Notes: Where business meets baseball
Cards' ownership of Springfield franchise makes sense
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It's a rare treat for a team, when the business and baseball sides of things bring you to the same conclusion. But that was certainly the case for the Cardinals when they elected to move their Double-A affiliation from just outside Knoxville, Tenn., to the new Hammons Field in Springfield.
The baseball side is obvious: The park is simply dazzling, one of the finest stadiums you'll see in Double-A. From the capacity of 10,500 to the wide concourses to the elaborate training facility, Hammons Field will be a fine place to play ball. But the business side is a big deal, too: The Springfield/Branson area is a strategic one for the Redbirds.
So the Major League club bought the El Paso Diablos this past offseason and moved the franchise to Springfield. It's one of two minor league teams owned by the Cardinals, along with the Palm Beach team in the Florida State League.
"We don't own a lot of franchises," said Mark Lamping, team president. "We own two. Most Double-A teams are not owned by Major League clubs. But purchasing this team was something we felt made a lot of sense because it's clear that this market, Springfield and the Ozarks, is one of our most important secondary markets outside of St. Louis.
"It's also a market that's actually closer to Kansas City, and we share it with the Royals. We feel this strengthens our position here. So from a business standpoint, we bought the team for business reasons. But we affiliated here in Springfield, at this facility, for baseball reasons. It's a great baseball facility. The players are going to be playing in front of big crowds -- a great learning experience."
The Cardinals' main rivals on the field are the Cubs and Astros, but in southwestern Missouri, it's a question of Cards or Royals. And the Springfield affiliation was made with that in mind.
"We've always felt that we were the dominant team in this market, because we have a real long history," Lamping said. "We had a minor league team here [from 1930-42], [Stan] Musial played here, and we have a great radio affiliate down here that we have had for a long time. Our games are televised down here. But also, you can get the Royals' games on TV down here, and get them on radio as well. You never want to take anything for granted. It's an important marketplace. It helps strengthen an already strong position."
Morris makes progress: Matt Morris' pitching line on Saturday wasn't much better than what he managed the last time out, but he said he felt much better than he did on Monday against the Mets. Morris permitted three runs on seven hits, striking out two and walking one, but came out of the game proclaiming his outing a modest success. As he works toward an April 19 regular-season debut, Morris is still more interested in how his arm responds than in how the results turn out.
"The last one was a bump in the road for sure," Morris said. "I was sailing along and then just couldn't get loose that last time. I worked all week and went out today and felt better. It's part of the process up to now."
Morris hasn't changed his plans, and still expects to be in Florida on Friday, the day of the final home opener in the current Busch Stadium. He had already resigned himself to not pitching on Opening Day, but admitted it will be tough to miss the ceremony that is the start of a new season at Busch.
"The disappointment is not being there," Morris said. "The atmosphere is unbelievable, and the emotion. I'd almost rather just watch from the side anyway, from the dugout, rather than pitching, because you don't get to enjoy it."
Cardinals 4, Cardinals 3: The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Springfield Cardinals in Saturday afternoon's exhibition by a score of 4-3. So Taguchi scored the winning run on an error in the seventh inning. Taguchi reached on a single, stole second and came around to score on Pete Zocollilo's infield hit and a throwing error.
Reggie Sanders drove in two runs with a double and a single, and four St. Louis pitchers combined for five shutout innings of relief. Al Reyes picked up the win and Julian Tavarez was credited with the save after striking out the side in a perfect ninth.
Pulsipher 'bitten' by another injury: Bill Pulsipher was just starting to feel better in his recovery from a broken right little toe when another ache got him. Pulsipher felt his right hamstring "bite" in Friday night's game in Oklahoma City. That cast a little more doubt on his effort to make the Cardinals' Opening Day roster, as the club continues to carry Kevin Jarvis on its barnstorming trip. Jarvis was cut on Wednesday, but would be the man to take Pulsipher's place if the lefty is unable to pitch.
"His toe is feeling pretty good," said La Russa. "There's a little fracture there, but he pitched with it. He had a little bite in his hamstring yesterday on one of the pitches, but he ended up finishing off the hitter. So we're gonna test him the next day or two here."
A clearly frustrated Pulsipher expressed disbelief at the misfortunes that have befallen him since Wednesday, when the Cards unofficially announced he had made the team.
Assistant managers? A donation to ARF, La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, got two fans into the dugout on Saturday afternoon. Teresa Chasteen-Calhoun and Wayne Stephens watched the game alongside La Russa and the players.
"I think it's win-win," said La Russa. "I told them, 'A seat in the stands is better than the seat in the dugout.' But it is a different perspective."
Walker goes deep: Larry Walker ripped a homer onto the roof of Springfield's infield practice facility during batting practice on Saturday, and the shot had observers talking throughout the game. The facility stands behind the right-field wall at Hammons Field. Walker, however, downplayed the long ball, saying it's "not that far" to the roof.
"Albert could hit one up there," Walker said, referring to the right-handed-hitting Pujols' opposite-field power.
Final Four fans: The Final Four is in St. Louis this weekend, but unfortunately for Mark Mulder, the Cardinals are not. Mulder, a Michigan State alum, was unable to make the trip to see his alma mater take on North Carolina at the Edward Jones Dome. If Mulder hadn't been scheduled to pitch on Sunday, he and some other Cardinals would have headed up to St. Louis after Saturday afternoon's win.
Bits and pieces: Musial, who played in Springfield in 1941, threw out a ceremonial first pitch before Saturday's game. ... Andy Williams, an institution in nearby Branson, Mo., and best known for the song "Moon River," sang the national anthem. ... Roger Cedeno went 1-for-4 on Saturday as St. Louis' designated hitter. The club elected not to use a designated hitter against the Orioles on Friday night. ... Yadier Molina had the day off, but is expected to return to the lineup on Sunday.
Coming up: The Cards close out their exhibition season on Sunday with a 1:10 p.m. CT start against these same Springfield Cardinals. After the game, the big league club jets straight to Houston. The Redbirds will work out at Minute Maid Park on Monday afternoon, with the season opener set for 6:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday against the Astros.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.