La Russa Has Put Himself in a Pinch


Mark McGwire sat out 250 games because of a heel injury with the Oakland A’s in 1993 and ’94. In St. Louis, the arch isn’t the problem.

McGwire hasn’t played since July 7 because of a knee injury, the Cardinals are 20-23 without him, and there is ongoing uncertainty as to when he’ll be ready and how he should be used.

Manager Tony La Russa wants to activate McGwire when rosters can be expanded Friday and use him as a pinch-hitter or a pinch-hitting threat. McGwire wants no part of that.


“If I’m going to play, I’m going to play nine innings,” he said. “When and if I come back, I’ll be playing, not pinch-hitting. I’m pretty good at what I do, but I’m not that good to just step in and pinch-hit after sitting around for three months.”

Said La Russa: “I don’t care if he just walks up there and stands. I don’t think there’s a manager around who wouldn’t manage around him or who wasn’t aware of him [on the bench]. He can stand up there flat-footed and hit the ball in the seats or draw a walk or get a base hit. We don’t want to use him that way, but we need every weapon we can get. If he can stand and walk to the plate, then he ought to be on our active list.”

McGwire can stand and walk, but he can still do little else. The Cardinals have exhausted treatments with virtually no improvement. Surgery is a possibility at the end of the season.

Meantime, if the Cardinals--gamely holding the National League Central lead they have maintained for all but three days--can talk McGwire into getting in the batter’s box, they have a plan after that. They intend to bring up Esix Snead, who has 106 stolen bases in Class A, as a pinch-running specialist.


The Arizona Diamondbacks have 10 players 33 or older, but club officials take exception to the perception that they are in a make-or-break situation as they battle the San Francisco Giants for the Western Division title and the New York Mets for the wild card.

As General Manager Joe Garagiola Jr. noted, his veteran players do their training in the right place.

“The days of running the streets at night went out with polyester uniforms,” he said. “And we have people in place who will step up and contribute down the road.”


Colorado Rocky catcher Ben Petrick used a football analogy to describe teammate Todd Helton’s success at the plate.

“It’s kind of like a red zone defense,” Petrick said. “Whatever they throw at him he has an answer.”

Helton’s .400 bid is impressive enough, but the fact that he has 31 homers adds to the accomplishment. Only twice in the last 60 years has a player batted .380 or more with at least 30 homers, and both times it was Ted Williams. The man known as Teddy Ballgame hit 38 homers while batting .388 in 1957, and he had 37 homers while batting .406 in 1941.


It’s suspected that Jack McKeon is headed to the unemployment line at the end of the season, but there will still be a McKeon with the Cincinnati Reds. His son, Kasey, was elevated to scouting director this week.


Those boos that City of Brotherly Love fans heap on Philadelphia Phillie Manager Terry Francona every time he leaves the dugout at Veterans Stadium are no big deal.

“I’ve been released five times, I’m bald and I have a big nose,” he said. “I’ll make it through this. I’ll handle it.”