Pruitt shines in first full season with Salukis

By Gus Bode

The St. Louis Cardinals have a vast majority of their lineup returning for next season, however, the combination of changes the team will, and might, make could have a lot to do with the amount of success in 2012.

While most agree that the contract with Albert Pujols will have the single biggest impact in 2012, it’s perhaps the mix of players and coaching staff that could control the fate of another potential World Series contender.

The incoming manager stands as another determining factor. With the abrupt retirement of long-time manager Tony La Russa, the new hiree will have an ideal lineup to walk in to, but a lot of pressure will come with the managerial duties.

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The previous three Cardinals managers are La Russa, Joe Torre and Whitey Herzog — three managers likely to end up in Cooperstown.

A week and a half into the interviewing process, the Cardinals have talked to, or will talk to, at least six individuals by Friday for the vacant position. However, only one of the potential suitors has any previous MLB coaching experience.

Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona is the most recent name added to the list, as he met or will meet with the Cardinals’ organization. The team has not yet commented on where they are in the process.

With more than 12 years of experience, Francona is likely to be resting on the top of the team’s list of realistic inquirers.

Other applicants include Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo and former Chicago Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg, both of whom are rumored to be interviewed today.

Former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny, Memphis Redbirds manager Chris Maloney and 2011 White Sox triple-A affiliate manager Joe McEwing have also reportedly interviewed for the job.

Whoever does receive the new position should have plenty of talent and depth to field a team.

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The starting rotation should be pretty well set with the re-signing of the team’s ace Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright coming back from Tommy John surgery and the return of Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia.

The bullpen shouldn’t be too different either with Jason Motte, Lance Lynn, Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas.

The team should also be set with some depth on the bench, with the exception of the release of shortstop Rafael Furcal, and the possibility of parting ways with Pujols.

This is a team that finished on top of the National League in RBIs, runs, hits and batting average.

The Cardinals finished with a .273 team batting average, ahead of the second-place New York Mets with their .264 average.

Even if you eliminate the 579 at-bats and 173 hits Pujols had, St. Louis still would have finished on top with an average of .270.

Though most Cardinals fans would elect to keep Pujols in St. Louis, assuming the price is right, it appears the team could still have plenty of success without him.

The door is open and all are well aware that he could be wearing a different jersey come April, and even possibly committing a Cardinal sin of becoming a Chicago Cub.

Even if that happens, at least he’ll still be in St. Louis come the home opener, which could make for one eerie Friday the 13th.

 

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