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Notes: Starters shouldering load
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05/10/2003  3:15 PM ET 
Notes: Starters shouldering load
Ankiel lasts two innings in first start of year
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com Vote now for the 2003 All-Star game
Matt Morris has gone at least eight innings in four of his eight starts and leads the NL in innings pitched. (Cardinals/Scott Rovak)
CHICAGO -- Chicken, egg. Good news, bad news. The Cardinals pitching staff contradicts itself.

St. Louis' starters have been about as good as any in the National League. Entering Saturday's game, the Cardinals' rotation ranked fifth in the league in ERA, second in innings pitched, tied for first in complete games, second in winning percentage and first in innings pitched per start.

The Redbirds' relievers, however, have the second-most losses in the NL, the second-fewest saves, the most blown saves and the fewest innings pitched.

The thing is, those two sets of numbers are related. Manager Tony La Russa has ridden his starters harder than he would like to this year, in part because of the troubles his relievers have had.

"You can't play a six-month season pitching your starters into the eighth and ninth inning every day," La Russa said. "If you do that the first half of the season, by the time you get to the second half, they aren't gonna have much left. So our bullpen has to participate. They have to be used.

"Now, some of our starters are pitching so well, they've been economical with pitches, so you let them have it. But we'll get into these games, and our relievers are gonna be out there. And I think they're gonna do OK."

Matt Morris has been the No. 1 workhorse on the staff, lasting at least eight innings in four of his eight starts. At the end of the day Friday, he led the NL in innings pitched. But the St. Louis ace has been more efficient than ever, dropping his pitches per inning by nearly a full pitch since last year. His 14.33 P/IP ranks third in the National League.

"It's something we'll watch very carefully," said La Russa. "But what you watch carefully, like what Matt's been doing. His last two, three innings, every time he pitches, he's mixing his speeds more. It's not like he's raring back and pumping. So those innings are actually a little bit easier."

Paquette is back: The Cardinals have signed veteran utilityman Craig Paquette to a minor league contract. The Tigers released Paquette, 34, on April 29 to make room for youngster Andres Torres. An 11-year Major League veteran, Paquette played for La Russa in Oakland from 1993-95 and in St. Louis from 1999-2001. He enjoyed his best seasons as a Cardinal, smacking 15 homers in 2000 and again in '01.

He hit .152 (5-for-33) with no extra-base hits and no walks for Detroit this year before receiving his release.

Rough start for Ank: Rick Ankiel's return to starting did not go well. The lefty lasted just two innings for Double-A Tennessee. He allowed five runs on three hits, walking four. The Associated Press reported that while Ankiel was not charged with any wild pitches, he did throw two balls to the screen with no one on base. His ERA stands at 9.53.

Baby 'Birds: Triple-A Memphis fared much worse against the Iowa Cubs than the parent club did against Chicago. The Redbirds lost 13-5 at Iowa. Jimmy Journell pitched two perfect innings of relief, getting some work after his last start was suspended because of rain. ... Tennessee bounced back from Ankiel's difficult outing to beat Greenville, 11-9, in 13 innings. John Gall hit a walkoff two-run homer for the win. ... Single-A Palm Beach picked up an exciting win, 7-6, over Lakeland. as Jesse Roman hit a three-run pinch-homer. ... Single-A Peoria took an early lead and held off Quad City, 7-5. Travis Hanson tripled, homered and drove in three runs.

The player of the day was Memphis' Dee Haynes, who is coming on after a difficult start. Haynes went 4-for-4 with his sixth homer, raising his average to .236. He was the Cardinals' 14th-round pick in 2000.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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