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.

David West is coming up big for the Warriors

David West is coming up big for the Warriors

OAKLAND -- David West is as much a cleanup man as he is a basketball player.

The veteran power forward, masquerading as a center for the Warriors, cleans up behind teammates, cleans the clocks of opponents and probably cleans his plate after every meal. And he’d hit fourth in any manager’s batting order.

The Warriors during their renaissance haven’t had such a personality. They’ve been a fun bunch, enjoying life, each other and their pillaging of the NBA.

West, 36, brings a more laconic dynamic, and it’s on full display as the Warriors lean into the final weeks of this regular season. He’s a leader who is producing and, more and more, winning over a fan base that was somewhat skeptical early this season.

“David West has been playing brilliantly,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Friday night, after West came off the bench for a highly efficient 14-minute stint in a 114-100 win over the Kings.

Showcasing sharp passing, splendid shooting, solid rim protection and his usual old-jerky toughness, West totaled 8 points, four assists, three rebounds, three blocks and one steal. The Warriors were plus-8 when he was on the floor.

Such production, it seems, is a bit of a bonus.

“He’s been very good for us as a veteran leader,” Draymond Green said. “He’s been playing well, but just his presence also has meant a lot to this team.

“D-West is just kind of a no-bull---- type of a guy. He doesn’t say much. But when he does, you know it means a lot. And everybody hears him.”

Said West: “It’s just about adjusting and learning personalities. Obviously, this group has been very successful. I just try to add my 2 cents where I feel like it fits. Try not to over-talk people. I speak to guys directly and just make sure that we’re all on the same page.”

West is in his 14th season. Drafted by the New Orleans Hornets in 2003, he also has played for the Pacers and, last season, the Spurs, before joining the Warriors in July.

The question at the time was whether he still had a lot to give. West is a two-time All-Star and one of the most widely respected players in the league. But did he still have the legs to compete at a high level?

The answer is visible, particularly over the past month, since he returned from fractured left thumb on Feb. 23. West is shooting 53.0 percent from the field, he’s rebounding consistently and he has proven to be a spectacularly good passer -- easily one of the best in the league among big men.

Earlier this week, to quell any lingering concerns about how much athleticism he still has, West rose up and dunked over a crowd of three Dallas Mavericks. It was clock-cleaning at its finest.

“I’m just getting more comfortable,” West said, referring to his game and his locker-room influence. “We’ve developed good chemistry, communicating, harping on our defense more than anything else at this moment, because we feel that’s going to give us a chance if shots aren’t falling.”

West is on a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, $1.55 million. He sacrificed bigger dollars for a chance at his first championship. He’s doing his part. And he neither takes nor leaves any mess.

Dempsey hat trick lifts US over Honduras in statement win


Dempsey hat trick lifts US over Honduras in statement win


SAN JOSE — Bruce Arena's return as U.S. coach reignited American confidence, and his players responded with an emphatic rebound in World Cup qualifying.

Clint Dempsey returned from an irregular heartbeat to score his second international hat trick, 18-year-old phenom Christian Pulisic had one goal and set up three others, and the U.S. routed Honduras 6-0 Friday night to get right back in contention for an eighth straight World Cup berth.

Surprise starter Sebastian Lletget got his first international goal in the fifth minute after Pulisic's shot deflected off the goalkeeper, Michael Bradley doubled the lead in the 27th and Dempsey scored off Pulisic's perfectly weighted chip in the 32nd.

Finding room to maneuver in a central midfield role, Pulisic made it 4-0 just 12 seconds into the second half with his fourth international goal, Dempsey rounded the keeper to score following a Pulisic feed in the 49th, and Dempsey got another on a 23-yard free kick in the 54th. With 55 international goals, Dempsey moved within two of Landon Donovan's American record.

In its first competitive match since Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. moved from last to fourth in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, tied at three points with Honduras but ahead on goal difference, Mexico leads with seven points, followed by Costa Rica with six and Panama with four.

The top three nations qualify for next year's tournament in Russia, and the fourth-place nation advances to a playoff. With a victory at Panama on Tuesday, the Americans could move into the top three.

The U.S. had never before won a hexagonal game by more than three goals.

And oh how the American Outlaws and others among the lively home crowd loved every second of this long-awaited showing, chanting "Michael Bradley!" and "Demp-sey! Demp-sey!" through the Bay Area rain and cool March air.

Then, it was "Bruce Arena! Bruce Arena!"

Gloom descended upon the Americans in November when they opened the hexagonal with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico and a 4-0 wipeout at Costa Rica. The defeats caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to fire Klinsmann, who had coached the Americans since 2011, and bring back Arena, who lead the team from 1998-2006.

Dempsey, 34 and hoping to reach a fourth World Cup, was sidelined from August until this month by an irregular heartbeat and likely was starting only because of injuries to Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris. Tim Howard, the Americans' 38-year-old goalkeeper, got the shutout after returning only two weeks ago from a leg injury sustained in the loss to Mexico.

Geoff Cameron, back from a knee strain that had sidelined him for fourth months, was shifted to right back from central defense because of injuries to others, and Jorge Villafana was inserted on the left.

But there were yet more injuries. Lletget hurt his left ankle on Ever Alvarado's tackle and was replaced in the 18th minute, and defender John Brooks was stretchered off the field, hand over his face, in the 69th due to dehydration.

From the opening whistle, the U.S. played more aggressively than in the latter years of Klinsmann's reign. Arena revamped the midfield, giving a prominent role to Pulisic, who last week became the youngest American to score in the Champions League. He inserted Lletget and Nagbe, who were largely overlooked by Klinsmann last year, on the flanks.

The U.S. went ahead when Jozy Altidore picked up a loose ball and on his second try poked the ball ahead to Pulisic. His left-footed shot that went off goalkeeper Donis Escobar, and Lletget tapped in the ball with his right foot from 2 yards.

Bradley, given his debut by Arena in 2006, doubled the lead when he took a pass from Alejando Bedoya, cut to his left, took four touches and cut the ball back to beat Escobar with one-hopper from about 25 yards.

Showing poise beyond his years, Pulisic created the third goal when he lofted a pass to Dempsey, who allowed the ball of bounce off his right shoulder. Dempsey held off Henry Figueroa and while falling scored with his right foot from 8 yards.