Former Cardinals catcher Eli Marrero has a good chance of making the team at the catcher's spot. However, he'll have competition for the backup role with Gary "Sno Cones" Bennett.
"He knows his opportunity to have big league success is as a catcher," La Russa said Thursday as pitchers and catchers began their first official workouts of spring training. "I'm going to play him other places, (but) I don't want him to be too distracted. He's going to be looked at first as a catcher."I think it's safe to say that we got the better part of the deal with the Braves seeing as how neither Dreew nor Marrero are playing with Atlanta anymore.
Marrero, 33, spent last season with Colorado and the New York Mets, appearing in seven games behind the plate. Since the Cardinals traded him to Atlanta in 2003 — part of the J.D. Drew deal that netted Adam Wainwright and Jason Marquis — those are the only games Marrero has played at catcher.
It was early last season when Ricardo Rincon went down with a season-ending injury. As a LOOGY pitcher, Rincon will be competing for a job in an already-crowded bullpen featuring Randy Flores and Tyler Johnson. Because of the crowded pen, there's no guarantee that Rincon will pitch for the Cardinals this season either.
"No promises," manager Tony La Russa said Thursday, the first day of official workouts for pitchers and catchers. "If he's the best lefthand reliever, he'll be the No. 1 lefthand reliever. If he's second best, he'll pair up with a guy who's better. If they're all the same? We'll see."There's a chance that we could have three LOOGY pitchers in the bullpen, but it's a small chance at this point.
More than a year ago, the Cardinals signed Rincon to a two-year, $2.9 million deal to replace Ray King as the specialist in the bullpen. He brought some heady stats, such as lefties hitting .208 off him in a nine-year career and the lowest percentage of inherited runners to score (19.2) by any reliever in the previous 32 years.
The Cardinals are convinced he also brought a pre-existing injury.
Rincon arrived late a year ago for spring training because of visa issues, and then he left early and threw 22/3 innings without allowing a baserunner for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. He threw 31/3 innings into the season before elbow soreness ultimately ended his run of five consecutive seasons with more than 60 appearances.[...]
In October, then-rookie Tyler Johnson emerged as the Cardinals' true lefty specialist, riddling San Diego's lefthanded hitters with a slider a few Padres called the best they've seen. Johnson struck out 12 in 7 1/3 postseason innings. Now he's vying for his first full season in the majors. Randy Flores, who the Cardinals view as more than a lefty specialist, also handled the role — notably in the National League Championship Series — well enough to earn his first multiyear contract.
Combined, the two lefties allowed one run in 13 innings in October.
Duncan said he wouldn't object to having three lefties in the bullpen, but that it depends on how the righthanders pitch.
In some rather sad news, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is entering the final year of his contract. Sadly, there's been no negotiations with management on a contract extension. Tony has almost won more Cardinals games than that of the legendary manager Red Schoendienst but it would be sad to see TLR retire--if it comes to that option.
La Russa, 62, is also entering the last season of a three-year contract worth about $9 million without ongoing talk of an extension.It's like the case with Jim Edmonds. When they've been with the organization for so long, it's hard to imagine the Cardinals without them. This Cardinals fan would love to see La Russa back as a manager for as long as he wants to manage.
A similar situation surrounding New York Yankees manager Joe Torre has stirred something bordering on hysteria. La Russa insisted Thursday that his case should not cause a ripple.
"I'm willing to wait and see," said La Russa, who enters the season with two World Series titles and 2,297 career wins, including 977 with the Cardinals. "It's not an issue to me."
La Russa, who suggested as recently as last September that the team's market may be tiring of him, remained vague about whether he intends to manage beyond this season either in St. Louis or elsewhere.
"I'll keep saying it until people get it right, because it's the truth," La Russa said. "If the players, the fans or the organization want somebody different — whatever the contract says — the person shouldn't hang around. Whether it's the first, second or third of three years, I feel no different."
La Russa traditionally has waited for his contract to expire before negotiating the next. However, entering a lame-duck season in possession of a World Series championship and the third-most managerial wins in the game's history offers a unique set of circumstances.
"This is 12 years (in St. Louis). That's one issue," La Russa said. "Another is, even if you go year to year, if you're going to do a good enough job in a new situation, you have to be ready to commit yourself to three to five years. I wouldn't sign a three-year contract here or someplace else if I didn't think I had three years in me.
"At the end of the year, you just check and see how you feel. I don't know if they'll still want me. One of these years the players will have had enough of me — don't you think? — unless we keep enough of the young guys here. I keep it as simple as possible. We want to do everything we can to present another October opportunity for ourselves."
Memphis readers, please take note.
The Memphis Redbirds will host the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals on March 30 at AutoZone Park with WMC broadcasting the game locally.
The game will not be the first Cardinals-Redbirds game the local NBC affiliate has hosted on their air waves. WMC has broadcast the game between the Cardinals and their Triple-A affiliate three previous times dating back to 2000. Game time is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. with on-air pre-game beginning at 7 p.m.[...]
St. Louis will play on national television the following day in major league baseball's inaugural Civil Rights Game on ESPN. The World Series champs will take on the American League's Cleveland Indians at 4:30 p.m. at AutoZone Park.