With two months to go in the season, the Cardinals remain as hard to read as ever. It will be intriguing to see how new acquisition Ronnie Belliard plays out, how the rotation fares going forward and whether anyone in the National League Central can make a real run.
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With Rage Against the Machine's "Renegades" playing on the computer speakers here are the questions.
I'm a little shocked at the move to bring in Belliard and ship off Hector Luna. Didn't we sign both Miles and Spivey in the offseason to fill the gap at second? Why make a move to give up a good utility player for another second baseman who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season? -- Bryan N., Bloomington, Ill.
I found the move an odd move, but defensible from the right perspective. It's clear to me, from talking to a variety of people around the organization, that the Cards were frustrated by the fact that Luna never developed the day-to-day and play-to-play consistency they had hoped for.
So given that, I think it's clear that Luna was never going to be an everyday player in St. Louis. And given THAT, I do think Belliard is an upgrade over the Luna-Miles combo.
Personally, I think they could have gained nearly as much offensively by simply letting Luna play nearly every day, but that pretty clearly just wasn't going to happen. So the next best thing was to bring in an offensive second baseman, and Belliard is a pretty good one.
The two reasons this deal bothers me are: One, what I mentioned above -- I'm not at all sure Belliard is THAT much better a hitter than Luna; and two, you give up four more years of Luna for two months.
With all of that said, I think the Cardinals are a better team in the short term because of this trade.
Greetings from Kentucky. I have a question about a topic that's been bandied about a lot in my circle of fans. Is Anthony Reyes currently utilizing a two-seam fastball? If so, how often? As you know, that pitch and Reyes were the subject of much discussion in Spring Training. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported Reyes abandoned it shortly after the start of the Triple-A season. Is he back to using it now? -- Brad S.
Ladies and gentlemen, the continuing saga of Anthony Reyes and the sinker ...
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Reyes is using a sinker a good bit of the time, and he's getting more groundballs. It's been a tough adjustment for him, though to his credit he doesn't seem to be complaining about it. I'd say somewhere on the order of half of his fastballs are two-seamers.
When Reyes went to Memphis, pitching coach Dyar Miller basically said not to worry about the two-seamer, but rather to work on getting his four-seamer down in the strike zone. Reyes was also pitching to contact much less often down there.
Now that he's back in St. Louis, he's throwing the sinker more and pitching to contact more. In a sense, he's learning a new way to pitch, which isn't easy for anybody.
Personally, I'd like to see Reyes permitted to be himself as a pitcher a little more. If you change the plane with your fastball, moving it up and down, it opens up a lot of options. In the long term, Reyes may well incorporate both sides, and have the ability to miss bats with his four-seamer and changeup while also getting grounders with his sinker. I hope so.
Whatever happened to Brendan Ryan? And will he ever reach his full potential that was rendered to him? -- Eric S., Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Ryan missed the first 3 1/2 months of the season with a finger injury he sustained in Spring Training. He's begun rehabbing at short-season State College. Here's hoping he comes back strong and can re-establish himself as a prospect.
Is there any young pitcher from either Double-A Springfield or Triple-A Memphis that could earn a September callup? How about position players? -- Tim R., Ottawa, Kan.
If I had to guess, between now and the end of the year I'd say we'd see three or four guys, all from Memphis. I expect that Brad Thompson and Brian Falkenborg will be in St. Louis by September, if not sooner. Skip Schumaker is another one -- though if John Rodriguez has to go on the disabled list, we might see Schumaker on Tuesday. Timo Perez could well be considered.
If you're looking for long shots, keep an eye on Amaury Marti, who is currently at Springfield, and Memphis left-hander Matt Perisho.
Whatever happened to Blake Hawksworth? I know he was a highly touted pitching prospect, but where'd he go? -- Bob B., St. Louis
He was hurt. Now he's back, and he's coming off an excellent start at Springfield. Hawksworth has a long way to go, both to prove he's healthy and to continue climbing the Minor League ladder, but it's very encouraging the way he's performed this year. Keep an eye on him, because as you mention, he was once rated a top-flight prospect.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.