JUPITER, Fla. — It's hard to know what to expect from Tony La Russa, so it was a relief to find him in a good mood when the Stew visited St. Louis Cardinals camp at Roger Dean Stadium earlier this week.
Maybe it was from spending a chunk of time with John Kruk and Tim Kurkjian from ESPN, but La Russa was nearly cheerful.
The Cards had a rough camp at the start, with the Albert Pujols(notes) contract deadline passing, the devastating injury news for Adam Wainwright(notes) and several other bits of bad news. It's not the way they wanted to get down to reclaiming the NL Central title.
So, La Russa would have every right to be a grump — and the Cardinals players could be allowed some sympathy. Not at all necessary, he said.
"I don’t know what more you can ask them to do," La Russa said. "I haven’t seen one drill where guys have been just been punching a clock. I think we’ve had energy in every game. ... We’re putting in a good effort and it’s going to pay off."
La Russa said he is pleased with how David Freese(notes) and prospect Matt Carpenter are playing third base; that Ryan Theriot(notes) looks good at shortstop and is swinging the bat well; that Lance Berkman(notes) played four games in a row without getting hurt; and it appears right-hander Chris Carpenter(notes) is going to be OK after a hamstring injury set him back a few days.
But, just to show he's not all that kinder and gentler, La Russa sounds like he'll make use of the us-against-the-world motivation.
"I like that chip on the shoulder mentality and there's no place better to get a chip on your shoulder than to read some of the [stuff] that gets written," La Russa said.
Media — of which the Krukster is now a long-time member. I asked Kruk if he wanted to do an interview (Answer Man was warming up in the bullpen) but he said it was contractually frowned-upon by ESPN for him to do so. That's too bad. I would have asked him about those shoes; they don't exactly go with the suit.
* * *
I was excited to see someone wearing a Whitey Herzog jersey — more folks should wear manager jerseys — but I was less excited to see the guy in the Mr. Mark McGwire shirsey wearing jean shorts.