THORN IN THE SIDE

Just what the heck is the problem with the Cardinals and oblique strains? We have three (THREE!!!!) already so far this spring. And we are only heading into into week 2. ECK, his double play partner  Adam Kennedy, and Russ Springer all are missing time so far with mild, moderate, and mild oblique strains. Did someone give Lou Penella a Cardinals voodoo doll over the winter?

The good news is that all three are back to baseball activities this week. Kennedy took some swings over the weekend and should play in a game this week. Russ threw on Sunday with IZZY, and baring a set back won’t pitch in a game till Monday. ECK is about 10 days away from getting back into a game. His strain was the one that concerned the Cardinals most of course. But according to Dr. Paletta Kennedy’s injury was the most serious of the three. Russ has had this problem before in past spring trainings. So this was nothing new for him. We all remember ECK missing most of September, and the last two weeks in August with his strain last season. Which is why the Cardinals were worried most about him. According to the Dr, if he doesn’t push it, he will be fine. Good to hear. I know we all would rather him miss 10-15 days now, than 4-6 weeks in May & June.

Still I am concerned about the growing problem Cardinal players seem to have with oblique pulls and strains. Last year alone ECK, Gary(WILD TURKEY SHOOTERS FOR EVERYONE!!)Bennett, and Albert Pujols missed time with oblique strains. Thank the Good Lord above that Albert is a fast healer. ECK said this week that he was never right even in the post season after he strained his oblique. He got treatment daily during the playoffs. He was in pain most of that time. In past seasons Woody,IZZY, and Mike Matheny missed time with oblique strains. My questions are simple. Why is this happening? And what can be done to prevent it from happening in the future? I could be very wrong about this, but an oblique pull or strain should be something that is easily prevented.

In other news Looper’s first start in 10 years went well. In three innings of work he gave up two hits, one walk and one run. While striking out one batter. Not too shabby for a guy who for the past decade has only been used to pitching for one inning. The two biggest problems facing Loop as he tries to make the switch from set up man and closer to starter, are not showing up so early to the ball park before his games. And slowing down his delivery. Meaning for his entire professional career he has been a balls out pitcher. He’s come in and pitched at full speed. As a reliever he has never had to conserve his energy. He’s needed to come in and throw as hard as he can without worrying about getting tired. Now he needs to slow everything down. He needs to condition himself to throw a 100+ pitches, and finish 6 or 7 innings every 5 days. Dave Duncan thinks he can help Looper with his delivery. And if anybody can, we all know it’s Dave.

I must admit when I first heard about Loop moving to the starting rotation, I thought it was a joke. A bad joke. But now, after reading all the articles, and hearing what Dave, Tony and Loop have been saying for almost a month now. I gotta admit I’m pulling for the guy to be the 5th starter till Mark Mulder gets healthy. If he does not make it, I don’t know what they are going to do with him. The bullpen is full. Unless Josh Kinney keeps throwing like he has in his first two appearances. If so, Loop will probably go back to setting up IZZY. And Kinney will be in Memphis come April. Kinney was a big part of why the Cards won it all last year. So I hope he will turn it around quickly. Duncan says pitchers like Kinney always start out slow, because he relies so much on breaking pitches. I hope that’s all it is. He’s a likeable guy, and I hope he makes the club.

The rumors persist that the Cardinals are shopping both Loop and Juan Enc. Both the Phillie’s and the Dodgers need a corner outfielder and bullpen help. And both have a starter that the Cardinals would like to have. The Phillie’s have John Leiber. And the Dodgers have Brad Penny. Now I would be all for a trade that brought us Brad Penny. The dude is a monster. Leiber? Not so much. He is an average pitcher on his best day. Go check his stats, that’s all he has been his entire career. Penny has so much more upside. Did you see the first two innings of the All-Star Game last year? Dang dude, I’d love to have that guy taking the hill for my team every 5th day. Another big plus with Penny is he is under control for another 3 seasons for less than $10 Million dollars for every year. Of course one big problem is, if the Dodgers put Penny on the market, they can pretty much name their price. With the over inflated pitching market this winter, I am serious when I say the Dodgers can flip threw their potential trade partners minor league programs, and pick out the best of the best prospects. And they will probably get them. Now Walt won’t go that route. Since the Mulder trade, he has been dead set on not mortgaging the future, to pay for the present. So while Penny is the obvious choice between him and Leiber, Leiber might be the only guy they realistically have a shot at. So the Cardinals might just open up the season with Carp, Wells, Reyes, AWesome, and Leiber. Not too bad if A&A,Wells&Leiber pull their own weight. But I’d much rather it be, Carp, Penny, AWesome, Reys, Wells. And then come August or September a healthy Mulder shows up. Remember, you can never have too much pitching. Now with a starting rotation like that, guess who suddenly becomes a favorite to win back-to-back World Series Championships?

In other pitching news both Adam and Wells threw well in their first starts of the spring. Wells only got threw 2 innings, but it was his first start of the spring. And the big thing for him this season is he is healthy and trying to get back into the grove of things for his first couple of starts. So according to Dave Duncan, don’t pay to close attention to Kip Wells spring stats. Adam actually threw very well for his second start on Monday. He went 4 innings and gave up no runs. But the Cardinals still lost to houston 5-0. Chris Duncan had a great day in the outfield. He made two awesome catches to save some runs. The first was a sliding catch, and then he popped up and threw a missile to first to double off a runner. The very next batter he made a diving,tumbling catch to end the inning. What did I tell you people? Leave the kid alone. He’s going to be fine. Chris will be a great outfielder for the Cardinals for years to come. Hear me now, believe me later.

I’ll be back in a couple days with a story about how little attention the Cardinals are getting from the national media coming off the franchises 10th World Series title. Till next time, keep making it bounce.

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