Oops, wait, wrong team.
Although Ernie Banks’ Cubs will be playing a doubleheader today in Chicago, just like the Nats and Cards will in St. Louis. And let’s hope the silliness that caused the spring training fight club is a thing of the past. With Nyjer Morgan traded to the Brewers, maybe that will be the case.
Morgan was expendable because of the spring training play of our old friend Rick Ankiel, who signed with the Nationals in the off-season and is now their regular centerfielder. This is the first time back at Busch Stadium for Rick, so no doubt a warm welcome is expected. (Or as warm as it can be on a chilly day.)
As an aside, during the Fox Sports Midwest pre-game show last night, a clip was shown of the homer he hit during his first major league game as an outfielder in August 2007. Seeing that still gives me goosebumps. Seriously, what a moment! (And I think that was the most excited I’ve ever seen Tony La Russa too — even more than at the end of game five of the ’06 World Series.) Ah, well, not that I wish Rick was still a Cardinal. I remember how he hit in 2009. But, like most Cards fans, I will always have a soft spot for him and many recollections of his ups and downs.
(UPDATE: OK, how awesome is Rick Ankiel? As reported in a tweet this morning from Tom Ackerman of KMOX, take a look at the ad Rick placed in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Awwww!!)
Rick is not the only new face on the Nationals this season — of course they also have a new rightfielder in Jayson Werth. Both are off to a bit of a slow start this season, hitting .211 and .200 respectively. Rick has one homer and four RBI, while Werth has two HRS and only two RBI. Let’s hope those trends continue for the next three games. (Sorry, Rick.)
The Cards roster will look a little bit different than it did during the last Cards game on Sunday afternoon. As Miranda detailed yesterday, Skip Schumaker and Allen Craig are now on the disabled list and Nick Punto and Mark Hamilton are taking their roster spots. OK, Nick Punto, you’re this year’s designated scrappy guy — let’s see what you’ve got. (And, though Daniel may have wondered last night, the name of this site is not at risk of changing. Punto has a lot to prove for that to happen. And has to pitch at least five times and compile a 1.00 WHIP in the process.)
One other hoped-for change was made yesterday: Ryan Franklin is no longer the closer. And, for now, there is no official closer, as Matthew Leach reported on Cardinals.com:
La Russa acknowledged on Tuesday that he and his staff have made a change in how they view the ninth inning, which means that at the very least, Franklin is no longer the automatic choice to get save chances. But beyond that, the manager wasn’t really giving anything away. He did not divulge whether he has one pitcher to whom he intends to funnel save chances, or who that pitcher would be if he does.
“I think the thing to do is watch the game, see who comes out there,” La Russa said. “We can talk about it afterwards.”
That first paragraph is a lot of words to say very little, but being vague is certainly the La Russa way. As Leach also wrote: “Miguel Batista, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte are all among the candidates to get save chances while Franklin is used in other ways.” (That last part cracks me up — “used in other ways.” Pinch-runner, perhaps? Bat boy? Beer vendor?)
So, a long day of baseball is ahead of us today. With Jake Westbrook starting this afternoon instead of last night, that does throw a wrinkle into the plans for this weekend’s series against the Reds — Westbrook was scheduled to start on Sunday. And, as Derrick Goold writes, he would now be doing so on three days’ rest.
But that’s another worry for another day, right? First comes hitting again and winning — those things that were missing the last time the Cardinals played at Busch.
Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.