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  • Walker preps for big drive

    QUOTE

    Walker prepares for the big drive
    By Joe Strauss
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    10/03/2005

    The drive from the Central West End takes no more than 15 minutes most days. Depending on whether the Cardinals won the night before, Reggie Sanders or Larry Walker will climb behind the wheel of their two-man car pool to Busch Stadium. The other outfielder rides shotgun.

    There have been several days this season when, win or lose, the chauffeur on the drive downtown has been the passenger on the way home.

    On most of those days, Walker's neck has seized on him during a game, leaving him unable to turn his head comfortably.

    "It's just our way of leaving the wives with a vehicle," Walker deadpanned Monday.

    It is also a necessity of sorts. Walker's season has been interrupted repeatedly by a herniated disc in his neck. Doctors have administered cortisone injections four times, most recently late last month, to keep Walker in play for what probably will be the final month of his career. Earlier this season, Walker conceded the discomfort was enough to force him to retire if not for the promise October extended.

    In July, Walker had a third injection, which sidelined him 26 games until he returned Aug. 20. He could have played earlier but was urged to stay out to keep himself "live" for the postseason. "Maybe that month I sat will give me the extra month of October," he said.

    Walker received traction for much of the time he was on the disabled list following the second shot. A herniated - or ruptured - disc sometimes requires a surgical solution. Four cortisone shots is not considered optimal treatment.

    "You do what you have to do to be part of something like this," Walker said recently. "There are a lot of players who never get to be in this position with this kind of team. Until last year, I was one of them. I can't think of anything better than getting back to the World Series and winning. You can't top that as a professional."

    Sanders and Walker are National League lifers whose careers had not intersected until the Cardinals acquired Walker from the Colorado Rockies in August 2004. They share a Dec. 1 birthday and have endured a laundry list of injuries throughout their careers.

    "He respects everybody in here," Sanders said. "He knows it's about winning and what he can do that day to help the team win. That's why he was brought here."

    Sanders missed more than two months after suffering a broken leg in an outfield collision with center fielder Jim Edmonds on July 15. Sanders pressed to return for this month. He insists the leg no longer gives him pain, but there is lingering concern over putting himself in a position to make a hard slide. The fracture occurred in the leg he folds beneath him when he slides.

    "We've both had to deal with things," Sanders said. "He's helped me and I'd like to think I've somehow helped him. It all goes hand in hand.

    "Larry is a very tough guy; he's a guy with a lot of heart. He loves playing the game. He wanted to do whatever he could to help this ballclub win. That's what he's done."

    Walker had the last multihomer game in Busch Stadium history Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds and may find himself providing protection today, hitting behind first baseman Albert Pujols.

    The season has allowed him only 315 at-bats in 100 games and caused him frequently to leave games before the eighth inning. He has hit .289 with a .384 on-base percentage that ranks third on the team to Pujols and Edmonds.

    "I think the whole issue is his health," manager Tony La Russa said. "When he's been healthy, he's been very close to Larry in his prime. He may physically not have quite the same extras, but he's smarter so he makes up for it. It's all about the health. When he's struggled, it's been because of one of three or four things, and it's got to be difficult to play with. ... Hopefully, he'll stay healthy the whole month of October. He's a great player in every sense of the word."

    If this is Walker's last rodeo, he flinches from elevating his October above the group. "My answer is it's important to everyone in here," he said. "It's as important to me as it is to Reggie and Eck (David Eckstein). They're the only two guys with World Series rings. No guy in here is more important than another. We realize that."

    Walker concedes his time in Colorado had grown tedious by the time he was dealt. He also had become weary of suggestions that he looked for reasons to sit rather than play.

    "You heard a lot of things when he was in Colorado that he wouldn't play hurt," Sanders said. "What I've seen is anything but that. I really think Larry understands what we're trying to do here. You do what you can do to win that day. It's a struggle for him some days to go out there. It isn't always easy. But he's willing to do what he can within whatever his limitations are that day to help us.

    "It's been a challenge for him every day. He's gone out there not feeling his best and produced. It's gone beyond just going out there to play. You have to have drive to do that."

    It always comes back to the drive. [/b][/quote]

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

  • #2
    Walker will be crucial this postseason.
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    "He'll Finnish You Off"

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    • #3
      oh...I thought this about either the golf clubs or car owned by Matt Walker.

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      • #4
        I wish I had seen him play in his prime. I knew his stats, but even now he is one of the smartest, smoothest players I have ever seen - fun to watch in all phases of the game.

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        • #5
          QUOTE(Larry Walker)

          Last year, coming into the playoffs, I was on such a high because the past nine years before that I'd been in Colorado where the playoffs were usually the last thing on our minds. We were usually double digits out of first place.

          Then, after the trade, all of a sudden my team was in first place by double digits. I felt like I was riding a wave the whole time. I'm generally a pretty even-keeled guy -- I don't get too far up or down. But I was really high right through the World Series with the Cardinals last year.

          This year I'm much calmer. I've been here the whole year and I've had a chance to experience everybody and everything. It's more of a fit for me this year than last year when I was thrown into the middle of a first-place club.

          As far as the Division Series goes, we can't be overconfident against the Padres. But that's not really too much of a concern on this team. We're a confident club and we've been that way all year, but we're also a team that has the ability to take it one game at a time. We don't get too far ahead of ourselves.

          Coming in overconfident would be an easy thing to do because our regular season record was so much better than the Padres', so I think as a team, we're wary of that. I know the media would have a field day if the team with the worst record in the playoffs beat the team with the best record.

          We know better than that. The Padres have a good ballclub, otherwise they wouldn't be getting ready for a playoff series with us.

          I haven't fared too well against Jake Peavy, who will likely be the starter in Game 1. He's the kind of guy who can rely on one pitch. He's got such great movement on his fastball, cutting it and sinking it, and he also has good command of the pitch.

          But we'll see how that goes. I'm told that he's also very tough mentally, so I don't think that his lack of playoff experience is going to affect him that much. Let's face it, he led the league in ERA two years ago and he led the league in strikeouts this year, so he's definitely got quite a bit of ability.

          But we've got a pretty good club ourselves again this year. There's something special about the Cardinals. I don't know if I can pinpoint it but they have a great tradition and history behind this organization. All you have to do is walk around the stadium and the clubhouse to get that feeling. I think they have like nine World Series banners.

          Plus, they have Hall of Famers and other great players walking around the clubhouse. When I first came here, that was part of the high for me --- guys like Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Red Schoendienst would come strolling through the clubhouse. You don't take those guys for granted. Those people are part of the foundation of this franchise.

          Then you have the fans -- Cardinals Nation. Wherever you go, even out of town, you see people wearing a red shirt with a bird on it.
          [/b][/quote]

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          The noise was good, but I thought they phoned in a lot of the funk.

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          • #6
            QUOTE(Ohio Blues @ Oct 3 2005, 11:01 PM) Quoted post

            Walker will be crucial this postseason.
            [/b][/quote]

            Not as much as Jimmy...but damn close.

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