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Balls & Strikes Mailbag: Hot start, Jay, Wainwright

Posted Friday, April 20, 2012, at 4:23 PM

Well, everyone it's time for another mailbag column. I've gotten a handful of questions in and wanted to answer them before things get backed up on me.

So, here we go.

Hey Corey. The Cardinals have gotten off to a really good start so far this season. Do you think it's a fluke or is the team really this good?

Jason B.

Arnold, Mo.

Well, it's a complicated answer. The team has been on a tear since the beginning of the season. To expect them to keep up this pace would be grossly unrealistic. With that said, I fully expect a very impressive season if they can hang in there in terms of health. The offense, I firmly believe, is as good as they look. Sure, they'll have ups and downs, but in general, they will be a force to be reckoned with. The starting pitching has been the real surprise. Never would I have envisioned four starters coming out of the gates with 2-0 records. Just like the offense will come and go sometimes, most of what's happening in the rotation is a good thing. Westbrook, for instance, has shed weight and changed his mechanics. We're not talking about just having a couple of good weeks. Both he and Kyle Lohse have made changes to their mechanics that have improved them as pitchers. I think what we see from both will be a pleasant surprise.

I hate to put a number on things, but if I had to I would bet on the Cardinals being just over the 90 win plateau in 2012.

Corey,

Jon Jay has gotten off to a great start this season, both on offense and defense. Do you think he is at his peak already or does he have more growing to do?

Chuck R.

Carbondale, Ill.

Hi Chuck. I've long been a proponent of Jon Jay. Seeing what he did in the Memphis in 2010, I really had a good feeling about him. While he went through a little funk last year, he finished up hitting .297. That's great for a kid's first season. He had a horrible postseason, we all know that. Everyone slumps at one time or another. This April he's .349 with two homeruns.

Defensively, he worried a lot of people last year, but he's made some big strides over the winter. In spring training he spent time with Jim Edmonds, and according to reports littered him with questions. Apparently he took it to heart, because this year he is really looking like a centerfielder. He's calling guys off and stretching to make tough plays. In my personal opinion, he is better defensively than Rasmus was in 2011. Lots of guys, in their second and third years, struggle more as pitchers become more acclimated to them, but Jay has done the opposite. He continues to improve. I doubt he'll ever be Jim Edmonds, but I do think he has the ability to be a top notch centerfielder. He's generally healthy and led the club in appearances in 2011 with 159 games. That's a nice quality in a player. Be patient with him.

Corey, Adam Wainwright really seems to be struggling early on and has lost a lot of velocity. How concerned should we be?

Terry L.

Puxico, Mo.

I've heard this one a lot lately. In an ideal world, a pitcher comes back from Tommy John in 12 months and throws like he never missed a game. We all wanted that for Waino. We weren't being realistic. On average, it takes a player 15 months to return to full form. In my opinion, he should have spent April in Memphis with less pressure. Four or five starts at Memphis to build both his strength and confidence could have done him a lot of good. If he's not back to his old self by around the All Star break, then we'll talk about concern. For now, the only thing that will help him is patience. His velocity will come back and so will his control. When he pitched Thursday, early in the game he showed some good signs. He's moving in the right direction, but these things take time. Thanks for reading!

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Don't forget to dive into this week's contest to win a copy of A+E Networks Home Entertainment/MLB Productions "BASEBALL'S GREATEST GAMES: 2011 WORLD SERIES GAME 6 Bluray/DVD Combo Pack." If you know which past Cardinals player had the most career intentional walks prior to 2008 then enter before Thursday, April 26 at noon. Just click on this link to read more and find out how to enter.

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To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail cnoles@dailystatesman.com , call (573)624-4545 or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

Follow him on Twitter @coreynoles



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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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