Tony LaRussa continued his extreme favoritism towards veteran players Saturday when he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he would consider using Cardinal's right-hander Chris Carpenter as the team's closer.
Carpenter, the 33-year-old former Cy Young award winner, is coming off an injury shortened year in which he pitched only 15 innings for fourth place St. Louis. In September, Carpenter came down with triceps tendinitis in his return from 2007 Tommy John surgery.
Carpenter seems like a rather odd consideration for the closer role, considering the Cardinals have seemingly two closers waiting-in-wings.
Chris Perez, the Cardinal's number two prospect heading into 2008 according to Baseball America, appeared to be the favorite for the position heading into the 2009 offseason. Perez pitched ably during 2008, tossing 41.2 innings while striking out a batter an inning. During his rookie campaign, the right-handed flamethrower also collected seven saves with his mid-90's sinking fastball and effective 85-87 mph slider.
While Perez did not exactly light batters up early on in his call-up, he settled down late in the 2008 season, posting a remarkable August in which he compiled six of his seven saves and a 0.00 ERA after being promoted to the closer position. He evened off in September, however, which caused LaRussa to remove him from the role.
Jason Motte grabbed one of Perez' blown saves in September and showed St. Louis management what he was capable of. During his September call up, Motte posted a 0.82 ERA and through 11 IP, he struck out 16.
Motte has not always been on the Cardinal's radar as a possible closer, but after his outstanding start, Motte is hard to ignore. Profiling as a setup man prior to 2008, Motte's dominant strikeout rate and composure have to make him a candidate heading into 2009. Despite the small sample size, Motte has all the makings of a closer: a heater in the high 90's, an improving slider, and a junkball splitter.
In addition, LaRussa has right-handed veteran Ryan Franklin who has enjoyed a resurgence in St. Louis and had moderate success filling in for Jason Isringhausen last year.
To mention Chris Carpenter as a possible closer for St. Louis is illogical and a tactical mess. LaRussa has three quality arms in his bullpen willing and ready to close out games, and not enough consistent starting pitchers.
To take Carpenter, as injury prone as he is, out of the mix means that the Cardinals will have to get a full year from Adam Wainwright and repeat years from Kyle Loshe, Todd Wellemeyer, and right fielder Ryan Ludwick in order to compete.
If Tony LaRussa continues his pigheadedness towards playing his budding stars in the roles they are most comfortable with, it is almost guaranteed that the 2009 Cardinals will not resemble the competitors fielded in 2008.
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