Notes: Pulsipher's spot up in the air
Feel-good story of former ace takes hit with injuries
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The best story of the spring may not have a happy ending after all. Bill Pulsipher's roster spot still looks fairly secure, but it's not written in stone after the lefty reliever came down with a pair of minor injuries in the past week.
Pulsipher, who hasn't appeared in the Major Leagues since 2001, broke the little toe on his left foot on Wednesday, and came down with a sore hamstring on Friday. He pitched two-thirds of an inning on Sunday and came through it feeling fine, but his physical issues have allowed the Cardinals to reconsider making a commitment to him.
On Wednesday, when Kevin Jarvis was cut, Pulsipher and Randy Flores unofficially made the team. Until Pulsipher's contract is actually purchased from Triple-A Memphis, though, nothing is certain.
"He missed pitching time," said manager Tony La Russa. "So how sharp is he? Is he healthy? I don't think we're ready to decide that without another conversation. He looked all right [on Sunday]."
If Pulsipher is sent to the minors to show that he's healthy, the most likely candidate for a callup would be Carmen Cali, who's currently with Memphis. Jarvis, who accompanied the Cardinals for most of their trip to Oklahoma City and Springfield, has returned to his home in Tennessee to ponder his next move. He has the option to leave the organization if he receives a Major League offer somewhere.
For Pulsipher, it would be a huge disappointment not to be on the Opening Day roster. When he induced two ground balls in Sunday afternoon's game, he felt he had shown he was healthy.
"I'm glad it's over with," he said. "It's been a long six weeks. ... I'm happy it's over with, and pleased to be on the quality of ballclub that I am.
"This is gonna be a different experience for me. The last time I was in the Major Leagues, I only had one son and he was too young to know what was going on."
Still, ultimately, the odds strongly favor Pulsipher. He beat out Cali in competition earlier in the spring, and it would be difficult for the team to send him out at this point.
"He's close to making the club," La Russa said. "That hamstring didn't help him. So we'll see what's happening. He's worked hard to get back. He's done what you have to do -- he went to winter ball, and he came in here this spring and threw the ball over the plate, most of the time in tough locations. That's the beginning of the story. Most of it is what he does during the season, but you've got to start someplace."
Mulder closes out spring: Mark Mulder was touched for six runs, four of them earned, in six innings on Sunday against Double-A Springfield, but true to form, he had little interest in the outcome. The left-hander was pleased to get a full workout, get his pitch count up and throw strikes.
"They swing at everything," Mulder said of the minor league hitters. "Most of the hits they got were on pitches that were up a little bit, but even a couple of good ones they hit. You don't know them at all. They're free-swingers. So most of the time it's either, you breeze right on through, or you give up a few hits."
You'll see 'em again: The lineup that the Cardinals trotted out against Springfield is very likely to be the same one fans see Tuesday night against the Astros at Minute Maid Park, with the exception of the pitcher.
David Eckstein led off at shortstop, followed by right fielder Larry Walker, Albert Pujols at first base, Scott Rolen at third, Jim Edmonds in center, Mark Grudzielanek at second base, Reggie Sanders in left and Yadier Molina catching. Chris Carpenter will pitch the opener in Houston.
The only change from the team's anticipated lineup entering spring is a flip-flop of Grudzielanek and Sanders. La Russa pointed to a couple of different factors for that decision, including the time Sanders missed due to an appendectomy and Grudzielanek's ability to make contact on a consistent basis. Sports Illustrated recently ranked Sanders the best No. 7 hitter in baseball.
"We'll play around with it a little bit," La Russa said. "[Sanders] missed time, and Mark hasn't, and at the same time there's something to having a contact guy between two different-type hitters. And either one has real good legs in front of the catcher."
Cards blast Cards: The big club showed off its firepower for the paying customers on Sunday afternoon. Six different St. Louis batters hit home runs in an 18-6 thrashing of Springfield in the second of two exhibitions at Hammons Field. Edmonds, Rolen, Walker, Pujols, Molina and Hector Luna all hit big flies as the Major League team scored in eight of the nine innings.
"It wasn't a fair day for pitchers," said La Russa.
Mulder admitted he was surprised that it took a day for the Cards to erupt offensively, given the conditions, and Walker said there was no great marvel to the outburst.
"Just like yesterday, same scenario, wind blowing out," Walker said. "Yesterday, nobody lifted the ball up in the air."
Surprise, surprise: The reaction among most Cardinals players, when hearing that Alex Sanchez had become the first player suspended under baseball's new drug testing agreement, was surprise. One Redbird after another said almost exactly the same thing: "Alex Sanchez?"
Ray King, the team's player representative and a former teammate of Sanchez's in Milwaukee, said he doesn't exactly feel for Sanchez.
"It's a plus-sign that our drug policy works," said King. "We've got a guy who got caught, and I'm pretty sure it's gonna be front page in the paper tomorrow. I have no sympathy for him because he knew the policy, and now he's considered a cheater.
"It's written in black and white. Everybody was informed about it. Everybody knew about it. And I'm pretty sure guys have got TVs. I know in our Spring Training, we had newspapers every day lying all over saying it's happened. You've got to pay the cost. Here's a guy, 10 days without pay, that's a lot of money to give away."
King said he believes the monetary cost will outweigh the embarrassment of Sanchez being publicly identified.
"Not to knock Sanchez," he said, "but here's a lower-tier player that, I'm pretty sure people will talk about it, but it's not like, 'Oh, my God, player 'X' got busted.'"
The Tampa Bay outfielder has said he will appeal his suspension.
Murph gets to bat: Bullpen catcher Jeff Murphy got into Sunday's game as a pinch-hitter. Murphy drew a walk and scored a run on Tyler Parker's single. He received a bit of razzing for walking rather than swinging the bat in his rare opportunity, but he noted that he did take a swing. Murphy fouled off a 3-1 pitch before taking his base.
"I told him," said La Russa, "if he took a strike, it would cost him 100 dollars. And he didn't."
Bits and pieces: La Russa signed copies of Three Nights in August, the book on which he collaborated with H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger, at a Barnes and Noble store in Springfield on Saturday evening. He said he signed for 3 1/2 hours. ... A moment of silence was observed at Hammons Field in honor of the late Pope John Paul II. ... Sunday afternoon featured six ceremonial first pitches: throwing were St. Louis coach Jose Oquendo and stars Rolen, Edmonds, Morris, Jason Isringhausen and Pujols; catching were Springfield Cardinals Shane Wallace, Tony Rawson, Gabe Johnson, Randy Leek, Tyler Minges and Josh Kinney. ... Pujols finished the exhibition season without striking out in 75 plate appearances.
Coming up: The Cardinals took off for Houston immediately after Sunday's game. They'll work out at Minute Maid Park on Monday afternoon before starting the regular season on Tuesday. Game time is 6:05 p.m. CT, with Carpenter going against Roy Oswalt.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.