I was glad to see Cardinals backup catcher Jason LaRue brought back for another season when the club inked him to a one-year contract over the winter. But I'm starting to wonder if he's getting a little too brittle to do the job.
LaRue is still a pretty good defensive catcher and the pitchers trust him, so he keeps things humming along when the Birds are in the field. At the plate, he's not the hitter he was when he was a starter for the Reds. But he is still a threat to drive in a few runs here and there...
Unfortunately, it looks like LaRue might be starting to break down physically, and it's putting the Cardinals in a bind.
It wasn't his fault that he hurt his hand in a spring training collision with Jason Bay that put his availability for the season opener in question. But after just a few innings in relief of starter Yadier Molina, LaRue now has a hamstring issue that appears as if it will send him to the disabled list. One problem is an accident. Two problems is a trend.
When Nick Stavinoha came into the game Sunday in Milwaukee as a pinch hitter down by three in the ninth, it wasn't because manager Tony La Russa wanted Stavinoha's bat in the game just that badly. It was because LaRue couldn't continue. A career outfielder was pressed into service behind the plate in a major league game. Yikes.
Stavinoha didn't do that badly in his half inning of work. He caught the ball and threw it back to the pitcher. But it was a non-eventful inning. What if a runner got on base and tried to steal second. what if there was a collision at the plate?
It looks like the Cardinals will have to call up Matt Pagnozzi as their backup while LaRue tries to get his hammy straight. I hope the Cardinals are comfortable with the good field, no hit Pagnozzi behind the dish. But I'm afraid that if Pagnozzi ends up being the second catcher that LaRussa will be reluctant to take Molina out of the game and he's going to get overworked.
Yadi doesn't like to come out of games. And he takes a beating behind the dish. So he has to have a break now and then. But he has taken an advanced role in the offense, batting in RBI spots with Ryan Ludwick moving up to second in the order. I hope he can hold up.