San Diego Padres v St. Louis Cardinals

Kyle McClellan to get first shot at replacing Wainwright

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When the Cardinals announced last week that right-hander Adam Wainwright was going to need Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, many assumed that a free agent starter would be brought in to replace the injured ace. Kevin Millwood is still on the market, as is Jeremy Bonderman.

But the Cardinals have insisted that they are going to try internal candidates first, and we might have just found our front-runner.

According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, right-handed setup man Kyle McClellan is going to get first crack at the vacancy left by Wainwright’s injury.

McClellan, a 26-year-old St. Louis native, was drafted and brought up through the minors as a starter. The Cardinals moved him to the bullpen in 2008 and have kept him there since, but they’ve flirted with the idea of trying him in the rotation in recent years and that flirtation is now going to turn serious this spring.

He possesses a fastball that typically clocks in around 90-93 MPH, a cutter that checks in at 87 MPH, and a hard-breaking curve. He also throws a changeup. It’s a quality and almost starter-like arsenal of pitches.

McClellan posted a stellar 2.27 ERA over 68 appearances last season, striking out 60 batters and walking only 23 across 75.1 innings of relief work. If things don’t go well for him in the rotation, the Cardinals will probably turn to youngster Lance Lynn. Or maybe they’ll take another look at the free agent market.

Note: Matthew Leach of MLB.com and a couple of other local St. Louis guys had this story first.

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before a start to deal with the yips

9 Apr 2000: Rick Ankiel #66 of the St. Louis Cardinals winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Brweers at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
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The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.

It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:

On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:

“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”

Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.

 

Justin Turner talks “Easy D”

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers warms up prior to game six of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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A couple of weeks ago our president wrote one of his more . . . vexing tweets. He was talking about immigration when he whipped out the phrase . . . “Easy D”:

No one was quite sure what he meant by Easy D. Was it the older brother of N.W.A.’s founder? The third sequel to that Emma Stone movie from a few years back? So many questions!

Baseball Twitter had fun with it, though, with a lot of people wondering how they could work it in casually to their commentary:

It wasn’t a scout who did it, but twelve days after that, a player obliged Mr. McCullough:

I have no more idea what Turner was talking about with that than Trump was. We’ll have to wait for the full story in the L.A. Times. But I am going to assume Turner was doing McCullough a solid with that one rather than commenting on the president’s tweet. Either way, I’m glad he made the effort.

And before you ask: yes, it’s a slow news day.