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In the Zone: DGB, a Cards closer alternative, and the Black Mamba

1) Let’s start with what will surely be most enjoyable for Mizzou fans: Dorial Green-Beckham

First, we must throw out this qualifier. It is only the spring. None of this counts or matters come SEC Saturdays in September. But the sophomore wide receiver looks phenomenal so far in spring practice.

Offensive coordinator Josh Henson is no longer lining DGB up in the slot, like he often did his freshman season. Green-Beckham is now lining up on the perimeter as an “X” or “Z” receiver, allowing him to operate against isolated smaller cornerbacks.

We all know the size/speed/athleticism ratio that Green-Beckham brings to the table. That is what made him the nation’s most sought after recruit in the country in 2012, after all. If you need reminding: 6 feet 5 inches tall, 220 pounds, 4.4 second forty speed.

So far in two spring scrimmages, DGB has amassed 15 catches for 217 yards and two scores. Those numbers clearly, and easily, lead the team. He has been, without hesitation, the best player on the field this spring.

Frankly, that’s what is expected of a player with his recruiting credentials and physical potential.

But now, DGB is living up to the hype, because the game is slowing down and he understands the finer points of the position.

The wasted movement in his routes from last year is gone. He has a purpose for every move he makes with his legs, arms, and head when attacks a defender.

Everything is quicker. Everything is more fluid. Everything is more precise.

His talent is too overwhelming for any of his defensive teammates (besides, perhaps, CB E.J. Gaines) so the separation he is creating this spring is startling. He’s also making every catch in traffic it seems because he’s too large to defend in tight spaces.

It won’t be that way when the games really count against superior competition, but the naked eye can tell how much better he is at being a wide receiver now than he was just months ago.

*The Black and Gold spring game at Faurot Field is scheduled for Saturday, April 20 at 1 p.m.

2) On the defensive side of the ball, senior defensive end Michael Sam has been the best performer, and most consistently vocal leader.

In the two spring scrimmages, Sam has amassed 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and three fumble recoveries.

3) The St. Louis Cardinals are in first place in the NL Central, the lineup is second in the league in runs, and the starting pitching staff has a combined ERA of 1.82. There is, however, one glaring issue with this team: the back end of the bullpen.

That unit has a collective ERA of 6.09 — the worst in the league — completely nullifying the starters’ number, which is the best in the league.

Last week we discussed this very same issue with the Kansas City Royals.

Here’s the good:

Randy Choate: 5 GP, 2 HLD, 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0.50 WHIP, 0.00 ERA. He is clearly doing his job as the left-handed specialist (a.k.a. LOOGY).
Edward Mujica: 5 GP, 4 HLD 5.0 IP, 5 K, 0.80 WHIP, 1.80 ERA.

Mujica has been good enough that it appears manager Mike Matheny is considering making him the closer because of this, the bad:

Mitchell Boggs: 7 GP, 2 SV, 2 BS, 6.1 IP, 6 BB, 2.05 WHIP, 11.37 ERA
Joe Kelly: 3 GP, 3.2 IP, 2 HR allowed, 4.91 K/9, 2.18 WHIP, 9.82 ERA Fernando Salas: 4 GP, 0-2 W-L, 4.1 IP, 4.15 K/9, 1.62 WHIP, 8.31 ERA Trevor Rosenthal: 7 GP, 8.0 IP, 4.50 ERA

Clearly, Mitchell Boggs cannot handle the ninth inning. This is not the first time he’s been given a shot to record the final three outs, and faltered.

Before Jason Motte emerged as the answer in 2011, it was Boggs that was first given the chance to be Ryan Franklin’s successor. He did not earn Tony LaRussa’s trust, so LaRussa turned to Salas before eventually settling on Motte.

4) Drastic times take drastic measures, and my proposed solution is out there, to say the least.

Promote Michael Wacha to begin his career in St. Louis as the Cardinals closer until Motte can come back – which may not be until next season.

Wacha is the Cardinals Adam Wainwright clone as a prospect in the organization. He’s of a similar build to Wainwright. He has a similar demeanor on and off the mound. He even has a similar repertoire to the Cardinal ace.

I don’t need to remind you how Waino established himself in the big leagues back in 2006. If you don’t know, just ask his teammate, Carlos Beltran.

Why not throw Wacha on the same career path as his soon-to-be mentor? The exposure to the veterans on the staff and in the clubhouse, and the indoctrination to the “Cardinal Way” did wonders for Wainwright at the beginning of his career. I think the same can happen for the 2012 first round pick out of Texas A&M.

As a 20-year old last year in the minors, Wacha threw 21.0 combined innings between rookie ball, high-level A ball, and double-A ball. He struck out forty batters, walked just four and crafted a combined 0.86 ERA.

This spring with the major league club in Jupiter, Wacha did not allow a single earned run in 11.0 innings pitched covering five appearances. He allowed just seven hits and struck out 15 of the 44 batters he faced.

As you can see, this guy has the stuff to miss bats in the ninth inning.

Now, GM John Mozeliak and Matheny will likely consider this particular option No. 79 on the list of alternatives to Boggs. That I understand. But I’m also crazy enough to think it could be the answer this year, and be in the best interest of Wacha long-term before he joins the rotation full time in 2014.

5) Kobe. Bean. Bryant.

I am by no means a Kobe fan. Anyone who knows me knows where my NBA allegiances lie.

I personally believe he would have fewer rings on his finger if not for the presence of Shaquille O’Neal in the first phase of his career.

I also believe he would have more jewelry in his collection if he didn’t have the arrogance to contribute in running Shaq out of town before the big fella was out of his prime (Shaq takes blame in the matter, too).

But no one wants to see a player and competitor of Bryant’s caliber suffer an injury of that kind. The game will suffer without Bryant to contribute to the storyline.

The Lakers are probably going to be the 8 th seed in the Western Conference. Now, a potential matchup with the defending Western Conference champions, Oklahoma City, in the first round has lost its luster.

Kobe was playing 38.6 minutes a game at age 34, in his 17 th NBA season. That’s absurd. Only Chicago’s marathon man, Luol Deng, was playing more minutes per game this season.

Bryant was on par, minutes-wise, with Portland’s dynamic whirling dervish, Damian Lillard. Lillard is likely going to be the NBA Rookie of the Year (he’s that good), but he’s also twelve years younger than the ageless Vino.

Get well soon, Mamba.

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