite the same type of outing this time as he did in his first appearance. He allowed two earned runs in his two innings, with two walks and a strikeout. He wasn’t helped at all by Colby Rasmus‘s error in center, dropping a fly ball that might have changed the complexion of the inning. The Twins announcers were talking about him trying to get people to chase the off-speed stuff and it just wasn’t working, as he’d get ahead of batters but not be able to put them away. I’m sure there was a discussion between him and the pitching coach on that after the game.
Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Matt Carpenter all wound up with two hits, with both of Jay’s being doubles. Carpenter and Jay also tallied two RBI. I had no idea that Carpenter was five for eight this spring. I realize that Dennis makes a strong point urging caution with the results from the spring, with good reason, but it is nice to see the kid having an impact. If Freese does go down, it could be Carpenter getting the call, especially if Nick Punto isn’t going to be available. (Are you like me? Have you quickly forgotten Punto is part of this team?) He’ll at least have some confidence that he can compete at the big league level and probably will start out in Memphis, being just a phone call away.
Most fans are more focused on the other Carpenter, however. Chris Carpenter may have to miss Friday’s start, as he felt a twinge in his hamstring going less than full bore during Sunday’s session. However, he went again today and reported no problems, so it may be that he gets back on the mound Friday. We’ll see how the evaluation Wednesday goes. You know they aren’t going to rush him, but he does need a couple of starts to help build up to going deep into games.
The other injury from last week, Mitchell Boggs, threw at full speed yesterday and reported no problems. Sounds like that back issue is…wait for it….behind him, though I worry that might be something that flares up during the season. There will likely be suitable fill-ins at Memphis, though, if it does.
Time for today’s approval ratings. We start off with the closer of the Redbirds, Ryan Franklin. Franklin has never been the strongest of statistical candidates and he has his detractors as well. That said, he’s gotten the job more times than not, which will bring some warm and fuzzy feelings to a fan base. Last year, he polled at a 69.7% clip, with his late season 2009 collapse still fresh in people’s minds.
After another year of pitching the ninth, this year Franklin moves up to 72.8%. Some people thought that he “doesn’t have what it takes anymore” while others rated him much more highly. For the record, I gave him an 86, because he has been fairly reliable, plus I gave him bonus points for his Twitter presence.
Dave Duncan is our management person of the day. While his good friend Tony La Russa could be considered the lightening rod for this organization, Duncan tends to miss out on a lot of stuff thrown Tony’s way. Last year, he was marked at 87%, making him one of the highest non-players surveyed.
Duncan makes it three years in a row with rising stock as he gets a 87.9% from this year’s polled Cardinal fans. Duncan was considered “as good as it gets” but one did note he always looked like he was at a funeral in the dugout. To complete the record, he got a 94 from me.
Our media member for the day is the Cat, Jim Hayes, from Fox Sports MW. Jim typically does pieces for the pregame show, as well as interviews of the players before the game. He will also join the guys in the booth during the third inning to talk about different aspects. Fair disclosure: I met Jim as part of the FSMW tour last year and, while I liked him before, that time spent probably helped push to his 95% rating from me.
Hayes seems to be a love-him-or-hate-him kind of figure, as he wound up with a respectable 76.1%, but there was a lot of deviation in the scores, as there were a few 100s and a few in the 50-60 range. He was termed “a clown” by one while another one loved his inside jokes with the players and announcers. I’ve had this discussion on Twitter before, so I know he doesn’t suit everyone’s taste, but I think he enlivens the broadcast notably.
Cards are on KMOX again today, taking on the Red Sox. Jaime Garcia will be on the mound looking to continue where he left off last time out.