Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cards Finding the Book on Urbani Hard to Read

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cards Finding the Book on Urbani Hard to Read

Article excerpt

The good news for Tom Urbani: He didn't allow a hit Tuesday for the first three innings against a good Houston Astros lineup.

The bad news for Urbani: He pitched a lousy fourth inning.

It's the story of Urbani's big-league career. Tough to love. Hard to hate.

"I know I can pitch," Urbani said.

The Cardinals have suspected that for several years. He pitched in 62 big-league games the last three seasons. He's also worked in 27 minor-league games for Class AAA Louisville during those seasons. The Cards have sent him up and down more often than the space shuttle.

It seems cruel, in a sense. He's a starter at Louisville, gets a chance to start in the big leagues often when a front-liner breaks down, and usually has to figure out how to cope with a relief role.

Urbani probably will have a slot in the Cardinals' five-man rotation when the regular season opens Monday. He has a 4.15 earned-run average in seven spring appearances, perhaps not good enough to leave the bullpen under normal circumstances. But the Cardinals have four potential starting pitchers hurt. So again, they call on Urbani.

He's no longer pitying himself.

"That's the way it's always been," Urbani said. "It's no fun being in that role. But you've got to look at what I've done. It's not like I've torn it up when I've gotten my chances. I haven't won three, four, five games in a row.

"I've pitched good enough to be here, not good enough to stay."

He cruised through two perfect innings Tuesday, then walked the bases loaded but got out without a nick in the third inning.

In the fourth, Urbani gave up a leadoff walk. The Astros lost that runner trying to steal, but the next three batters ripped clean singles to load the bases again. The Cardinals seemed out of the inning when Ricky Gutierrez bounced a double-play grounder to Urbani. But catcher Pat Borders dropped Urbani's throw home. The Astros went on to win 4-2.

Only one of Houston's three runs that inning was earned. Still, it was the inning that cost the Cardinals the game.

"He showed what he's capable of," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "That one inning, he just wasn't throwing the ball the way he had been. …

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