I've been looking for a scenario that could possibly have Joel Pineiro heading out of town on the same rail as Adam Kennedy for weeks now, but up until now, I just didn't see it happening. The Cardinals owe El Pinata too much money, and there simply isn't enough pitching depth, for the club to just cut Joel loose.
No matter how I looked at it, even in the unlikely event of a full Chris Carpenter return, I couldn't see Pineiro not taking his turn in the rotation every fifth day in 2009. (Well, there was some thought given to a Nancy Kerrigan sort of situation, but I'm not sure I could stop swinging that crowbar once I started. So, nuts to that.)
However, I now see a light at the end of the tunnel. Joel may have just punched his ticket out of Cardinal Town.
I'm sure most of you have heard that Pineiro has decided to sit out the World Baseball Classic after the manager for team Puerto Rico -- who just happens to be the third base coach for Joel's employer -- told him that any role he had with the team would come in the bullpen. In addition to withdrawing his name from consideration, El Pinata talked openly, and at great length, about how disrespected he felt, and what an embarrassment it was to be passed over in such a manner. He was, in his words, "heart-broken."
Now, if we've learned anything, it's that Tony La Russa doesn't like it when you mess with his guys. He doesn't like it when his players are thrown at, he doesn't like it when his ex-players are ostracized, and I'm sure he doesn't like it when you blast one of his coaches in the press.
Jose Oquendo is one of Tony's guys. They've been together for a long, long time now here in St. Louis. Pineiro, on the other hand, is a career under-achiever who parlayed a third of a season's worth of good innings in 2007 (with a little help from some front office chaos), into a contract that now looks just plain foolish. Plus, he now seems to have a bit of an attitude issue. Wonder who's going to come out on top of this one? Now, Tony's saying all the right things for now, of course. But we've seen things like this fester before, haven't we?
Of course, the Cardinals do still owe Joel over $7 million dollars for the 2008 baseball season. It's a little tough to envision them just eating that cash to get rid of a problem. Then again, I'm sure most of us thought the exact same thing about Adam Kennedy a couple of weeks ago. I think we know a little better now about just how serious the Cards are about cleaning the dead wood off of this roster.
So do I think that Joel Pineiro is going to be given his unconditional release in the next week or so? No, I really don't. I just don't think he's a problem the Cardinals are going to be able to get rid of very easily.
But I sure do hope that Kyle McClellan's arm is feeling good. He just might see some extra innings this year.