Cards plan to stretch out several relievers in spring

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tony La Russa was expected
to give Adam Wainwright a look for his 2007 rotation.
Braden Looper might be coming along for the ride.

La Russa disclosed Tuesday that his World Series champion St.
Louis Cardinals could conceivably explore a host of current
relievers for starting roles next season, including Looper, who
never has started a game in nine major league seasons.

"We're going to go into spring training and stretch out Adam,
Braden, Brad [Thompson] even Josh [Kinney]," La Russa said.
"We'll see how they do."

The Cardinals have only ace Chris Carpenter, second-year man
Anthony Reyes and newcomer Kip Wells etched into their 2007
rotation. Four starters from a season ago, including NLCS MVP
Jeff Suppan and postseason surprise Jeff Weaver, are free

La Russa also said that injured closer Jason Isringhausen is
coming along well from September hip surgery and that if
healthy, he will be the closer. That probably would mean a
switch to the rotation for Wainwright, who was excellent in the
postseason in the closer role.

Looper, 32, appeared in 69 games for the Cardinals last season,
going 9-3 with a 3.56 ERA as a setup man for Isringhausen and

"[Pitching coach Dave Duncan] talked to [Looper] before we all
went our separate ways [after winning the World Series], and he
seemed positive," La Russa said. "I talked with him a few weeks
ago and he seems fine."

Looper, who had been a full-time closer for three years before blowing eight saves while on the Mets in 2005, pitched more than one inning 17 times in the regular
season in 2006, but never worked more than 2 2/3 frames. He did
toss three innings, allowing one run and two hits, in Game Four
of the National League Championship Series against the New York

"Last year, he showed you he can pitch more than one inning," La
Russa said. "When you have four free agent starters,
[adjustments have to be made]."

Information from SportsTicker was used in this report.