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Young arms aplenty for Cardinals, Pirates

Monday, October 7, 2013 | 9:17 p.m. CDT; updated 7:43 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 8, 2013
St. Louis Cardinals pitchers Adam Wainwright, left, and Joe Kelly watch from the dugout during the ninth inning of Game 4 of a National League division baseball series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals won 2-1 to even the best of five series at two games each.

For a series with so many established veterans, the pitching staffs of the Cardinals and Pirates both have more than a dash of youth.

At 23, Pittsburgh rookie Gerrit Cole allowed one run in six innings in a Game 2 victory. St. Louis sent out 25-year-old Joe Kelly for Game 3, and 22-year-old Michael Wacha got the nod for the Cardinals in Game 4.

That list doesn't include 22-year-old Shelby Miller, who is working out of the St. Louis bullpen during the division series.

Wacha, who narrowly missed a no-hitter against Washington in his final start of the regular season on Sept. 24, called his rapid rise from 2012 draft pick to postseason pitcher "crazy."

"Whenever I came to spring training this past season, you know, the goal was to get up here to St. Louis and help them win some ballgames," Wacha said. "And so I wouldn't really say whenever I was in college in my junior year that I would have ever thought of this."

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said it was all a byproduct of the game's evolution.

"Guys are constantly training, looking for ways to get bigger, stronger, faster," Matheny said. "And we've been very fortunate that we've been able to be one of those clubs that has a group of young guys with strong arms. ... I think you see kind of the league jumping in that same direction."

Shifting times

To some, these defensive shifts now being employed all over the majors are a new wave. To Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle, they're old school — thanks to Whitey Herzog.

Hurdle played for the Hall of Fame manager in both Kansas City and St. Louis and admired Herzog's way of positioning players.

"Whitey was probably as aggressive and creative with defensive positioning as anybody I know. He kept his own spray charts. That is one thing that I carried with me as soon as I started managing in the major leagues," Hurdle said. "I'd watch this man show up to the park with his bag and colors and his ruler and papers."

"I don't think I got the courage until I got to St. Louis to ask him what he was doing," Hurdle said. "I thought he was just coloring. So he was very innovative."

The Pirates have borrowed a page from Herzog's approach this season. The team is among the most aggressive when it comes to defensive positioning.

Pittsburgh played so far to the right side when St. Louis slugger Carlos Beltran came to bat that he tried to bunt. The ball rolled foul, and Beltran, one of the best postseason hitters in history, eventually grounded out.

Sinking feeling

A year ago, Pittsburgh right-hander Charlie Morton was just beginning to throw a ball after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery in June 2012.

Now he's the Game 4 starter in the midst of a career resurgence. The down time allowed Morton to expand his repertoire outside of a fastball-sinker combination that made him one of the truest groundball pitchers in the game. He also welcomed a son, Charles Morton V, and gained some perspective that freed him to not put so much pressure on every start.

The results were promising.

Morton went 7-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 20 starts, giving the staff some needed stability over the summer. He went at least five innings in 11 straight starts between July 6 to Sept. 2. His only real hiccup all season came in a forgettable 1 2-3 innings against the Cardinals on Sept. 8, when he allowed five runs on six hits and injured his right foot.

The 29-year-old Morton credited working with Pirates special assistant Jim Benedict during his rehab at the team's headquarters in Bradenton, Fla., for helping him become more unpredictable on the mound. In addition to an improved curveball, Morton has incorporated a split-changeup he throws up to 10 times a game.

Simplifying things "just allowed me to be a little more consistent, give me a better foundation and trying to encompass all these different pitches in my arsenal," Morton said.

All is OK after power show

David Ortiz put on quite a power show in batting practice at Tropicana Field on Sunday, a day after the Boston slugger homered twice off Tampa Bay ace David Price.

Ortiz hit eight straight shots over the walls during the off-day workout. He had an extra edge — he used an aluminum bat.

Asked why he swung the metal, "Big Papi" simply said he "felt like it."

Ortiz's homers helped the Red Sox take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five division series, with Game 3 on Monday. Price was annoyed that Ortiz watched his second home run sail over the Pesky Pole at Fenway Park.

Ortiz said the two stars have talked and everything between them is OK.

"It's over," Ortiz said. "I have a lot of respect for David, and he has the same thing for me. I'm not going to made a big deal out of this. I understand his frustration. He's a good pitcher."

Price's pronouncements

Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price had an eventful 24 hours, on and off the field.

The Tampa Bay Rays ace took to Twitter several hours after being beaten by Boston on Saturday in Game 2 of the AL division series to criticize two TV analysts.

"Dirk Hayhurst...COULDN'T hack it...Tom Verducci wasn't even a waterboy in high school...but yet they can still bash a player...SAVE IT NERDS," read Price's tweet.

Sunday afternoon, Price again wrote on the social media site to apologize, saying that "last night got out of hand."

"I think David did the right thing after he had done the wrong thing," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said after the Rays' optional workout Sunday. "And I believe in the future you're going to see better judgment."

Price didn't take part in Sunday's practice.

Even after this incident, Maddon still doesn't plan on setting up a formal team social media policy.

"I think that one of my first thoughts was, next spring training when we have our media training, you're going to see this as a perfect example of what not to do," Maddon said. "Again in the real world, in the bigger picture, it really doesn't mean a whole lot. But I think on a personal level, the fact that he did something wrong, and even more importantly that he corrected it, I think is even more important."

Peralta's power

Detroit's Jhonny Peralta will be in the lineup Monday for Game 3 of the AL division series against Oakland — his first home game since being suspended 50 games as part of baseball's drug investigation.

Peralta returned for the last three games of the regular season and appeared as a pinch-hitter in Game 1 of this series. Now manager Jim Leyland wants to try to boost his team's offense, which has been blanked for 17 straight innings after a three-run first in the postseason opener.

Peralta hit .303 with 11 home runs during the regular season. He was Detroit's shortstop before being suspended in early August, but Jose Iglesias is in that spot now, and the Tigers have used Peralta mostly in the outfield since his return.

"Still taking a little bit of a chance, because defensively, you don't know what's going to happen," Leyland said. "But there comes a point where you say, 'Well, you might have to give up something to get something.'"

The Tigers held on for a 3-2 win in Game 1, then lost 1-0 in Game 2. Slugger Miguel Cabrera has been banged up, and leadoff hitter Austin Jackson struck out four times in the second game.

Peralta is expected to play left field, where Andy Dirks and Don Kelly started the first two games.

"Jhonny is a threat to hit one in the gap or over the fence," Leyland said.


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