Publish date:



Upon throwing a home-run ball, a pitcher should remain calm, paw the dirt a couple of times, take a deep breath and prepare to face the next batter. "It's very important to throw a strike, to let the manager know you're all right," says Cardinal pitcher Dave LaPoint.

The St. Louis pitching staff will have to let the league know that it's all right this year. In 1982, Cardinal pitchers were among the best in the league, and they brought the club a world championship. Last year, with virtually the same personnel, the staff gave up 115 home runs, 21 more than the year before, and finished 10th in the league in pitching with a 3.79 ERA and 12th in the league in saves. "I don't think anybody's figured it out," says Bob Forsch, who gave up 23 homers in 187 innings. "If we'd have known what was wrong, we'd have done something about it."

The Cardinals will start the season with the same 10 pitchers that finished 1983. They do have a new pitching coach, Mike Roarke, who has been Bruce Sutter's personal tutor the past several years. Says Roarke, a reserve catcher with the Tigers from 1961-64 and an insurance salesman in the off-season, "I know in Bruce's case, sometimes when he made a couple of mistakes, he'd try to make even better pitches and end up making worse ones."

The starters will be Forsch, Joaquin Andujar, Dave LaPoint, Neil Allen and John Stuper, if he can get over shoulder trouble. "What may have happened is that the rest of us got so used to relying on Forschie and Joaquin to beat the other teams that we weren't ready to pick up the slack," says LaPoint, whose 12-9 record was the best on the staff. "The other thing is, we didn't pitch inside as often as we should have last year. We had to have a team meeting at the end of the season to stress that, and I think you'll see us throwing inside more this year. Those two inches we weren't using on the inside part of the plate might've been the difference between first place and fourth."

Elsewhere, George Hendrick will move from first base back to rightfield, David Green will go from right to first and Andy Van Slyke will see action at first, third and in the outfield. Otherwise, these are the same old Cardinals, and the news in camp was hardly earthshaking. Andujar found a rubber crocodile in his jeans. Shortstop Ozzie Smith had one of his six-fingered gloves stolen. And the talk was about manager Whitey Herzog's new haircut, which is either New Wave or Old Army, depending on one's particular point of view.

"The pitching can't possibly be as bad as it was last year," says Herzog. Unfortunately, it won't be nearly as good as it was in '82, either.

For starters, the Cardinals didn't have a single reliable one. Joaquin Andujar and Bob Forsch, who in 1982 had a combined record of 30-19, were a woeful 16-28 in '83. They didn't have a stopper either, Bruce Sutter getting only 21 saves, his fewest since '76, and losing 10 of 19 decisions. In all, the bullpen had an NL low 27 saves.