No Panic In Cardinals' La Russa

Wednesday, April 25th 2007, 7:28 pm
By: News On 6

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who rode out the team's stuttering finish last season before the team righted itself in time to win a World Series, seems committed to enduring the team's early struggles this year.

The Cardinals were 8-11 entering Wednesday night's game against the Cincinnati Reds, including a 1-7 record at home. They had been plagued by slow starts, getting outscored 15-3 in the first inning and 21-6 the first two.

La Russa said it's much too early for a shakeup or roster infusion from the minor leagues.

``We're looking at it all the time,'' La Russa said. ``I'm just thinking that you don't draw big conclusions before you're out of the month of April.''

The Cardinals had scored first in only four of the first 19 games, and had scored three or fewer runs in 11 games, going 1-10 under that scenario. It's put considerable pressure on a rebuilt rotation minus all five starters from opening day 2006 given that ace Chris Carpenter has been on the 15-day disabled list with an elbow injury since pitching on opening day.

Braden Looper, who started Wednesday, and Adam Wainwright were starting for the first time in their careers. Wainwright, second-year pitcher Anthony Reyes and Kip Wells, coming off a two-win, injury-plagued 2006, all have been spotty.

``I would assume that a pitcher going out with a lead would be more comfortable on the mound and settle in a little easier,'' Scott Rolen said. ``It's a pretty easy formula to figure out.

``We need to score some runs and take some pressure off.''

The Cardinals were averaging about 3 1/2 runs, a misleading total given consecutive Sunday outbursts of 10, 10 and 12 runs leaving table scraps for the other games.

``This team since I've been here has been putting three, four, five runs up a night, and if somebody deals against us we're going to scratch out two and see if somebody can hold them to one,'' Rolen said. ``We're putting zeros and ones and twos up there and we're doing it late.''

St. Louis won four in a row the second week of the season, but had lost six of eight entering Wednesday's game.

Jim Edmonds had four RBIs and a .196 average in 17 games after missing most of spring training recovering from foot and shoulder surgeries. Rolen was 7-for-9 the last two games, but before that his average had been below .200. Albert Pujols was struggling with a .230 average while dogged by minor leg woes.

The three players who have started in right field while Juan Encarnacion rehabs from offseason wrist surgery, Preston Wilson, Scott Spiezio and Skip Schumaker, were hitting a combined .214 with one homer and 10 RBIs. Second baseman Adam Kennedy, the only addition to the lineup from last season, was at .212 with four RBIs.

``If we stand at my locker enough, I think you'll hear me say the word consistent or wanting to be consistent or trying to be consistent,'' Rolen said. ``I haven't had a consistent three weeks.

``When you don't have a consistent three weeks and hitting in the four-hole, you're going to go up and down.''

La Russa said he began checking with trainer Barry Weinberg at 11 a.m., eight hours before game time, to assess Pujols' condition.

``In the time he's played he's played the majority of games with ouches, and he's always hit,'' La Russa said. ``I think it hurts him and he has to deal with it, but he's got a strong mind and I don't think that's why he's hitting .200 vs. .300.''

Rolen could not have predicted personal success on Tuesday, given that he had been 3-for-25 against Reds starter Aaron Harang.

``He's especially tough on me,'' Rolen said. ``There are other guys I'd like to see standing out there besides Aaron Harang but it worked out personally.

``It certainly didn't help us win a ballgame.''