Notes: La Russa defends defense
Skipper says pitchers must also shoulder some of the blame
ST. LOUIS -- One day after he watched his team commit four errors for the second straight game, Cards manager Tony La Russa again aggressively defended his club's defense.
"We've had some defensive lapses, no doubt about it," La Russa said. "We've also had our center fielder playing short-legged some of the season, and we've had guys play at different positions. I think you have to be fair."
With the eight errors the Redbirds have committed over past two games, it brings their season total up to 95. They are on pace to commit 123 errors, which would be their highest total since 1999, when they made 132.
Even with the numbers, La Russa still believes his team is above-average defensively, going around the lineup and defending each player, position by position.
La Russa pointed out that their three players on the club who have won a Gold Glove at some point in their career -- Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols. Another, Yadier Molina, has a serious chance of winning the award at some point in his career, and there are four other players who the skipper considers "above average" in David Eckstein, Aaron Miles, Juan Encarnacion and Chris Duncan.
"You can say what you want to, I'll say what I want to," La Russa said. "I think we have an above-average defensive club. Don't try to talk me out of it, because it's not going to change."
One thing that has hurt the Redbirds' defensive effort over the past two games, La Russa pointed out, is the club's ineffective starting pitching. On Friday, Kip Wells gave up seven runs in four innings and threw 94 pitches. One day before that, Anthony Reyes threw more than 100 pitches in just five innings, making it harder for the defense to stay alert throughout all nine innings.
"The last two days, our starting pitchers have not been sharp, they've been erratic. So, guys have a tendency to get back on their heels. Now, is that the defense's fault? Yeah, you can always overcome it, but there's a connection there," La Russa said. "The pitcher has some responsibility for that when a play doesn't get made behind him. You have to pitch with a good pace and be aggressive so guys are ready for the ball."
The Cards rank 15th out of 16 in the National League in fielding percentage with a .980 clip and have committed the second-most errors in the NL, despite playing the fewest games.
Rotation update: With the club's final off-day of the season set for Monday, La Russa tinkered with his starting rotation a bit.
Reyes, who was scheduled to start Wednesday in Houston, will be bumped back and won't start until the weekend series against the Reds. Wells will go on his normal four days' rest on Wednesday, and Saturday's starter, Joel Pineiro, will start the final game of the series in Houston on Thursday.
"That's just because we're trying to set up to give us the best chance to win," La Russa said. "That means when [Reyes] pitches here against Cincinnati, he's part of the best chance to win that weekend."
Reyes has had two rough outings in a row and has let up a grand slam in each game. Since being recalled from Triple-A Memphis on July 28, Reyes put together four good starts in a row before giving up nine runs in 11 innings over his last two starts.
Reyes will most likely start the Sept. 2 series finale against the Reds, with Adam Wainwright starting the opener Friday.
Wellemeyer looks sharp: Todd Wellemeyer saw his first game action Friday night since he injured his right elbow July 8. Wellemeyer pitched a scoreless inning, striking out one, while not giving up a hit or walking a hitter.
La Russa said Wellemeyer was unavailable for Saturday's game, as the club wants to give him plenty of time to rest. La Russa said he will eventually be stretched out and pitch more than one inning, but only once he's 100 percent.
"It felt good to be out there again," Wellemeyer said. "I'm feeling good today, and didn't have any problems last night, so we're all good."
Baby 'Birds: Triple-A Memphis beat Albuquerque, 12-5, on Friday. Edgar Gonzalez was a perfect 5-for-5 with a homer and six RBIs. Miguel Cairo and Matt Pagnozzi each added three hits. ... Double-A Springfield was rained out. ... Class A Palm Beach split a doubleheader with Jupiter. In the Game 2 win, Brandon Yarbrough 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Stuart Pomeranz took the loss in the first game. ... Class A Quad Cities was shut out by Cedar Rapids, 9-0. Starter Elvis Hernandez gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Short-season Batavia lost to Mahoning Valley, 3-1, managing just two hits. Will Groff drove in the lone run. ... Rookie-level Johnson City lost to Burlington, 5-1. Casey Mulligan hit a solo homer in the loss. ... The Gulf Coast League Cardinals were rained out.
Player of the day honors go to Gonzalez. After missing some time with a shoulder injury, Gonzalez has been hot lately, posting a .441 average over his last 10 games. The infielder is now hitting .312 on the season with eight homers and 48 RBIs. The brother of Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Edgar is still awaiting his first callup to the big leagues.
Coming up: The Cards and Braves will cap off their three-game series with an afternoon game on Sunday. St. Louis will send Wainwright to the mound, in search of his 12th win of the season, while Atlanta will counter with young lefty Jo-Jo Reyes. First pitch is set for 1:15 p.m. CT.
Daniel Berk is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.