La Russa would consider moving Looper to starting rotation

Dec 5, 2006 - 9:07 PM By Drew Silverman PA SportsTicker Staff Writer

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida (Ticker) -- 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 agents.

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 Wainwright.

"(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 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 Mets.

"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)."

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