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Tag:Allen Craig
Posted on: February 26, 2012 6:30 pm
 

Report: Craig ahead of schedule in recovery

By Matt Snyder

Cardinals utility man extraordinaire Allen Craig is ahead of schedule in his recovery from knee surgery, reports MLB.com.

Craig had the surgery in November and was said to be down for four to six months, meaning missing a large chunk of the early part of the 2012 season was a very real possibility. It still is, but the MLB.com report says Craig has the goal of being ready opening day. His new manager, Mike Matheny, won't go that far just yet.

"The job of the medical staff is to hold him back," Matheny said (MLB.com). "Once they start releasing him more, we're going to have more to work with. As far as what that lines out to [be], there are still other peaks to get to. I don't know if he's going to make that next one. He's where he's supposed to be and actually a little bit ahead. I'm listening to what they're telling me, and I'm not jumping too far ahead with my own conclusions that yes, he's going to be here. It's still too early to tell."

Craig, 27, hit .315/.362/.555 with 11 home runs in just 219 plate appearances last season. He appeared in game action at first base, second base, third base and all three outfield positions.

Though he's not a starter, Craig is one of the most important bench players in the majors. Not only did he show what he can do in the World Series -- when he came through in the clutch several times -- but he can play almost anywhere on the diamond. Considering the age of Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman, and injuries bound to occur throughout a 162-game season, one would expect Craig to have plenty of opportunities to fill in this season.

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Posted on: December 22, 2011 7:58 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 8:18 pm
 

Beltran signs two-year deal with Cardinals



By Matt Snyder


The St. Louis Cardinals and free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran have agreed to a two-year contract worth $26 million, both Jon Heyman and Scott Miller of CBSSports.com have confirmed. The deal also includes a full no-trade clause. The news of this deal was first reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The World Series champion Cardinals found out a few weeks ago that long-time face of the franchise Albert Pujols was headed to the Angels via free agency. Also, that same week, news broke that outfielder Allen Craig -- who was slotted to move to right field as Lance Berkman moved to first base to replace Pujols -- had surgery and will miss around two months of the 2012 season. So the Cardinals were left with a glaring hole in their lineup. Beltran easily fills that void.

More Hot Stove
Beltran, 34, is a switch-hitter and had a big bounce-back season in 2011. He hit .300/.385/.525 with 35 doubles and 22 home runs, making his sixth All-Star Game. He battled injuries in 2009 and 2010, but -- aside from a down year back in 2005 -- Beltran has been extremely productive with the bat whenever he's in the lineup, sporting a career .857 OPS.

Beltran will now join a still-potent Cardinals batting order. Yes, losing Pujols hurts, as he's only the best player in baseball, but here's how the lineup could look for the 2012 Cardinals:

1. Rafael Furcal, SS
2. Jon Jay, CF
3. Matt Holliday, LF
4. Lance Berkman, 1B
5. Carlos Beltran, RF
6. David Freese, 3B
7. Yadier Molina, C
8. Skip Schumaker or Daniel Descalso, 2B

With a healthy Adam Wainwright re-joining the starting rotation and the bullpen in better shape than it was when the 2011 season began, don't underestimate the Pujols-less Cardinals. 

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Posted on: December 22, 2011 10:57 am
 

Homegrown Team: St. Louis Cardinals

Albert Pujols

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

While most of the teams on our list would love a do-over for 2011 -- or at least part of it, the season somehow worked out pretty well for the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that took advantage of an epic collapse and capitalized upon its chance by winning the World Series. The moves made by both the current management team and former executives, all worked out for one glorious season in St. Louis, so it's another example of why the exercise is for fun only. But there's one thing our Homegrown Cardinals have that the 2012 version doesn't -- Albert Pujols

Lineup

1. Jon Jay, RF
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Allen Craig, LF
5. Colby Rasmus, CF
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Brendan Ryan, SS
8. Skip Schumaker, 2B

Starting Rotation

1. Dan Haren
2. Jaime Garcia
3. Kyle McClellan
4. Chris Narveson
5. Lance Lynn

Bullpen

Closer - Chris Perez
Set up - Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas, Luke Gregerson, Blake Hawksworth, Eduardo Sanchez

Notable Bench Players

The bench has some interesting players -- you have defensive replacements in Jack Wilson and Coco Crisp, some pop in Brett Wallace, J.D. Drew and Rick Ankiel, as well as some versatility in Daniel Descalso. Daric Barton's there, too, but not sure where or when he'd ever play considering Pujols is still a Cardinal here.

What's Good?

Any lineup with Pujols is not bad -- but it's not overwhelming, either. While lacking some of the firepower from Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, there are still some passable players. While there's no Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright, there is Dan Haren and the top two of the rotation are good. The strength of this team -- and Tony La Russa would certainly love this -- is the bullpen. Not only are their Cardinals holdovers of Motte, Boggs, Salas and Sanchez, you also add Perez, Gergerson and Hawksowrth, giving this team plenty of relief options. 

What's Not?

After the top two in the rotation, the rest are pretty pedestrian. McClellan is not only in the rotation -- where he started in 2011 -- but he's also going to be either a No. 3 or No. 4. The outfield isn't terrible, but when you take away Berkman and Holliday, it's going to pale in comparison.

Comparison to real 2011

Let's just get to the point, the margin for error for the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals was razor thin, but they stayed on the right side of it just enough to go on to one of the most exciting, improbable runs of all time to capture the World Series title. There is no way this hypothetical team could do anything close to what the real Cardinals did. The offensive firepower isn't the same and there's no Chris Carpenter. No, this team doesn't just fail to win the World Series or make the playoffs, it fails to reach .500 and probably finishes in the bottom half of our made-up NL Central.

Next: Ranking the Homegrown teams.

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 10:52 am
Edited on: December 8, 2011 11:06 am
 

What's next for the Cardinals?



By Matt Snyder


DALLAS -- A Cardinals legend is leaving St. Louis and headed to Los Angeles, as Albert Pujols has signed with the Angels. For many, the main question here is, where do the Cardinals go from here?

There are several moving parts. Let's sort through them.

• As far as first base, the Cardinals already had a backup plan. Lance Berkman can shift right back to first, where he's best suited defensively anyway. This eliminates an awful defensive hole in the outfield, though it is obviously a defensive downgrade at first base, as Pujols is one of the best in the game. It was very unlikely the Cardinals would pursue Prince Fielder or even a lesser free agent first baseman like Carlos Pena before we knew about the Allen Craig injury. With the injury, do the Cardinals get hasty and go large after Fielder? It doesn't seem like a good bet, but we do know the Cardinals had a truckload of money they were about to spend and now haven't been able to do so. So feel free to speculate away.

MLB Winter Meetings
• It's entirely possible this changes the landscape for free agent shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Multiple reports had Rollins close to signing with the Phillies, but instead his agent didn't meet with them Wednesday night. Interestingly enough, Rollins' agent is Dan Lozano. Yes, the same Dan Lozano who represents Pujols. And the Cardinals have a need at shortstop ... and for a leadoff hitter. They were said to be interested in Rollins a bit ago, but obviously all efforts were focused on Pujols until Thursday morning. He's gone now, though, so we may very well see Rollins get a nice offer from the Cardinals. Maybe even a panic-type deal. There is still a feeling Rollins is headed back to Philly, but the Pujols signing very much affects the market for the All-Star shortstop.

• In the outfield, the Cardinals now have a predicament. They were set to go with Berkman, Jon Jay and Matt Holliday. If Pujols left, Berkman would slide to first base and Craig would become the everyday right fielder. The problem is, Craig is likely out until May. And you never know how players will bounce back from knee surgeries. What if there are setbacks? So this poses a big problem. It looks like it's Skip Schumaker in right, for now, and there isn't really much better the Cardinals can do -- assuming their free agent focus turns to Rollins, which I fully expect.

• One last thing, we have to remember the Cardinals are getting back a healthy Adam Wainwright. They won the World Series last season without their ace. And now he's back. So the starting pitching will be improved.

And it better be, because the Cardinals just lost the best player of the last decade.

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Posted on: December 6, 2011 1:41 pm
 

Report: Allen Craig had knee surgery

By Matt Snyder

DALLAS -- With the Cardinals bracing for the possibility of losing first baseman Albert Pujols to free agency, this news is just like rubbing salt in the wound. Outfielder Allen Craig had surgery on his right knee before Thanksgiving, Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

According to Gould, Craig injured the knee during the regular season when he ran into the wall at Houston's Minute Maid Park. With the surgery, two pins were placed in Craig's kneecap to stabilize it. His expected recovery time is reportedly four to six months. So, yes, the beginning of the 2012 season is certainly in question -- in fact, it looks like he's out until May.

The dynamics of this issue are huge for St. Louis. The backup plan for Pujols signing elsewhere was to move Lance Berkman to first base and use Craig as the everyday right fielder. With Craig now likely out until May, the Cardinals run the risk of being awfully thin offensively, should Pujols sign elsewhere.

Craig, 27, hit .315/.362/.555 with 11 homers in 219 plate appearances last season. He endeared himself to Cardinals fanatics with several big postseason hits, including three home runs and five RBI in the World Series.

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Posted on: November 11, 2011 10:43 am
 

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

By Matt Snyder

Let's not go crazy about the headline before realizing it's still a longshot that Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols signs elsewhere. Personally, I'd be shocked if he signed with anyone else. Most of the major markets are unable to come through with a huge bid. The Cubs might be able to, but we don't know if the new brain trust wants to take that path immediately (my guess is they don't). The Marlins are meeting with Pujols Friday, but could they afford him? It's doubtful they could come close to paying what St. Louis could. Can the allure of taking his talents to South Beach trump the loyalty, familiarity and dollars of St. Louis? Tough call, but only Pujols could answer that.

Still, let's just imagine a scenario where the Cardinals looked at the price tag internally and thought it best to outwardly appear as if they've done everything they could -- to appease the fans -- but still let Pujols walk via free agency. Obviously losing the best player in baseball would hurt the Cardinals, but I don't think it would be a death blow.

Let's check out what could be done with the money available, should Pujols sign elsewhere.

First of all, Jose Reyes could be signed to play shortstop. The leadoff spot was a bigger problem for the Cardinals than the middle of the order in 2011 (since-retired manager Tony La Russa had to use Ryan Theriot at leadoff in Game 7 of the World Series). Throw money at Reyes and the problem is solved. Plus, with Theriot, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso, there's plenty of infield depth to play with when Reyes serves a few stints on the DL. Jimmy Rollins could be a fall-back option. Next, Mark Buehrle could be signed. Remember, he grew up a Cardinals fan and has expressed interest in pitching for St. Louis in the past.

That means the Cardinals best lineup would be something like this:

1. Jose Reyes (or Rollins), SS
2. Allen Craig, RF
3. Matt Holliday, LF
4. Lance Berkman, 1B
5. David Freese, 3B
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Jon Jay, CF
8. Punto/Theriot/Schumaker/Descalso, 2B

The starting rotation now includes a fully recovered Adam Wainwright, so it looks like this:

1. Adam Wainwright
2. Chris Carpenter
3. Mark Buehrle
4. Jaime Garcia
5. Kyle Lohse

Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn and top prospect Shelby Miller are available in case of injury. And the bullpen is largely the same as it was toward the end of last season, with Jason Motte now getting a full season as closer.

I tell you what, that's a pretty damn good team. Sure, there are questions, like how are Freese and Craig going to hit over the course of a 162-game season as regulars? In moving Berkman to first and starting Craig, the bench loses a valuable bat, too. Age has to be a concern with Berkman and Carpenter. And of course, how does everyone respond without La Russa? Overall, though, there isn't much to dislike about that hypothetical team.

Considering what Pujols' salary might do to the ballclub if he's making $25 million or more eight years from now -- he'll turn 32 in January -- maybe it wouldn't be so bad for St. Louis if he did leave. It's certainly worth considering (again, internally, as to not alienate Pujols himself or any of the fans). I'd at least talk about it, and I'm guessing the front office has done so as well.

To reiterate, I don't think Pujols is going anywhere, but we're smack-dab in the time of the year that hypotheticals are the most fun.

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Posted on: October 29, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: October 29, 2011 3:16 am
 

Part-timer Craig makes most of opportunities

By Matt Snyder

ST. LOUIS -- Allen Craig only played in 75 regular-season games, but Cardinals fans would tell you he made the most of his opportunities then, just as he did again throughout the seven games of the World Series. And Craig firmly believes in taking advantage of any chances he gets.

"It’s all about just making the most of your opportunities," he said on the field minutes after catching the final out of World Series Game 7. "You can’t let opportunities slip, especially in the World Series. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Craig, 27, was most certainly a part of it. He was an integral part in all four Cardinals wins -- and in a loss they probably should have won.

In Game 1, Craig came up to pinch hit with a tie game and runners on first and third. He was facing Alexi Ogando, who was lights-out in the ALCS. Craig delivered a line-drive single to right, which ended up being the game-winning hit.

In Game 2, Craig came up in a nearly identical situation and again put the Cardinals ahead with a single to right off Ogando. The Rangers would rally and win in the ninth, but Craig got to Ogando twice in a row, and it's possible that ruined Ogando for the series -- he ended up allowing seven hits and seven walks in 2 2/3 innings in the World Series.

In Game 3, Craig got the scoring started with a solo home run in the first inning.

In Game 6, Craig woke everyone up in Busch Stadium with an upper-deck homer in the seventh. It felt like a ghost town before that shot, and the Cardinals would eventually come through with the epic comeback victory to avoid elimination.

World Series Coverage
And then, in Game 7, Craig not only homered again, but he also brought one back in the yard. Nelson Cruz hit a shot to deep left field and Craig went back and perfectly timed a jump to rob Cruz of the postseason home-run record. Center fielder Skip Schumaker had a perfect view of the ball's trajectory and knew Craig had a shot.

“Yeah, it was in the air long enough where I thought he had a chance to get to the wall in time," Schumaker said. "He timed it perfectly.”

Then Schumaker volunteered the essential information on Craig.

“Without him in this series we don’t win it.”

Well put. On a team with Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and Yadier Molina, two of the most important cogs in the World Series were MVP David Freese and part-timer Allen Craig.

Just like Craig said, you have to make the most of your opportunities. And he definitely did in 2011, especially in the World Series.

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Posted on: October 28, 2011 10:33 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 10:38 pm
 

Allen Craig robs Nelson Cruz of record



By Matt Snyder

ST. LOUIS -- Nelson Cruz has eight home runs this postseason, which is tied for the major-league record with Carlos Beltran and Barry Bonds. Friday night in the sixth inning, Cruz hit what could have been the record-setter. But Cardinals left fielder Allen Craig -- filling in for the injured Matt Holliday -- had other ideas.

As you can see from the picture, Craig fully extended and jumped just at the right time, hauling in Cruz's deep fly, which now simply shows on my scoresheet as a "7." Now, let's say it altogether in our best Soup Nazi voice: No record for you!

Craig is having himself quite the World Series and making a name for himself with the national audience. We'll certainly have more on him after the game, assuming the Cardinals hold onto their 5-2 lead (through 6 1/2 innings).

Follow along live on CBSportscom's GameTracker

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com