Ludwick backs off 50-homer talk and other Cardinals strugglers

Of the many stories that came out of the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up fan festival just two months ago, one focused on two Cardinals outfielders who hit the weight room over the winter and appeared noticeably bulked up.

One was top prospect Colby Rasmus. In an AP article in January, this was said about Colby:

“The 22-year-old Rasmus has been doing eight bench-press repetitions at 275 pounds all winter while working out at home with his brother and dad. He’s also done a lot of sprint work and said his speed has not been compromised by the injury.”

The outfielder has been given plenty of opportunities to impress this spring, but so far, has fallen short of the lofty expectations placed upon him. Rasmus’ current line is .244/.326/.366. His 13 strikeouts in 41 at-bats lead the team.

The other prominent lifter is fellow outfielder Ryan Ludwick. The same January 22 AP article mentioned this:

“His bench press routine of eight repetitions at 285 pounds, a 30-pound improvement over last season, helps him set the bar for 50 homers in 2009 with a straight face.”

At the time, Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch also commented. He seemed unsure if the comments were made in jest.

“Ludwick ought to get stronger and was able to increase, for example, his bench-press reps by 30 pounds. He then semi-joked that he’d ‘like to hit 50’ home runs.”

Manager Tony La Russa was not amused at the time. “That’s a dumb thing for Lud to say,” he was quoted as saying to the Belleville News-Democrat. The manager wisely wanted the outfielder to let the power come to him.

Struggling so far this spring with a .147/.275/.206 line after 12 games and 34 at-bats, Ludwick is now waving off the 50 home run talk.

From a Sunday AP article, “Ludwick emphasizes that he never predicted 50 homers.”

“I said ‘I dreamed about playing in the big leagues so why can’t you dream about hitting 50 home runs in the big leagues?”‘ Ludwick said. “Do I think I’m going to hit 50 home runs? No. I’m just trying to play to my capabilities.”

With that, I have decided to offer my mid-spring view of how the remaining players in big league camp have performed to date. All players are placed into one of three groups – rising, flat or falling.

These are my personal views and several weeks remain for these to change. Here’s hoping all the fallers rise during the second half of camp.

Pitchers Mitchell Boggs Late start, but four shutout innings.
Rising Chris Carpenter So far, so good.
Ryan Franklin Save the bullets for the season!
Blake Hawksworth A 4.22 ERA is an improvement.
Josh Kinney 4 walks in 5 scoreless IP only minor blemish.
Charlie Manning Too many walks, but hasn’t been bad (1.69 ERA).
Jason Motte Hasn’t walked anyone in 5 IP.
Joel Pineiro No ER in 10 IP!
Adam Wainwright Not yet at an ace level, but improving each time.
P.J. Walters Quietly entering sixth starter race.
Pitchers Kyle Lohse Sorry, but 3.60 ERA is expected for $41 M.
Flat Trever Miller No surprises is a good thing for veteran.
Adam Ottavino WBC game was nice, but Cards results less so.
Fernando Salas 3 ER and 3 BB in 5 IP. Expectations low in 1st camp.
Matt Scherer Slowed by injury, but 1st IP good. Could rise.
Jess Todd 3 BB, 3 ER in 6 1/3 IP. He’ll be back, though!
Dennys Reyes Yet to appear, but not dominating in WBC.
Pitchers Kyle McClellan 7.56 ERA concerning, but should end up in pen.
Falling Chris Perez How bad is the heel bothering him?
Royce Ring 2 HR in 5 1/3 IP.
Brad Thompson 5.19 ERA not impressive for veteran swingman.
Todd Wellemeyer Only 7 IP, so time to improve on 5.14 ERA.
Catchers Jason LaRue Seeing a lot of time, but only batting .208
Flat Yadier Molina Away at WBC. He will be fine.
Matt Pagnozzi Hitting .200, but stayed longer than expected.
Catchers Bryan Anderson Not hitting (.154) and runners are stealing on him.
Infielders Brian Barden Hitting a quiet .350.
Rising Allen Craig Batting .476! Should be slugging 1B at Memphis.
Khalil Greene May be dark horse surprise of 2009 team.
Joe Mather Leads in RBI, but average remains a concern.
Joe Thurston Versatile and contributing.
Infielders Albert Pujols .333/.489/.455 line is expected.
Flat Skip Schumaker Bat is just fine. Position change still open issue.
Infielders Troy Glaus When will he really be back at 100%?
Falling Tyler Greene Glove good, but 8 Ks in 35 ABs and .229 average.
Brendan Ryan Needs to get healthy and hot. 3-for-10 not enough.
Outfielders Rick Ankiel Batting .333, drawing BBs, but Ks still a bit high.
Rising Chris Duncan Power seems back.
Jon Jay One of camp surprises. Can he hit enough for COF?
Outfielders Brian Barton .192 with 9 Ks in 26 ABs.
Falling Ryan Ludwick Still has plenty of time to get ready for season.
Colby Rasmus Uneven play to date isn’t forcing his way onto team.

P.S. A Sunday article stated that Brendan Ryan is out of options. That is incorrect.