La Russa expected to return to Cardinals for 2011

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Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan informed the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Friday that he will be returning for the 2011 season. And now it looks like manager Tony La Russa is about to make the same call.

According to the Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss, a person close to La Russa said Saturday that he would be “very surprised” if the veteran skipper opts not to return to St. Louis next season. Strauss opines that the Cardinals are simply waiting to make the announcement and probably won’t until scouts from throughout the organization convene at Busch Stadium late next week.

La Russa led the Redbirds to a disappointing 86-76 record this season despite two Cy Young candidates in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, a Rookie of the Year candidate in Jaime Garcia and sluggers Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday.

The 66-year-old battled with young outfielder Colby Rasmus at different points in the season and insisted on giving frequent playing time to mediocre talent — like Aaron Miles and Randy Winn. That commitment to replacement-level players frustrated right fielder Ryan Ludwick, who moved on to San Diego at the trade deadline in search of an everyday role. The Cardinals landed Jake Westbrook in that trade, and Westbrook pitched quite well down the stretch, but he is a free agent this winter and the club may have to let him walk because of a looming extension for the one they call “El Hombre.”

Nonetheless, La Russa was formally invited back by the Cardinals last week and is almost certain to return. As for his coaching staff, including former slugger and steroid user Mark McGwire? It remains to be seen.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.