11:53pm: More from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Strauss suggests GM John Mozeliak hopes to swap an outfielder for a closer-quality arm. Any suggestions?
Strauss adds that the Cardinals inquired on John Smoltz. At least seven teams have shown some level of interest in Smoltz, who most expect to return to Atlanta.
8:20pm: The Associated Press has a slightly different take on the Cardinals’ approach to a closer. La Russa told the AP that Chris Carpenter could return to the bullpen if the club deems that move will be the best scenario for both parties:
"We want Chris pitching for us, and if I was told he couldn’t be healthy throwing 100 pitches every five days and he could be a reliever, I’d take him as a reliever."
6:36pm: St. Louis Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa told Matthew Leach of MLB.com that the Cardinals will likely look at Chris Perez or Jason Motte to close games in 2009, but La Russa also hinted that the team could sign a starter with the thoughts of moving the addition to a ninth-inning role.
La Russa said he’d like to give Perez and Motte more time to mature in the minor leagues before moving them into the role of closer for the Cardinals.
La Russa also mentioned that the list of starters who could be converted into a closer’s role is short, Leach writes. La Russa noted that the Cardinals do not want to convert one of their current starters into the closer.
La Russa said that Jason Isringhausen will not probably return to the Cardinals. The Cardinals could sign a free-agent reliever such as Juan Cruz or Brandon Lyon. Cruz is unlikely due to his Type A status, however. The Cards remain cool to the possibility of signing Trevor Hoffman.
La Russa did not shut the door on a closer with health issues, such as Takashi Saito or Chad Cordero. Leach also noted that club’s front office has expressed significant reservations about signing any players who are health risks.