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Cardinals tidbits: News from the 'Lou

Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2012, at 10:14 AM

It was a great weekend to be a fan of St. Louis sports. The Cardinals won yet another series and the Blues advanced to the second round of the NHL playoffs for a loooong time. Here are a few tidbits from the weekend.

* Power rankings - This week's Power Rankings were released Monday and the Cardinals were given the number two spot overall behind only the Texas Rangers who have definitely earned that top spot. The most interesting point to me is not where the Cardinals rank, but the teams they are believed to be better than. Here is a handful of samples - Detroit (3), Yankees (5), Dodgers (6), Phillies (11), Giants (12), Angels (13). The Boston Red Sox landed in possibly an all-time low of 23. Among national League Central competitors the Cardinals fared extremely well - Brewers (15), Reds (20), Pirates (24), Astros (26) and the Cubs (29). These rankings change every week, but the team is definitely going in the right direction. Playing so many division foes gives the Cardinals a great chance to expand their division lead beyond its current three game margin.

* St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday has gotten off to a slow start this season, but there's no reason to be concerned. Holliday, with the exception of 2011, traditionally struggles early in the season. Some guys just take a little longer to get warmed up. He pulled out an RBI hit on Sunday before going 2 for 3 with a walk in Monday's loss to Chicago. He's not exactly on a tear just yet, but it is a sign that he's moving in the right direction. By the end of the season he will put together good numbers.

* Rafael Furcal - I know when we re-signed Furcal I said we overpaid him, but so far he's earning his paycheck. For the first time in a while I feel like we have a real lead-off man. He's solid offensively and a true defensive asset. He had an error on Monday, but a shortstop who covers more ground will have a few errors. That's just part of it. Letting a ball fly past you isn't an error. Diving and fumbling a ball, however, is an error. That's something you won't see too many of from Furcal. He seems to have really come into his own as a Cardinal this year. After all, without his acquisition (and Rasmus' departure) we probably wouldn't be talking about how the Cardinals pushed through for a World Series championship. Frankly, we would have been lucky to see them in the playoffs if the moves hadn't happened. Kudos to Mo' for making the right moves even when many people thought he had lost his mind.

* Jon Jay gets good news - The team was concerned over the weekend that Jay's shoulder had maybe taken a turn for the worse, but a Monday MRI revealed no structural damage. That is fantastic news for a team that needs his bat in the lineup (and his glove on the field). I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about Jay, but you can't argue against his value so far in 2012. The bench is short and the offense hasn't been quite the same without his threat in the back of the lineup. There is no timetable for his return, but he is expected to rejoin the team today in Chicago. There's no word as to when he'll be in the lineup. It can't be soon enough as far as I'm concerned.

* Loss to Cubs - The loss to the Cubs Monday night was another example of leaving runners in scoring position coming back to bite them in the end. On a positive note, lots of guys are getting on base. With any luck this will work itself out. I'm not concerned at this point, but in mid-May I might feel differently. Motte had the worst night he's had in a while. That 12 pitch walk is what really seemed to pull the life out of him. You win some, you lose some. Tonight may be a different story. I look forward to seeing how Wainwright handles himself tonight. He's struggled, but that's what happens with Tommy John surgery. He'll come back, but it may take a while still yet. I can't help but wonder if a month in Memphis wouldn't have done him some good.


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

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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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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