July 1, 2008

Todd gets nod; Mets' Armas has numbers, just not this year

Tonight's starter for the New York Mets, Tony Armas (0-0, -.--), has just joined the club, a fill-in start, according to the new boss, Jerry Manuel. But Armas is not new to the majors, nor is he unfamiliar with the St. Louis Cardinals.

With nine major league seasons under his belt, Armas spent last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and due to some visa trouble at the start of this season, was forced into hurling for Triple-A Mets' affiliate New Orleans. His stint with the Pirates kept him up to snuff on Cardinals hitters, but now the lineup may be so different that the under-2.00 ERA he had held versus the Redbirds may mean little or nothing. What may mean something, given the accomplishment was made at the triple-A level, was that his strikeout to walk ratio is what nowadays would be called insane. Translated, that means Armas was awesome in that department, striking out 88 while walking only 20.

As flat as the Mets were in yesterday's loss, Armas will have to score some of those strikeouts to keep the ball out of the hands of his defense. The Mets committed three errors in a 7-1 loss.

Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa will give the nod to Todd Wellemeyer (7-2, 3.46), who showed well in his last outing, but was on a sort of, unspoken, restricted duty. And for good reason, as Wellemeyer missed a couple turns of the rotation due to soreness in his right elbow. Wellemeyer has reported no more soreness, and should be able to go for some distance as long as he is on his game.

With the Mets losing three out of their last four, this is no time for the Cardinals to let up. Not as if they would, but a continued effort to keep their offense lit up is necessary. To walk a mile in La Russa's spikes, or at least as far as the spot where the lineup is posted, it seems last night's offensive role call would work just fine, with the possible exception of giving Adam Kennedy second base and batting ninth in place of Brendan Ryan.

No knock on Ryan, who has played well. But unless there is a match-up La Russa doesn't like, another left-hander hitter in the lineup wouldn't hurt. The move would put Miles at shortstop, but he tends to cover it fairly efficiently, and one can't argue his hot bat as making such a move appropriate in modern-day baseball strategy.

The temptation might be to switch Ankiel and Glaus for the cleanup spot, with Glaus turning up the power of late. But no, lest we forget that Ankiel has been homer-or-nothing, for the most part, not many days ago, and for several trips around the bases. The right-left-right-left is much more effective, like a punch with an extra one-two punch. To wit: Albert Pujols-right; Rick Ankiel-left; Troy Glaus-right; Chris Duncan-left; and you could go on, thought the power drops off real fact, continuing, Yadier Molina, before batters' box gives way to the pitcher, in this case, a right-handed swinger, Todd Wellemeyer.

Absent in all this, but not forgotten, is Ryan Ludwick. While it is doubtful that La Russa will let him sit again, in this instance, it really isn't that far-fetched to do so, with the idea in mind that Ludwick will pinch-hit where needed, or pinch into the game via defensive switching, the optimum spot being Duncan, if and when a left-handed reliever comes in. If La Russa does plays it this way, or some similar variation (and he sure has them), any specialist reliever is one-and-out in any tight situation, as you recall: right-left-right-left-right, and, ah-ha... But you seen this coming.

And now, for the most questionable part of the equation, and it's not so much that everyone is having a bad outing at once, but, hmm, the bullpen. Those guys have been through a lot, but keep on plugging. But since they don't make excuses, neither shall we. Due to (did you ever believe you'd see this?) last night's left-handed relief, namely, Ron Villone and Mark Mulder, the bullpen had one extra day to recoup. Plus, Brad Thompson (deserving of the chance) has been activated and will represent another fresh arm in the pen.

Behind the plate, Molina seems his old self, but La Russa should not hesitate to consider LaRue to spell him if the Cards are leading and Wellemeyer is relieved. As long as Wellemeyer is in, however, his game-long catcher should remain.

But first, it might be a good idea to get a lead on Mr. Armas.