Future Begins Now for Joe Torre and His Cardinals

From Associated Press

The future begins now for the St. Louis Cardinals, as far as Manager Joe Torre is concerned.

The Cardinals have eight potential free agents and Torre will be exploring a number of options and sitting down high-priced veterans as the season winds down.

"We may see a mass exodus here," Torre said Tuesday. "I knew that coming in, but if all the main players decide to walk at least we got a peek instead of waiting till spring training to see what they can do."

The first move was calling up outfielder Ray Lankford from Triple A Louisville Monday to replace injured Pedro Guerrero. Lankford will play regularly in center field, moving Willie McGee, one of the potential free agents, to right field for the first time in his professional career.

Lankford, 23, was hitting .261 with 10 home runs, 72 RBIs and 28 stolen bases in his first season in Triple A. Lankford, who got his first start Tuesday night, has often been mentioned as the likely successor to McGee, who has played for Cardinals since 1982.

"We want to get a good read on what we can expect from him," Torre said. "The only way to do that is to really throw him out there."

McGee is second in the National League in batting with a .339 average but has made a career-high 16 errors in center field. A few weeks ago he flung his glove into the stands after dropping a fly ball.

Torre expects McGee to make the adjustment to right.

"He's a good athlete, and he shouldn't have much problem," Torre said.

While Guerrero is on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back injury, Torre also is moving rookie catcher Todd Zeile to first base and giving backup catcher Tom Pagnozzi a chance to play regularly.

"I talked to Todd Zeile. We know he's a catcher. I'm very impressed with his catching," Torre said. "He seems to need a little more work with the receiving and the throwing, but it's smooth."

Pagnozzi, a backup the past four seasons, is hitting .266.

The odd man out is Milt Thompson, who has recently pulled out of a season-long slump.

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