St. Louis in position to sweep Cincy in opening series


The Cardinals hand the ball to Brad Penny Thursday to go for the series sweep. The veteran righty will make his first start in a Redbird uniform. He gets the chance to make his first impressions on Cards nation and to keep the team’s momentum going into the weekend. Penny had an up-and-down spring and faced some criticism, but now, the games count. He should be ready to roll and have plenty left in the tank. Last season, he finished with the Giants and was very good in the NL. There’s no reason to think that Penny shouldn’t be even better in St. Louis. The Cards have a better lineup and perhaps the best catcher and pitching coach in the league. With his wily instincts and Molina’s smarts behind the plate, Penny should be worth the investment. St. Louis hopes the return on that investment starts this morning. Penny has had plenty of success in his career against the Reds, going 7-2 — but he hasn’t faced the team since 2008.

Bronson Arroyo, another veteran hurler, will try to keep the brooms in the closet and put the Reds in the win column. He is coming off two straight 15-win seasons in Cincinnati and is a familiar face to Cardinals hitters. In four years with the Reds, he has been a tough competitor and leader on the mound for a young struggling ball club. During that run, he has compiled a 6-8 record against the often superior St. Louis team. Arroyo has been a leader in innings pitched throughout his career, so he always comes to work.

Red Sox Connection

-Both pitchers had stops in Boston during their careers. Penny’s stop in Beantown was a disaster and didn’t last a full season. Arroyo’s was much more enjoyable. He was a part of the 2004 World Series championship team that broke the curse before arriving in Cincinnati in 2006.

Once a Red, now a Redbird

-This could be a good day to get Felipe Lopez going in 2010. Lopez played for Cincinnati from 2003-2006 and made an All-Star appearance in 2005. He was teammates with Bronson Arroyo for the first half of 2006 until he was traded to Washington. When the two haven’t share the same uniform, Lopez has owned Arroyo. In 29 career at bats, he is hitting .448 with two home runs. I’m sure Arroyo wouldn’t mind seeing Flip stay on the bench today. Unfortunately for him, Lopez will get the start at third today. He walked in his only plate appearance this season, so his next hit will be his first of the year.

Call to the Pen

It has been smooth sailing so far for the Cards. The only cause for concern is the bullpen, which was expected. The ‘pen is lacking the depth and talent to be dominant. St. Louis just needs it to be efficient. Kyle McClellan looked great all spring as a starter, but turned in a subpar performance last night. Ryan Franklin has a lot of people scared about the ninth inning this year, and didn’t help ease any minds with his Opening Day performance. McClellan and Franklin need to be the leaders of the ‘pen or the Cards could be in trouble when the seventh inning rolls around. It is early in the season and there is plenty of time for them to get comfortable in their roles before sounding any alarms, though.

The game is an early bird special, starting at 11:35 CDT.

Some lineup changes for today: Lopez will start at third. LaRue will give Yadi a break. And Allen Craig may be in right field in place of Ludwick.