Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Replacing the Cards Redbirds Choose Youth over War-Torn Veterans in Search for Tomorrow

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Replacing the Cards Redbirds Choose Youth over War-Torn Veterans in Search for Tomorrow

Article excerpt

It will be a brave new world for every member of the Cardinals' replacement team but one when it opens against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday afternoon. Among the 32 players, only newly acquired catcher Glenn Sutko has appeared in a big-league game, and has one hit.

Taking a different approach from most teams, the Cardinals have built their replacement squad basically from younger players already in the organization. Two-thirds of the Cardinals' replacement squad played in the system last year.

"We went with the players on the morning side of the mountain rather than the twilight side of the hill," manager Joe Torre said.

Without exactly knowing what he's up against, Torre has determined that the Cardinals are fairly solid at every position but catcher and shortstop.

"Unfortunately, they're two key positions," Torre said. "But we can throw strikes and, for the most part, we've caught the ball."

In primary starters Mike Hinkle, Larry Shikles and Paul Anderson, the Cardinals have the ultimate in control pitching. None of the trio walked a hitter through 59 2/3 innings this spring.

Offensively, the Cardinals have a Class AA version of Dane Iorg in line drive-hitting Doug Radziewicz, a first baseman-outfielder. And Torre thinks that outfielder John "Skeets" Thomas has big-league power.

Thomas hit 17 home runs last year for Class AAA Louisville. Radziewicz won the Class A Florida State League batting title two years ago.

Could any of these players really play in the big leagues? Torre thinks that Radziewicz, in the right circumstances, and outfielder Tony Diggs could.

In the case of Radziewicz, Torre said: "You look at all those lefthanded guys who played first base and the outfield but had no power. There are a lot of them. Sure, I think he has the ability to play in the big leagues, but will he?"

Torre hopes that politics wouldn't cost Radziewicz, 25, such a chance. "I don't think guys who have played in these games should be cheated from doing that," he said. "At least, I hope not."

In Diggs, 27, the Cardinals have their prototypical switch-hitting, speedy outfielder. Diggs, a former Milwaukee farmhand, had occasional trouble flagging down the ball this spring, but Torre said: "I still think it was a good trade. We traded him for a guy (Ozzie Canseco) on the suspended list."

Another potential big-leaguer is closer Craig Grasser, who has won relief pitching honors the last two seasons at Glens Falls and Savannah, compiling 56 saves. "He'll be our closer on grass," Torre said, referring to the 1996 renovation of Busch Stadium.

While other managers and systems haven't had much to do with replacements - the Philadelphia staff en masse ignored a home run hit by a Phillies player the other day - Torre and his staff have flung themselves headlong into replacement ball.

The Cardinals' staff has three Hall of Famers and many other former All-Stars who might well be appalled at the brand of ball they're seeing, but they didn't act that way this spring. …

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