Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Villanueva Gives Cards a Steady Hand

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Villanueva Gives Cards a Steady Hand

Article excerpt

The Cardinals were looking for a pitcher to establish himself as a viable rotation replacement player on Thursday. And they found one.

It just wasn't the one they were considering.

Rookie lefthander Tim Cooney started in place of injured Adam Wainwright against the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium. Wainwright has exited stage right, lost for the season to a torn Achilles tendon. The lefthander Cooney was making his major league debut, hoping to suggest he could step into the breach.

It wasn't an impressive step. Cooney got only seven outs. He allowed seven hits, eight baserunners and three runs before leaving in the top of the third. The best thing you can say about that kind of step is that at least he didn't tear an Achilles tendon.

In Cooney's place, righthander Carlos Villanueva stepped smartly. The 31-year-old Villanueva came out of the bullpen to calm things down. He allowed a run-scoring fly ball to the first batter he faced, Andy Asche. Catcher Yadier Molina then put an end to the third-inning nonsense, throwing out a runner stealing for the third out.

After that, righthander Villanueva completed 3 2/3 innings of work without a hitch on a sunny afternoon in front of 40,715. No hits, no walks, no runs, three strikeouts. Easy peasy.

"The best compliment I ever got was from my former manager John Farrell (in Toronto)," Villanueva said. "He said, when I come in, I stabilize the game. That's exactly what we were looking for today.

"We needed an extended outing and I'm happy it worked out. Everybody pitched a little bit and it's a good afternoon win."

While Villanueva and four other relievers were stabilizing, the Cardinals offense rallied for two runs in the bottom half of the third, tacked on two more in the fifth and two more in the eighth on the way to 12 hits and a 9-3 win.

The Wainwright issue notwithstanding, the club closed April with a 15-6 mark. Perhaps the Cardinals aren't considering Villanueva as a starting option, or perhaps they are.

"He was in the conversation for today," manager Mike Matheny said. "A lot of that (conversation) had to do with how many lefthanded bats the Phillies have in the order. …

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