Cardinals notes: Beltran's health, bullpen updates, etc.


Cardinals notes: Beltran's health, bullpen updates, etc.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Carlos Beltran's status is a fickle thing. He can go from "one hundred percent healthy" directly to the clubhouse without seemingly injuring anything.

In playoff baseball, you look for absolutes, but at the veteran age of 35 and nursing a history of knee and hand problems, Beltran won't give them to you. He's in tune with his body and pro-active on the injury front, as evidenced by his early exit in Game 3. But one thing is certain -- he's in the lineup for Game 6.

NEWS: Game 6 lineups

"I salute him and our medical staff for getting really ahead of this," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "And hopefully we'll be able to keep riding this out and it doesn't flare up again."

Beltran is 4-for-12 (.333) this series with one home run and two doubles. He is the all-time leader among playoff hitters (minimum 100 at-bats), batting .371 over 32 playoff games.

Adam Wainwright, who started Game 4 for the Cardinals Thursday in St. Louis, won't be available out of the bullpen for Matheny in Game 6. Wainwright is two days removed from his 96-pitch, seven-inning outing that earned him the win in St. Louis.

Wainwright, 31, served as the Cardinals' closer during their 2006 playoff run that culminated in a World Series title. Wainwright appeared in nine playoff games that year, recording four saves and a win without allowing a run.

Still, Matheny isn't concerned about his stable of late-inning arms.

"Right now we're excited about what we have today and have a bullpen that had a full day off yesterday and ready to go," Matheny said. "So we've got plenty of arms down there."

The closing responsibilities will be reserved for Jason Motte and his beard.

Motte, 30, owns all 45 of the Cardinals' saves his year, including three this postseason. He became the third player in MLB history to record a perfect save of two or more innings when he shut the door in the eighth and ninth innings of Game 3, joining Mariano Rivera and Byung-Hyun Kim.

The Cardinals are inching their way toward a dynasty. They have now been a part of seven of the past 12 Nationals League Championship Series, and are vying for their third World Series title over that span.

What makes them so good? If you ask Matheny, it's the strength of all facets of the organization that sets the stage for their players to shine.

"I absolutely give a lot of credit to our development system," Matheny said. "And even a step ahead of that is our scouting staff and bringing in some guys who have the stuff that's pretty visible, but also the makeup to handle a situation like this. I think they start to preach to them a pretty consistent message, one, of the way they're supposed to go about things when they wear this uniform; and, two, the fact that we're not afraid to use a young pitcher if he can make an impact on our club.And we've done that for years.

"The guys have been thrown into big situations and have delivered. So it's been something that's worked in the past and is working right now."

Game 6 starter Chris Carpenter is the old man on the staff at age 37. Kyle Lohse is right behind him at age 34. Wainwright 31. Motte 30. And the rest of the hurlers are in their 20s, and in a number of cases, their younger 20s.

Here is the Cardinals' collection of bullpen arms, and their time walking the earth:

41 -- Mitchell Boggs -- 28 years, 8.2 months
44 -- Edward Mujica -- 28 years, 5.4 months
59 -- Fernando Salas -- 27 years, 4.7 months
34 -- Marc Rzepczynski (L) -- 27 years, 1.8 months
58 -- Joe Kelly -- 24 years, 4.4 months
64 -- Trevor Rosenthal -- 22 years, 4.8 months
40 -- Shelby Miller -- 22 years, .4 months

No word on which Cardinal would start a potential Game 7, though it would be Kyle Lohse's turn in the four-man playoff rotation.

The Cardinals opted to send relief pitchers Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal to the media availability normally reserved for the next day's starter. Matt Cain spoke for the Giants.

If there is a Game 7, Matheny would be required to name his man and make him available to the media.

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’


How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'


Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

Warriors rookie Jordan Bell made an instant impact for the team this season. But as of late, his playing time has dwindled. In four of the Warriors' last five games, Bell has been inactive. 

“It's just the life of a rookie,” Bell said to The Athletic. “That's what Steve Kerr always tells me. It's not because I'm playing bad. Just gotta be professional about it and stay ready. It's like being a freshman all over again.”

While Bell wants to be on the court with his teammates, what he appreciates most from Steve Kerr is his communication. Kerr is always honest about when he won't play Bell and he keeps the former Oregon Duck encouraged. 

“He talks to me about it every time he sees me,” Bell said. “Lets me know I'm not going to be active. Keep doing what you're doing, you're doing good. But it still f------ sucks. You're playing well and it doesn't mean anything because you're younger. It sucks, but you got to be professional about it.”

Bell has played in 12 of the Warriors' 18 games this season. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over 8.3 minutes per game. 

The Warriors bought the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from the Chicago Bulls and selected Bell. On Friday night, the Warriors, and perhaps Bell, play the Bulls for the first time this season.