Tony La Russa returning as Cardinals manager

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After taking some time to ponder his future after the Dodgers swept the Cardinals out of the playoffs Tony La Russa will return for his 15th season as St. Louis’ manager, officially agreeing to a one-year contract with a 2011 option this afternoon.
At the press conference announcing his decision La Russa confirmed that Mark McGwire will be taking over for Hal McRae as the Cardinals’ hitting coach, saying: “I don’t know how many years I have left to manage, and I wanted to take this opportunity to invite a guy who I think has a very special talent.”
While the McGwire news will overshadow just about anything Cardinals related for the near future, the announcement that longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan will also be back in 2010 is likely to have a much bigger impact. La Russa and Duncan are one of the most successful manager-coach combos in baseball history, and Duncan’s ability to find gold in seemingly washed-up veterans like Joel Pineiro and Ryan Franklin is second-to-none.
Prior to hiring La Russa (and Duncan) in 1996 the Cardinals had missed the playoffs in eight straight seasons under Joe Torre and Whitey Herzog, but in the 14 years since then they’ve gone 1,232-1,034 (.544) with eight postseason appearances, two NL pennants, and a World Series win in 2006. La Russa ranks third all-time in career wins with 2,552 and the future Hall of Famer has spent 31 of his 65 years as a big-league manager.

There was another miscommunication between the Phillies and Pat Neshek

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Back in June 2017, then-manager of the Phillies Pete Mackanin and reliever Pat Neshek had some miscommunication. In a series against the Cardinals, Neshek worked a five-pitch eighth inning and it was believed he would come back out for the ninth inning, but he never did. Mackanin said Neshek said he didn’t want to pitch another inning. Neshek said he was never asked. There was also some miscommunication the game prior. Neshek thought he had the day off; Mackanin said Neshek said he wasn’t available to pitch.

Mackanin is no longer the Phillies’ manager, but the miscommunication between Neshek and the team apparently persist. Neshek was notably absent during the Phillies’ hard-fought 5-4 win over the Cubs on Monday night. The game featured a struggling Seranthony Domínguez pitching two innings, yielding three crucial runs in his second inning of work.

Manager Gabe Kapler called the bullpen and instructed Neshek to begin warming up to prepare to face Albert Almora, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Kapler rang the bullpen after Domínguez walked Jason Heyward, who batted ahead of Almora. Neshek wasn’t warmed up yet. Domínguez was able to retire Almora on a sacrifice bunt, which was reviewed and gave Neshek some extra time to get ready. He was ready for the next batter, Daniel Descalso, but at this point Kapler no longer wanted to bring Neshek into the game. Descalso lined a triple to left-center field, scoring two runs and came home himself when shortstop Jean Segura‘s throw caromed off of his foot out of play.

Recounting the situation, Neshek said, “I got on the mound and threw two pitches. [Kapler] said, ‘Is he ready?’ And I said, ‘No. I’m not ready yet. I’ve thrown two pitches.” Neshek was asked how long it takes him to get ready. The veteran said, “A minute. Not 20 seconds. I’m, like, the best in the league at getting ready. My whole career has been coming in like that.”

The Phillies were able to eke out a 5-4 win. Had they lost the game, Kapler and Neshek would likely have been under the microscope for the awkward situation leading to a crushing defeat. Kapler drew plenty of criticism over his bullpen management last year in his rookie managerial season. That included bringing in lefty reliever Hoby Milner into a game in which he hadn’t yet warmed up.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the manager who struggled with bullpen management last year nearly mucked up a win last night, and maybe it’s just a coincidence that a reliever who’s had prior issues with communication had another communication mix-up. Maybe it’s not. It’s worth noting that the Phillies needed three innings from the bullpen to protect a 2-1 lead over the Cubs on Tuesday. Kapler called on rookie Edgar Garcia for two outs, lefty José Álvarez for four, and then brought in Juan Nicasio to close things out in the ninth. No Neshek, even as Nicasio got into trouble. Nicasio would surrender the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a deflating 3-2 loss.