Juan Cruz won his three decisions in 2000 at Class-A Daytona. He went 9-6 at Double-A West Tenn last year and 3-1 after a late-season promotion to the Cubs.
He's not used to losing. And certainly not used to being 0-6.
"We're all concerned about his psyche," manager Don Baylor said after the Cardinals squeaked out a 3-2 victory Wednesday. "I imagine losing is weighing on his mind. If you're a young playereven when you're an older playerit has to get to you."
Then Baylor added without being prompted: "But we haven't talked about anything in the rotation at all."
That seemed to be Baylor's way of protecting Cruz from a litany of questions about Mark Prior, who is lurking at Triple-A Iowa.
Asked later if Cruz was certain to remain in the rotation, Baylor replied, "I just looked at it and it's the Cardinals again [Monday]. So we're going to have to think about that."
If Prior remains at Iowa, he will make his next start Sunday against Las Vegas. Cubs President Andy MacPhail plans to take in the game during his annual trip to Des Moines.
Cruz had his second shortest outing of the season Wednesday. He needed 88 pitches to complete four innings because of his lack of control.
He walked six, hit two batters and almost balked in a run in the fourth.
"The mental part of it came into play," pitching coach Larry Rothschild said.
"He has fought the battle, but [Wednesday] it caught up with him."
"It affects you in every way, just like any other job," he said. "If you start to think about things too much, then you can put yourself in a tough situation."
For his part the 23-year-old Cruz said all the talk about Prior and losing his spot in the rotation has not affected him.
"I have to do my job," he said. "I will keep working because it's a long season."
After walking Sosa five times in the first two games of the series, St. Louis reverted to that strategy for the remainder of the day.
After Delino DeShields drew a two-out walk in the eighth, right-hander Matt Morris began to pitch to Sosa. Then he did the wise thing and uncorked a wild pitch.
With DeShields at second, Morris was free to walk Sosa intentionally. He then induced a flyout from Fred McGriff to end the inning.
"You don't let him beat you," Morris said of Sosa. "I almost did that in the first inning. We battled back and I wasn't going to let it happen again."
Sosa couldn't blame the Cardinals for their strategy.
Asked how he would pitch himself if he were the opposing manager, Sosa responded, "That's a great question. What can you do? If they walk me, somebody else can hit a double and I'll score."