I've heard a lot of buzz the last couple of days about the St. Louis Cardinals' unimpressive Grapefruit League record. Especially after the local nine got bombed Monday by the Detroit Tigers.
The Redbirds surrendered a total of 15 runs in back-to-back innings in a 17-5 loss that would have been embarrassing if it happened during the regular season. Those were ugly crooked numbers on the scoreboard, indeed. But let's try to remember that they were surrendered, for the most part, by a pair of pitchers who aren't expected to make the major league roster?
Lefty Lee Stoppleman was shelled for five earned runs on five hits and a walk over two-thirds of an inning while he struggled to throw his sweeping breaking stuff for strikes. Then Tyler Lyons came in and was somehow worse. He gave up seven earned runs on six hits and a walk in two-thirds of a frame.
Did anyone think those guys were tabbed for anyplace besides Class AAA Memphis?
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Shelby Miller started the game and allowed two runs on five hits over 2 1/3 innings. Was it his best work? No. But the spring is the time to work on things. It's also the time when kids trying to make the team start games in the place of All-Star caliber players. The defense isn't as good as it's going to be. The offense isn't as good as it ought to be. And players are trying to work on their weak points. They already know what they're good at. Would fans prefer Adam Wainwright work on a knuckleball in July or in March?
Just a wild guess here: The Cardinals are going to suddenly and dramatically get better over the next week or so when the big boys start getting innings in place of prospects who have been shipped back to the minors for much-needed polishing.
The Redbirds shipped enough players Monday to field a whole team. And more of the same will continue as the team cuts down the roster to 25.
It's no surprise when a team that has as few holes as the Cardinals gets off to a clunky spring training start. Those clubs have the luxury of reaching deep into the minors to get some exposure and experience for future contributors. Meanwhile, a team like the Cubs is full of guys who are on the bubble between the majors and a trip back to the bush leagues. There's no doubt they're going to be playing spring games like it's life and death while the Cardinals are just getting repetitions and exercise -- and hoping not to get anybody hurt.