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Nothing new for Cards


Nothing new for Cards
This is how St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa described the latest injury to sack one-time ace Chris Carpenter.

''If it's not bad, four weeks,'' La Russa said of Carpenter's strained left rib cage. ''Bad, it's eight weeks.''

Either way, it sounds bad.

But we're talking about the Cardinals, and they have learned in recent years to muddle through without Carpenter. This is the former Cy Young Award winner's ninth trip to the disabled list, though the first eight were for shoulder and elbow problems.

As for the Cardinals' starting pitching, Carpenter hasn't been the only reason they have been thriving. Cardinals starters entered Wednesday a combined 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA -- easily the best numbers in the majors. That starting ERA took a hit with Joel Pineiro allowing five runs in five innings Wednesday, but he earned the victory in a 12-7 slugfest with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Cardinals' offense has more than backed up the pitching, arriving at Wrigley Field today to open a four-game series against the Cubs with a league-leading 58 runs in 10 games.

Yes, the first-place Cardinals hit town today to give the Cubs an early-season reality check. For a team that once again was low-key in the offseason, the Cardinals have sneaked up and announced their presence in the National League Central.

Today marks the first of seven games between the rivals in April. They will face each other 13 times before the All-Star break and only three times after the break.

LA RUSSA REDOES ROTATION

The Cubs have gone 20-11 against the Cardinals during Lou Piniella's first two seasons as manager. In fact, they haven't had a losing record in a season series against the Cards since going 8-11 in 2004.

But a visit with the Cardinals always seems cause for concern.

With slugger Albert Pujols and a steady lineup, plus a pitching staff that usually finds a way to get the job done, the Cardinals seem to wear out the Cubs -- no matter the results.

This year should be no different.

Certainly, some of the credit for the Cards' early success could be chalked up to the return of Carpenter, who had not allowed a run in 10 innings before he injured himself batting in the fourth inning Tuesday. He couldn't deliver a pitch when the Diamondbacks came to bat that inning.

''I felt it just a little bit on that swing,'' Carpenter told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, ''and then every warm-up pitch, it got worse and worse. There's nothing I can do about it but come out.''

La Russa revamped his rotation Wednesday. Opening Day starter Adam Wainwright stays on his original schedule, facing lefty Sean Marshall today. Right-hander P.J. Walters was promoted from

Class AAA Memphis to replace Carpenter and will make his major-league debut Friday.

Carpenter had been scheduled to start the nationally televised game Sunday night, but La Russa didn't want to put that kind of spotlight on Walters for his major-league debut. Still, pitching at a packed Wrigley on Friday will be a big enough wake-up call.

''We'll see how it goes,'' La Russa said. ''It's a heck of an assignment. He's a composure guy. He's used to having a big load on the game.''

Kyle Lohse will work on an extra day of rest Saturday, as will former Cub Todd Wellemeyer, who gets Carpenter's Sunday night slot.

There is a reason two of the four games will be on national TV.

This is Cubs -Cardinals.

'AT LEAST GLASS IS HALF-FULL'

Last Sept. 9, the Cardinals extended their winning streak to two games and were in third place, just eight behind the first-place Cubs . It was still a comfortable lead, but no lead in mid-September ever feels comfortable for the Cubs . It was hard to take your eyes off the Cards in the rear-view mirror because we all know what kind of damage they are capable of doing, even with a banged-up pitching staff.

Then came a profound drop in offense and a seven-game losing streak. By Sept. 17, the Cardinals were in fourth place, 13? out and done for 2008.

Today, they occupy first place. Staying there by the end of the weekend without Carpenter seems a long shot.

''We don't talk about it a lot,'' La Russa said of losing Carpenter, ''because pretty soon some guys might start thinking, 'Oh, we can't win without him.' The players respect what he means to us, which is a lot.

''He's great. At least it's not his arm -- guess the glass is half-full, rather than half-empty.''

ON DECK

Cardinals AT Cubs

Today: 1:20 p.m., CSN, 720-AM. Adam Wainwright (1-0, 1.74 ERA)

vs. Sean Marshall (0-0, 0.00).

Friday: 1:20 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM. P.J. Walters (0-0, 0.00)

vs. Carlos Zambrano (1-0, 3.00).

Saturday: 2:40 p.m., Fox-32, 720-AM. Kyle Lohse (2-0, 1.13)

vs. Ryan Dempster (1-0, 4.50).

Sunday: 7:05 p.m., ESPN, 720-AM. Todd Wellemeyer (1-1, 4.50)

vs. Ted Lilly (2-0, 3.86).

The story line: An early showdown between the longtime rivals finds the Cardinals arriving with the NL Central lead and a costly injury to pitcher Chris Carpenter. The right-hander went on the disabled list Wednesday after pulling a muscle in his left rib cage Tuesday night against Arizona. The Cardinals were counting on Carpenter's return from two injury-plagued seasons. Right-hander Walters was recalled from the minors to fill the void. Marshall makes his first start of 2009 today.

Toni Ginnetti


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 16, 2009

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