Notes: La Russa to bat pitcher eighth
Skipper wants speed and on-base skills at the bottom of lineup
JUPITER, Fla. -- A discussion of leadoff possibilities for the 2008 Cardinals unearthed all sorts of interesting nuggets on Tuesday, but none more revealing than this: manager Tony La Russa will again use a "second leadoff man" in his lineup this year.
That is to say, La Russa fully intends and expects to bat the pitcher eighth in his lineup in '08, just as he did for the final two months of 2007. He had previously indicated that the plan was at least possible, but on Tuesday he went further.
During his daily morning briefing with reporters, La Russa was speaking mostly about his wide-open leadoff spot, and what qualities he seeks in the applicants for that job. He simply happened to reveal something else in the course of the chat.
"I've already answered this like 10 times," he said. "On-base percentage. That's the No. 1 priority. We're not going to have a guy that's going to steal bases like Rickey [Henderson] or Vince Coleman. ... The other thing is we're going to have the second leadoff as the ninth-place hitter, when we put the pitcher in the lineup."
Whether or not the correlation actually indicates causation, the Cardinals did score more runs when the pitcher was batting eighth last season. They scored 4.34 runs per game during the season's first 106 games, and after the switch was made, they averaged 4.64 runs per game.
More specifically, both the No. 8 and No. 9 spots performed more effectively. Cardinals pitchers hit .191 with a .217 on-base percentage and a .242 slugging percentage during the time they were ninth in the lineup. After La Russa changed tactics, pitchers put up a line of .210/.248/.240.
No. 8 hitters before the switch hit .263/.316/.338, while after the switch, No. 9 hitters hit .265/.321/.388.
Team Walker holds on: In Tuesday's intrasquad "coaches game," Team Walker defeated Team Matheny. With Minor League pitching coordinator Dyar Miller throwing batting practice to both teams' hitters, Larry Walker's team eked out a close victory over Mike Matheny's squad.
Team Matheny got the tying run to the plate in the final inning with Nick Stavinoha at the plate, and Stavinoha drilled a deep, deep drive to left field. Unfortunately, the ball was hit into the teeth of a stiff Jupiter wind, and Stavinoha's ball fell into Amaury Marti's glove right at the fence.
On the defensive side, the star was Brendan Ryan, the shortstop for Team Walker. Ryan made a slick play on an extremely high hop off the bat of Jarrett Hoffpauir, then went deep in the hole and made a strong throw to retire David Freese.
"You try to stay as athletic as possible," Ryan said. "You saw Ozzie [Smith] play, and he was always in an athletic position no matter what it was. I just kind of had my feet shuffled and was able to make a different move."
Barton hurt: Rule 5 Draftee Brian Barton, who underwent right knee surgery last fall, was held out of camp on Tuesday as he gets the knee checked out. Barton reported feeling some discomfort and went for an examination on Tuesday afternoon.
"He's had some soreness, and he's been restricted to not pushing it," La Russa said. "So he's going to get it looked at."
Quotable: "You get tired of practicing at some point. You want to be able to go against somebody and have a score. Just like, towards the end, you get tired of playing games that are practice. You want to have real games."-- La Russa
Tickets on sale Friday: Single-game regular-season Cardinals tickets will go on sale on Friday at 9 a.m. CT and may be purchased online. Tickets are available for all games except Opening Day.
Weather report: The start of games brings a drastic change in the weather. Wednesday's forecast calls for a first-pitch temperature of 62 degrees, dropping throughout the game. There's a chance of a few showers early, but it should dry up as the afternoon goes on.
Coming up: Finally, the Cards start playing games on Wednesday. Mitchell Boggs will start for the Redbirds in an exhibition against St. Louis University. The game is slated to start at 12:05 p.m. CT, and Chris Merrick is the scheduled starter for the Billikens.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.