Matthew Leach, the Cardinals beat writer for MLB.com, was kind enough to answer..."/> Matthew Leach, the Cardinals beat writer for MLB.com, was kind enough to answer..."/> Matthew Leach, the Cardinals beat writer for MLB.com, was kind enough to answer..."/>

Interview with Matthew Leach, MLB.com

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Matthew Leach, the Cardinals beat writer for MLB.com, was kind enough to answer some of my questions on the major storylines so far in the season. Below, find his thoughts on Albert Pujols’ future in St. Louis, the rise of David Freese and Colby Rasmus, what to expect come October, and more.

Ryne Gery: The Albert Pujols contract negotiations jumped back into the news after Howard’s big deal. How do you see the negotiations playing out and how much do you think Pujols will realistically get? I can’t see him going anywhere else, but could he leave St. Louis if the right price comes along?

Matthew Leach: I’m not really comfortable speculating on numbers, but to answer the last question, sure, absolutely he could leave. I expect, ultimately, that a deal will get done. But anyone who calims that it’s not possible is in my opinion deluding himself or herself.

RG: David Freese was an unknown coming into the season with everyone focusing on his off-the-field issues in the past. What are your thoughts on his hot start? How has he handled himself and what has it been like for him as the hometown kid?

ML: I’ve been a fan of his as a player for a while. The guy has legitimate power, a good approach and is a quality defensive third baseman. I don’t expect him to keep this batting average, but I do expect him to flash more power. His carriage on the field and in the clubhouse has been very impressive. He goes about things the right way, from what I’ve observed and been told.

RG: Colby Rasmus has also been a hot name. How far do you see him progressing this year and beyond as a player?

ML: Star in the making. He’ll play in some All-Star games. Power, patience, defense, speed, what’s not to love? Ballplayer.

RG: Mark McGwire has been pretty quiet so far. What has he been like for those of us who don’t get to see some of the behind the scenes workouts? Does he seem at ease and how have the players responded to him?

ML: We just don’t see much of it.

RG: Right now, would you say the Cardinals are the best team in the National League?

ML: They’re in the conversation. By the end of the year, I think the Phillies, Cardinals, Rockies and maybe Braves will have separated themselves — I’m still very high on COL.

RG: Do you see the club adding any players or tweaking the roster before the season is over or is this team the one they’ll try to ride to October?

ML: Depends on what happens between now and late July, but I certainly don’t expect that they’ll just completely stand pat.

RG: What do you think separates this year’s team from last year’s? Are there any differences that make you think the 2010 Cards are better suited for October?

ML: Not a lot. Similar team. The mistake is thinking that last year’s team somehow was poorly “suited for October.” They lost three games. To read more into it than that is IMO a mistake.

RG: Are there any unsung guys that you have been really impressed with that may not be catching the press’ or fans’ eye? Any interesting stories about a player that we may not be aware of?

ML: Not really sure what you’re asking here, honestly. I will say, and I’ve said before, that I don’t really get why the fans ride Jason Motte so hard. He’s having a very nice year.

RG: Besides staying healthy, what is the most important thing for the Cards to reach the ultimate destination this fall?

ML: That’d be the main thing. Be healthy, be lucky, play well when and if they get there.

(Special thanks to Matthew Leach for taking the time to give his insight on the Cards.)