Cardinals bringing in Lohse for physical
St. Louis could add free-agent righty to ailing rotation Friday
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals announced Thursday that they will bring in free-agent right-hander Kyle Lohse for a physical examination on Friday. Officially they will confirm no more, but it is clear that the Cards intend to ink Lohse to a contract following the physical.
Lohse, 29, would provide depth and innings to a starting rotation that has been shredded by injuries. Four members of the Cardinals' projected season-opening rotation are currently unavailable due to various physical ailments.
"What made sense for us is his durability and what he's been able to do as far as pitch innings," general manager John Mozeliak said Thursday afternoon. "When you look at what we need to address, and the question marks we have, it seemed to make a lot of sense if we could get this put together. And after tomorrow, we'll know more."
Pitching coach Dave Duncan was even more direct regarding the team's expected new acquisition.
"I think we picked him up under the right circumstances," Duncan said, "and I'm happy we have him."
Lohse was expected to arrive in Palm Beach County on Thursday evening, and he should be checked out on Friday morning. Duncan said he hopes to have the hurler on a mound at Roger Dean Stadium before the end of the day Friday. Officials would not comment on the length of the deal with Lohse, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that it is a one-year pact.
Duncan said that Lohse threw a 75-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday, though the club did not have anyone watch. Mozeliak said he expects Lohse to be ready to start the season on the active roster.
The Cardinals' current rotation includes Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper and a great deal of uncertainty. Anthony Reyes, Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson were all expected to compete for a single spot in the rotation when camp started. Now, all three are in the spring rotation. Another durable, useful arm would be extremely welcome.
"It adds a lot to our depth if it's true," said manager Tony La Russa. "I hope it is."
Entering the offseason, Lohse was considered one of the top two starting pitchers on the free-agent market, along with righty Carlos Silva. But while Silva signed a four-year deal worth $48 million, Lohse waited for a taker.
Finally, the Cardinals' need dovetailed with Lohse's desire to get on the mound.
"When I knew more about what it would take to get him, I felt like he was a better fit for us," Duncan said. "We were able to not have to sign him to a long-term contract, and I think the terms of the contract were in accordance with what we need."
Super agent Scott Boras represents Lohse, and conventional wisdom held that Lohse's demands exceeded what was reasonable. Lohse, however, took issue with that characterization in an interview in February.
"I'm not asking for the world," he told MLB.com. "I never was. The market has been so weird this offseason. I'm surprised with the way things have gone, but I want to do what's right for my family."
Lohse has long been regarded as an extremely promising pitcher whose results haven't always matched his potential. He split 2007 between the Reds and Phillies, going 9-12 with a 4.62 ERA, 122 strikeouts, 57 walks and 22 home runs allowed in 192 2/3 innings.
He has pitched at least 190 innings in three of the past five seasons and has made at least 30 starts in five different seasons. For his career, Lohse is 63-74 with a 4.82 ERA.
"He's got great stuff," said catcher Jason LaRue, who was a teammate of Lohse in Cincinnati in 2006. "Last year he had a good year. It seemed like he started really putting everything together. He's always had the ability, stuff-wise, to be a great pitcher. It's just a matter of consistency, and obviously, that's the name of the game."
St. Louis has four starting pitchers sidelined and at various stages of health: Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, Joel Pineiro and Matt Clement. Carpenter won't pitch until at least midseason, while Mulder is expected to return sometime in May.
Clement is coming along and could pitch for the Cardinals sometime in April, but that's uncertain. Pineiro hopes to get in at least a couple of Grapefruit League games before the Cardinals break camp, but in the meantime, pitchers are scarce for St. Louis. Prospect Clayton Mortensen, a sandwich pick after the first round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, will start against the Dodgers on Friday.
"If it were a perfect world, we wouldn't have had to go down this path," Mozeliak said. "But it's not. And we're going to need someone to pitch every fifth day. At some point, we may have [excess] starting pitching, and at that point, we may be dealing from a strength instead of a weakness."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.