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  • Barton makes strong push

    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/spo...4?OpenDocument

    PORT ST. LUCIE, FLA. — Cardinals manager Tony La Russa long ago advanced the notion that experience breaks ties at the end of spring training. The adage is being challenged this month.

    Unable to carry more than five outfielders into the season, the Redbirds must decide whether veteran Juan Gonzalez or Rule 5 draftee Brian Barton better fits a 25-man roster also projecting Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan, Ryan Ludwick and Skip Schumaker. A camp predicated on "flexibility," according to general manager John Mozeliak, appears tilting in favor of youth over experience.

    Barton, 25, is hitting .350 with eight RBIs in 40 at-bats this spring; Gonzalez, 38, is hitting .308 with one home run and five RBIs in 26 at-bats but has labored with an abdominal condition the last two weeks.

    "I think you have to take notice of what Barton has done," Mozeliak said. "That's not to say a decision is made, but the impression he's made is obviously a positive one."
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    La Russa believes the major leagues no place to develop players, but on Saturday modified the philosophy to Barton's benefit.

    "When you have a (Rule 5) guy, if there's a way that guy can fit on your ballclub, you try to figure a way if you see a legitimate major-league future," La Russa said.

    The Cardinals must guarantee Gonzalez's deal for $750,000 should they place him on their 25-man roster. Barton would cost the major-league minimum in addition to the $50,000 draft price. Having just signed free-agent pitcher Kyle Lohse for $4.25 million, the club is unlikely to risk losing a prospect while guaranteeing an unavailable veteran's minor-league contract.

    Should the Cardinals fail to keep Barton on their opening day roster, he must be offered back to the Cleveland Indians for $25,000, an offer the Indians certainly would accept. Barton's play has been so strong, according to organizational thinking, the Indians are unlikely to accept a trade that would allow the Cardinals to option Barton to Triple-A Memphis.

    All but one of Gonzalez's starts have come as designated hitter, a vehicle National League teams no longer enjoy at spring home games. Barton's fresher legs and surprising opposite-field power represent an advantage in an organization inclined to get younger.

    "We've emphasized flexibility. That means flexibility among positions as well as financial flexibility," Mozeliak said. "Certainly with that, youth has its advantages."

    La Russa will meet with his coaching staff before Wednesday for input on the club's direction. He spoke to Mozeliak after Saturday's exhibition against the New York Mets. Just as the team made room for infielder Hector Luna in 2004, momentum appears solidly behind Barton.

    La Russa called it a "fair question" if an apparently transitional team is more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to a younger player with upside over a veteran role player.

    "I've heard it said that I and several managers besides myself prefer a veteran club. I don't really feel that way," La Russa said. "I prefer the club that gives you the best chance to win. When there's a young player and he's the best, he goes. The quality of the young outfielders in this camp who don't have a lot of experience is impressive. We don't have veteran outfielders, really."

    The outfield crush likely means Joe Mather and Colby Rasmus will be optioned, though Mather has perhaps done more to improve his standing than any other hitter in camp while Rasmus looms as the team's future starting center fielder.

    Any further injection of youth likely involves infielder Brendan Ryan, 25, who has enjoyed a solid camp but, according to La Russa on Saturday, is not positioned to challenge Cesar Izturis as the team's starting shortstop. Izturis has more errors (five) than hits (four) this spring after signing a one-year, $2.85 million deal in December.

    La Russa claimed Ryan has endured "a more erratic spring at short" than Izturis.

    "I'm not doubting Brendan could be a factor for us," La Russa said. "He hasn't had any hiccups in his play at third. But at short Brendan's a little out of control."

    Signed to a minor-league contract, Gonzalez might be asked to start the season at Memphis. He declined Thursday to say whether he would accept such an assignment.

    Gonzalez's entry into camp served as a potentially colorful thread. Virtually out of the major leagues for the last three seasons, the two-time American League MVP represented a righthanded deterrent against lefthanded pitching, a notion reinforced when his first Grapefruit League swing produced a home run against Mets ace Johan Santana.

    Catcher Yadier Molina, 25, grew up idolizing the fellow Puerto Rico native. Gonzalez lives in Vega Baja, a five-minute drive from Bayamon, where the catching Molinas learned their craft. Gonzalez and first baseman Albert Pujols quickly bonded; Gonzalez calls El Hombre "the best teammate I've ever had."

    The Cardinals planned to measure Gonzalez by his bat and his ability to stay healthy. La Russa repeatedly has praised Gonzalez for retaining the "classic swing" that produced 434 home runs with 1,404 RBIs in the American League. However, health has compromised that candidacy.

    Followed by a history of leg and back problems, Gonzalez underwent an MRI on Friday to determine the cause of discomfort in his left abdomen. He has not made a plate appearance since his only exhibition appearance in the outfield last Monday against the Atlanta Braves.

    Gonzalez swung in the cage Friday but has remained out of drills. "Swinging is fine," he said. "Running is the problem."

    Gonzalez disclosed Thursday he began experiencing abdominal discomfort about a week before his outfield cameo. The club withheld results Saturday pending a second reading by a radiologist.

    Questioned after Saturday's exhibition, La Russa admitted increased concern.

    "I do not think he was better this morning," he said. "And he's been resting and getting treated, so that's not a good sign."

    Barton has taken an opposite track. Rated "brutal" by one club decision-maker early in camp, Barton reversed course by exhibiting advertised speed and surprising opposite-field power. La Russa awarded Barton multiple plate appearances for the seventh time in eight games Saturday. Barton responded with his third triple of camp after scoring from first base on a first-inning double into the left-field corner.

    "I'm not looking at what other guys are doing. That only creates pressure," said Barton, who has played only 25 games above Double-A and has never taken a regular-season at-bat in the major leagues. "I root for them to do well just as I would want them to root for me to do well. If I go three for four, I can't do anything about someone else who goes four for five. All I can do is play my game."

    Insisting no decision on the fifth outfielder is imminent, La Russa said Barton must still cement a positive impression created the last several weeks.

    "What he needs to do is do it for the next two weeks. That's when the tests increase," La Russa said. "It doesn't happen a lot, but it has happened where a guy will do this the first two weeks and not the second two weeks. But he's certainly gotten everybody's attention."

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    To me it seems like a no-brainer between Gonzalez and Barton especially during a season where the team is not really expected to contend even if Barton is still somewhat raw. Gonzalez might still have some swings left in his tank but he seems like better fit for an American League team.
    Go Cards ...12 in 13.



  • #2
    Sorry, I forgot to take the ads out before posting and now I can't.
    Go Cards ...12 in 13.


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    • #3
      Gonzalez is a 1 year solution - at best. Keep Barton as he may turn into a legitimate major leaguer.

      And this just flat out pisses me off:

      Any further injection of youth likely involves infielder Brendan Ryan, 25, who has enjoyed a solid camp but, according to La Russa on Saturday, is not positioned to challenge Cesar Izturis as the team's starting shortstop. Izturis has more errors (five) than hits (four) this spring after signing a one-year, $2.85 million deal in December.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by ElviswasaBluesFan View Post
        Gonzalez is a 1 year solution - at best. Keep Barton as he may turn into a legitimate major leaguer.

        And this just flat out pisses me off:
        No kidding. My patience with Izturis is going to be razor thin. If they were not going to go with Ryan they should have kept Eck.
        Go Cards ...12 in 13.


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        • #5
          I am surprized that TLR is open to keeping Barton around, since Barton is smarter than him. I hope the Izturis playing in front of Ryan is a ploy to keep Ryan busting his ass, or to try to get some kind of trade value for Izturis. Otherwise, at least one of his abilities to observe and evaluate is off.
          Last edited by raise; 03-16-2008, 10:26 AM.
          Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.

          We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by raise View Post
            I am surprized that TLR is open to keeping Barton around, since Barton is smarter than him.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Bleacher Creature View Post
              yeah, that was a great comment, Raise.
              Sometimes elections have positive consequences!

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              • #8
                Why is he smarter?
                When you say to your neighbor, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night if that's alright with you," what you really mean is, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night."

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by WinstonSmith View Post
                  Why is he smarter?
                  He has a degree in aerospace engineering, and turned down a high paying job with Boeing to keep playing baseball.

                  Also, he knows the whole alphabet, in order. (Cheap shot.)
                  Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.

                  We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.

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                  • #10
                    Would it be too much to ask for Izturis to get an injury? Not like Juan E's or anything...Just like a twisted knee that needs surgery? The whole "well, he might not be so strong at the plate, but defensively, he's an upgrade" argument gets tossed out the window when dude has more errors than hits.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by raise View Post
                      He has a degree in aerospace engineering, and turned down a high paying job with Boeing to keep playing baseball.

                      Also, he knows the whole alphabet, in order. (Cheap shot.)
                      Tony only has a law degree so...yes, Barton is smarter.

                      Go Cards ...12 in 13.


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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TTB View Post
                        Tony only has a law degree so...yes, Barton is smarter.

                        So do I, and mine is from a better school in a more competitive environment. I am not doing computing thermodynamics on experimental aircraft design, nor is TLR.

                        I see the humor in your point, but, speaking as a lawyer, there are a lot of morons who manage to find a school and pass a bar exam. Not to say that I have met many aerospace (or aeronautical) engineers, but when I meet a stupid one, I'll take back my assumption.

                        Then again, there are a lot more physicists and engineers than MLB managers.
                        Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.

                        We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TTB View Post
                          Tony only has a law degree so...yes, Barton is smarter.

                          That's it! Tony wasn't attempting to recite the alphabet, he was going through the Periodic Table!

                          Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.

                          We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.

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                          • #14
                            Can we say they're both brighter than Jason Marquis and leave it at that?

                            Topic: Juan Gone's boo boo after exactly one game playing the outfield settles this quandry, I think. That and Barton being Rule 5.
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                            • #15
                              Tony has become delusional - Izturis sucks.
                              Turning the other cheek is better than burying the other body.

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