Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Fernando Salas

Daydream Believer

Pinch me.

It’s the postseason and my St. Louis Cardinals have conquered the unconquerable, done the unthinkable.

This team, who was 10 ½ games out of first place in the NL Central during the last week in August put on the turbo-boosters and raced into October, beating the odds-favorite pitching monsters of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series and then moving on to snuff the mighty Brewers in the National League Championship Series.

Pinch me.

This is the team who lost their “Ace” Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery during Spring Training, whose veteran closer fought a prolonged and painful struggle to “get it right” through a good part of the season before finally hanging up his cleats, whose bullpen woes and injury bugs peaked early and haunted faithful fans.  This is the team who failed to reach a contract extension agreement with their legendary (pending free agent) first baseman before the start of the season, leaving a cloud of doubt over the future of the club. This is the team whose manager battled SHINGLES for what seemed like an eternity.  This was the team nobody expected to be here.

And yet, here we are.

The Cardinals are heading back to the World Series, five years after another of their unexpected (and victorious) runs through the postseason.

The Texas Rangers are the bulldogs waiting for us in the final showdown.  The Cardinals are (again) the underdogs, facing a powerhouse lineup that should strike fear in the hearts of any opposing pitching staff.

Except this team is the 2011 Cardinals, something unexpected, something… special.  This is the team with the power trio of Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday.  This is the team with Golden (glove) Boy, Yadier Molina anchoring the battery.  This is the team of David Freese, whose superhero powers apparently magnify in the postseason.  This is the team of churlish veteran Ace Chris Carpenter, the wise-beyond-his-years lefty, Jaime Garcia, and the resurgence of Kyle Lohse. This is the team with an MVP bullpen (Fernando Salas, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Lance Lynn…), a work in progress throughout the entire season, rich in talent and tuned to perfection under the mad genius of Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan.

This team exemplifies the saying:  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The midseason trade for shortstop Rafael Furcal added a potent combo of game-changing glove and switch-hitting hot bat.  The Colby Rasmus trade, initially flunking all seemingly rational baseball criteria, now shines with the luster of La Russa brilliance (isn’t hindsight incredible?) as pitchers Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski have all contributed handily to the magic of these rally Cardinals with Jon Jay in centerfield, making Rasmus’ absence (dare I say?) forgettable.

As I sit here composing this ode to what looks more and more like a team of destiny, I am finding it difficult to know where to stop.  So many players up and down the bench, the bullpen and the rotation have contributed to get this hot surging team to the magical summit: Allen “Do It For Torty” Craig, Nick Punto, Adron Chambers, Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, Ryan Theriot… the list goes on and on.  When you stop to think, it is beyond belief:  the timely talent really does run that deep, this team has surpassed every expectation.  But don’t tell them that.  They have momentum and their eyes on the ultimate prize.  They are aiming for the top.

This is not a team of superstars, this is a TEAM.  The light-hearted frivolities: Puma suits, rookie hazing costumes, the “shredder”, tortoises, rally squirrels, “Happy Flights” and sprinkles have combined with an underlying burst of what can only be described as a perfect storm of “Do It or Go Home” mentality.

Game 1 of the World Series starts tomorrow…. and it starts at Busch Stadium.

Pinch me.

Go Cards!  😉

Don’t Blink

There’s something to be said about how life can change in the blink of an eye.  Yesterday was one of those days on many levels in my life.  On a personal note, my family suffered the unexpected tragic loss of a dear loved one, much too young.  Late breaking news of Osama Bin Laden’s death united the nation and brought spontaneous celebrations and outpourings of patriotism.  And sandwiched somewhere in the middle of a day that will forever be remembered for everything else, there was baseball.

Being that this is a site about baseball, and if you’re reading this now, you are probably looking for something about baseball, let’s talk.

Heading into the weekend, Cardinal Nation was riding high.  The Birds have been collecting wins at an impressive rate, winning 14 of their last 18 games going into Sunday, with a chance to get their first series’ sweep of 2011 against the Braves. A young bullpen surge from Fernando Salas and Eduardo Sanchez has helped distract from the ongoing crash-and-burn of Cardinal closer, Ryan Franklin.  Jake Westbrook, the early weak link in our rotation, has picked up the slack and added two improved outings to his 2011 resume.  Matt Holliday, solid as ever, has defied his “notorious slow starter” label and is batting .418 and slugging .646 with a.521 OBP.  (Translated:  Matt is hitting the ball and hitting it well.)  Lance Berkman too, is absolutely killing it right now.  On April 28th, Lance had another two homerun game, his THIRD multiple homerun game in this young 2011 season.  Combine the offensive threat of Holliday, Berkman and one Albert Pujols with the scrappy play of newcomers Daniel Descalso, Nick Punto and backup catcher Gerald Laird and it was easy to see why Cardinal fans were smiling.

Which brings us to Diamond Diaries’ darling David Freese…

Even cautiously playing only 2 of every 3 games due to his having both ankles surgically repaired in the offseason, Freese has again reminded the Cardinals why they took another chance on him.  David was batting .356 with 2 homeruns and 14 RBI as of yesterday’s game.

However, disaster struck in the 6th inning when Dave was hit on the back of his left hand by a fastball pitched inside, breaking his 3rd metacarpal.  Estimates of recovery time for this injury are 6-8 weeks. Go ahead… take a moment and let it sink in.  It took me a while too….

Can the guy be any unluckier?  After months of grueling rehab on his ankles (both during the 2010 season injuries and then again after surgeries) Freese was finally back in the game only to be sidelined AGAIN.  My heart goes out to him. After all, we were just getting past those “bubble wrap” and “injury prone” comments.  Luckily we have some third base alternatives not named Albert Pujols to hold down the hotcorner until Dave heals yet another injured extremity.

Let’s not talk about how Ryan Theriot dropped that routine pop fly in the 9th inning yesterday, helping to earn down-on-his-own-bad-luck Ryan Franklin the loss after pitching a gem of an 8th inning that could have been a turning point in his string of unfortunate events.  Nah…. We won’t talk about that.

And being that utility infielder Nick Punto, fresh off the DL himself, was also pulled from the game yesterday as a precaution for hamstring tenderness, we won’t talk about our dwindling supply of infielders.  (Although watching Albert Pujols briefly patrol 3rd base yesterday was an enjoyable oddity.)

All good reminders not to take anything for granted… in baseball, or life.

Get Well Soon, David Freese!  😉

Have a blessed Monday, Cards fans.

Rating the Cardinal Rivalries

Are you sick of the Cardinals-Reds Rivalry already? Is it the epic Cubs-Cardinals history that makes a true Rivalry?  Do the Reds deserve the title just because they happen to have the hot button hotheads right now?  What do you think?  Which team is the Cardinals’ biggest nemesis?  Cast your vote in the poll below and/or in the comments section if you have more to say.

Earlier this month, my cousin in Wisconsin asked me which team we Cardinals fans considered to be the Cards’ biggest rivalry.  My immediate response was “The Cubs” but then I considered the recent scubbub with the Reds.  The Brewers didn’t make my list, but my meager 5-6 years of baseball background might  disqualify my opinion in such matters.  So, I threw it out to my Cardinal Twitter tweeps and some Facebook pals as well.

A sampling of responses:

and

Last night during the game, the same question popped up on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight Sunday Night Baseball Chat.  So, I thought the question might deserve another audience.

So many valid points.  Yet many different opinions.  One thing’s for certain, the Brewers aren’t even on the rivalry radar among Cardinal Nation.  (Sorry, cuz!)  😉

Oh, and speaking of the Reds…. What a weekend!  Our Cardinals took 2 of 3 games as Yadier Molina ushered the Reds out of town with a game-winning 3-run homerun in yesterday’s rainy finale.  Westbrook pitched a solid outing (*whew*) while Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez and Mitchell Boggs all had the right stuff as well.  The make-up of the Cardinal bullpen has changed considerably in just the first few weeks of the season, but it is a breath of fresh air to see the new crew picking up the slack and getting the job done right.  The pace is picking up after an unbelievably slow, injury-plagued start to the season.  In fact, the Cards have worked their way up into 1st place in the NL Central today, sitting only 0.5 games ahead of ….. the Brewers?!?

Are you sitting down for this??….  Yesterday,  Ryan Franklin the deposed closer showed up without his trademark beard/goat/chinpuff/chinzilla yesterday.  The now clean-shaven Franklin may be able to hide in plain sight, almost unrecognizable.  Franklin without his facial hair???  If it weren’t so sad, I’d be talking about how much better he looks, but now just doesn’t seem like the time for that.  (Screen capture from the televised game last night. )

Also, Albert Pujols was removed from the game last night with reported tightness in his hamstring.  That should be enough to keep us worrying on a day without Cardinals baseball!

Have a great 1st-place kind of Monday, Cardinal Nation!

Tomorrow the Redbirds take on the Astros in Houston.

Go Cards!!  =)

UCB Roundtable – Day 4

Welcome to Monday’s Girl Talk… except, this week, we let the boys join in! Before you gasp in shock, let me explain. Each year the United Cardinal Bloggers does a roundtable discussion in October, with the bloggers taking turns asking a question. Today is ladies’s day, so read through our question and the boys of the UCB answers, then head over to the UCB website and check out the full calendar of questions and sites. Enjoy!


Our question won’t surprise most of you, given our love of the Baby Birds. We wanted to know which of our beloved Baby Birds that were wandering the grass of Busch Stadium throughout the year should be looked at as permanent members of the squad next year, either as regulars or bench guys. We also asked which players should get the longest looks in the spring and which of the boys the team should (*gasp*) cut ties with, whether through trades or releasing them. I included the names Daniel Descalso, Allen Craig, Mark Hamilton, Fernando Salas, Joe Mather, Tyler Greene, Matt Pagnozzi and Bryan Anderson, but the responses threw out a couple other names as well. I’ll toss it over to the boys, then chime in with my thoughts at the end…

Daniel (C70 At The Bat)

I think Salas has established himself as a strong bullpen presence and should be a front-runner for a bullpen slot next year.  Craig looks like he’s good for at least a platoon slot in the outfield and Descalso should be a capable bench guy, though I’m not completely sold on him taking over second for Schumaker.


As for the catchers, I think they should keep Bryan Anderson; it’s obvious they are going to keep Matt Pagnozzi.  Anderson needs to be traded, because he’s not going to get the shot he needs in St. Louis.

The rest, I don’t mind having them in the system, don’t mind them getting spot time in the bigs, but if the club can get something for them, so be it.

Dennis (Pitchers Hit Eighth)

The one player who I think should be penciled in as a regular next year is Salas. I believe that his 30 innings pitched represent just large enough a sampling to pass judgment on him, and his 3.52 ERA is lower than both Boggs and Miller. I’d like to see Craig make the team as well, but I have reservations about his ability to be effective as a platoon player or pinch hitter.  He seems like he’s best suited for an everyday slot that affords him 500+ plate appearances a year.  Unless a slot opens due to trade/injury, I just don’t see that opportunity there for him right now.
The situation at catcher deserves some real consideration.  At 23, Anderson should probably be the catcher of the future.  If Pagnozzi is the backup coming out of spring training, and the Cardinals force Yadi to sit more games, the trade value for Pagnozzi could rise.  Pagnozzi could be traded by the deadline, and Anderson could be bumped up.  If needed, Descalso may be a viable option at 2B, but I haven’t seen enough of him to feel comfortable writing his name in the lineup there.  As for Green (27), Hamilton (26), and Mather (28), they are starting to feel like “players to be named later”.

Pip (Fungoes)

One player who showed some promise in limited action was Daniel Descalso. He demonstrated excellent plate discipline and offers versatility at two positions where the team has the most doubts, second base and third base. Assuming he’s not traded this winter, Bryan Anderson should get some exposure not for a spot on the 25-man roster but in order to showcase his talent for a trade.

Which players should the team consider cutting ties with, whether through trades or releasing them?
Anderson, certainly, because he is blocked as both a starting catcher and a backup. Craig and Mather offer largely the same skill set, so the team needs only one. And depending on what happens with Albert Pujols, Mark Hamilton will either be superfluous or a good-buy (and goodbye) replacement.

Joseph (The McBrayer-Baseball Blog)

Joey Bombs Mather, may not get anything in return.

Dustin (Welcome To Baseball Heaven)

As far as guys who could become permanent members of the squad next year I’m leaning towards Salas, Pagnozzi and Allen Craig. Fernando established himself as a viable option out of the pen as a middle reliever this past season. I could be wrong but I’m assuming with a solid spring that Matt Pagnozzi will be Yadi’s backup next year. I’m thinking Allen Craig will get the nod over Joe Mather as an outfield bench option. I’d also like to see Descalso get a long look next spring as a utility guy in the infield.
That leaves names such as Mather and Greene on the outside looking in. I do bounce back and forth a lot on what to do with Craig and Mather, but the organization needs to make a choice and possibly move one. As far as Tyler Greene I just don’t know. He seems to have a never ending case of the yips every time he makes an appearance in St. Louis.

Mark (RetroSimba)

Salas should help the bullpen in 2011. He could be an upgrade over Hawksworth. Craig is a better hitter and run producer than he showed in the majors this year. He should have a role as a bench player with St. Louis in 2011. Descalso should compete for a utilityman role.

I agree that Anderson should be given a long look in the spring, and Cards should make a decision to keep him or trade him.

I agree that Mather and Hamilton have no futures with this club, and should be traded.

Tom (Cardinals GM)

Salas is in. He looked sharp and deserves a bullpen shot. Craig I would keep as an extra outfielder,. He show the prowess to get some hits and a spot starter.  

After that, I am not handing out spots just yet. I believe the backup to Molina will be/and needs to be a veteran (can you insert walkaway Dioner Navarro here?) Pagnozzi needs more daily reps in Memphis. Anderson needs to be somewhere else, in a package trade and Delscaso just needs to show us in Spring Training he is ready. The rest can play AAAA ball

Cole (Redbird Report)


I’d say Fernando Salas. He was solid just about every time he stepped out there this year. Also, you can’t ignore his 19 saves and 0.98 WHIP that he posted in AAA this season. He clearly has good stuff, and it wasn’t just at the minor league level. 

In 27 games with the Cardinals, Salas posted a 3.52 ERA and struck out 29 in 30.2 innings pitched. With Franklin aging (and struggling) I wouldn’t be surprised to see Salas get looks in the ninth inning next year. He’ll certainly be an eighth inning guy at the very least.

Bill (I-70 Baseball)


I am of the belief that a good portion of the Cardinals Minor League system are nothing more than career minor leaguers.  


Craig, Mather, Greene could all be traded or cut loose and I honestly would not notice or care (sorry, Erika). 


That being said, as for “long looks” next Spring, I would like to see Descalso, Anderson, and Pagnozzi be given every opportunity to play themselves out of a job.  Fernando Salas needs to be a part of this bullpen.  


Hamilton is intriguing, but projects as a first baseman.  Let’s hope he’s blocked.  

Finally, I think there are a few guys that need to get a look in Spring to determine where they belong this year.  Guys like Matt Carpenter and Darryl Jones need to be evaluated and determine where there future is and how quickly it is coming.

Goodness. Not much love for some of our favorite Baby Birds, is there? Last I checked Erika hadn’t read any of these responses… I think we should all be crossing our fingers that she hasn’t made it this far into today’s post. If she has, sorry dear, but I’m going to probably agree with all of the above.


I want Pags and Anderson given shots to make it on the roster as Yadi’s back-up, but whichever one doesn’t make it should probably just be traded ASAP, because it’s not worth keeping them both around anymore.


I think Descalso will become next year’s Tyler Greene if he doesn’t make the roster. He’ll be the first one up to be the bench guy. In all honesty I want him to have a strong spring and oust Skippy for second base, but I’m not sure he’ll get that much of a chance.


Salas is here to stay. He put it a lot of miles this year between Memphis and St. Louis, and played well everywhere he went. Keep him around.


Craig needs consistent playing time. If he can get it in St. Louis and finally put up the numbers he’s been putting up in Memphis he’ll stick. If not, sayonara.


The rest? You all know I love Joe Mather, but I don’t see him ever being anything more than a AAAA guy (*sheds a tear*). Tyler Greene has never impressed me at the big league level. Ever. His defense isn’t as good as Brendan, his bat isn’t as good as Skip, and I have to believe that there will be someone standing at third not named Tyler Greene. I like the look of Mark Hamilton, but if he is manning first for the Cardinals in the coming years, that means Albert is not. I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with that idea.


Now, we just included players that were actually on the big league squad at some point this year. There are still plenty of names and faces coming up through the ranks of the Cardinal minor league system… but it might be awhile before the calvary comes riding in. Just sayin’.


Thanks to Daniel and the rest of the UCB team for letting us join in on the fun, and be sure to check in over at the official site to see some of our responses to other questions throughout the month of October! Oh hey, while I’ve got you here, yesterday my newest post went up at I-70 Baseball, checking out the Cardinals from 1900-1905. Give it a look and let me know what you think!

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