LOS ANGELES -- Mark McGwire had an unfamiliar seat as he watched his former pupils knock around Dodgers pitching on Friday night. He came to an unexpected conclusion, too. As good as he believed the Cardinals' offense was during his three-year tenure as hitting coach in St. Louis, the lineup looks even tougher from an opposing point of view.
"It's a bit funny to watch them from the other side, but they're truly great hitters," McGwire said. "Their offense is just stacked. It's always been, but it's sort of different when you watch it from the other side. You look at it from the other side and you just say, 'Oh my gosh.' Plus, they have another year of experience, which is deadly for them because they're just smarter, better and stronger."
McGwire is in his first year as the Dodgers' hitting coach and is still trying to spark an offense that has underachieved so far. Los Angeles entered Saturday ranked 14th in the National League in runs scored.
But the learning curve that comes with working with a new group of hitters is one that McGwire welcomed, because in taking this position, he knew he would be able to spend more time with his family. His home is a 50-minute drive from Dodger Stadium, and McGwire has already reaped the benefits of proximity.
He gets to see his two sons, ages 9 and 10, play baseball, and he takes them to school. McGwire is home to play with his 2-year-old triplet girls, too, before he leaves for work.
"The girls really recognize who Dad is, because Dad's around. It means a lot to me," McGwire said. "To be with my family and work in the same place for the first time in my career, it's one of those things I couldn't pass up."
McGwire hasn't completely cut ties with the Cardinals. He unabashedly admits that he still pulls for the Cardinals to do well -- as long as it's not at the Dodgers' expense.
"I have a lot of time invested and great times with those guys over there," McGwire said. "They haven't missed a beat."
Several players and coaches have taken time these last two days to seek out McGwire for some small talk. McGwire will make his return to St. Louis in August, when the Cardinals host the Dodgers during a four-game series.
"I don't think he likes us scoring runs against his team, but I know he's proud of us," third baseman David Freese said. "It was good to catch up with him a little bit, instead of over the phone. He's rooting us on. Maybe not when we're playing the Dodgers, but I think he's happy when we're playing well."
Cardinals to slow pace of Carpenter's recovery
LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinals have decided to slow down Chris Carpenter's throwing program after the right-hander did not respond as well as hoped after throwing about 80 pitches during a bullpen session on Thursday.
The change of plans means that Carpenter is no longer scheduled to face hitters during live batting practice on Tuesday. Instead, he will continue to work his arm through long toss and bullpen sessions.
"He's been working fast and last time didn't feel as good," manager Mike Matheny said. "The first few times [he threw off the mound] it was like, 'I feel great. I feel great.' Then this time, it was like, 'I feel like I've done more work.' That's just an [indication] that we need to slow down a little bit."
This setback is not comparable to the one that Carpenter dealt with in early February, when numbness and discoloration in his arm forced Carpenter to shut down. This new issue was described as soreness resulting from Carpenter's attempt to push himself through his throwing program as quickly as possible.
Westbrook to get second opinion on elbow
LOS ANGELES -- Three days after Jake Westbrook had to end a bullpen session prematurely due to right elbow discomfort, the Cardinals announced that the right-hander will receive a second opinion on his ailing elbow next week.
That opinion is likely to come from Dr. James Andrews, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. The visit will not come until Tuesday at the earliest, because of the holiday weekend.
"Just want to make sure with all of our guys that they get all of the attention that they can medically to make sure we're moving in the right direction," Matheny said. "It hasn't felt right all season. He's got an old elbow that has had a lot of work on it. We kind of went into the season expecting some [issues], but whenever it feels a little bit different or a little more magnified, we stop and try to figure out what can be done to possibly help him get through this to make sure we're going on the right track."
Westbrook has already been examined by the Cardinals' medical staff, which did not identify any structural damage in his elbow while looking at a magnetic resonance imaging scan. Westbrook was diagnosed with inflammation and has received two cortisone shots to try and break up scar tissue around the elbow.
Westbrook, who had elbow reconstructive surgery in 2008, will continue to play catch on flat ground until he leaves the club for the second opinion.
Matheny again raises concerns on collisions
LOS ANGELES -- Neither Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, nor Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, saw any ill intent with the contact Jon Jay made with Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis while scoring in the second inning on Friday. However, Matheny once again raised the issue of home-plate collisions and reiterated his belief that they should not have a place in baseball.
Matheny has been outspoken in challenging baseball's decision-makers to eliminate home-plate contact, preferring that a play at home be handled like it is at any of the other three bases. Matheny's stance on the issue has evolved since his days as a catcher and as an individual who spent months recovering from the effects of multiple concussions.
"I believe we would draw just as many people in this game without having collisions at home plate," Matheny said on Saturday. "The only way that's possible in my mind is that it's a tag play like any other base. I loved that play when I played and even the first couple of years when it was over, I would probably be still the staunchest advocate for it. But as I saw how long my injury lasted and as I became the default spokesperson for the injury, the more educated I became. I realized just how long-term some of this can be."
Matheny has had some short discussions with Joe Torre, Major League Baseball's executive vice president for baseball operations, on the topic already. Torre, also a former catcher, has previously said that he did not see the need to adjust the rule.
Asked if he has gotten some indication that people are beginning to come around to the possibility of making a change, Matheny said he does believe people are taking the topic more seriously, now that so much more is known about the effects of concussions.
"It's supposed to be a tough position. I get that," Matheny said. "But I can't explain to people what those 18 months of my life were like, and how worried I was that that was what I was going to have to deal with for the rest of my life. It is real and it is scary."
Mattingly, when asked what stance he took on the topic, said that catchers probably bring a better perspective than he would as a former first baseman.
"I kind of have been along that school, but when you hear the [Giants manager Bruce] Bochy's of the world, Jimmy Leyland, Matheny, guys talking about that, they're catchers. So they know a lot more about it," Mattingly said. "Things change. If you say you can't hit the catcher, now he stands in front of home plate basically, and you have to go around him. It's tough. But I'm sure a lot more clubs are teaching, 'Hey, don't take a shot.'"
Despite early success, Miller still adjusting
LOS ANGELES -- There has been little not to like about the start Shelby Miller has had in his first season as a member of the Cardinals' rotation. He's already a five-game winner and will enter his start on Sunday ranked fourth in the National League in ERA (1.74), opponent batting average (.188) and WHIP (0.93).
But he's also found a deficiency that he wants to fix.
Miller has not been pleased with his lack of efficiency in his last two starts. After needing 92 pitches to finish 5 2/3 innings on May 15, Miller threw 107 in a 5 2/3-inning start on Monday. Since then, Miller has identified a few tweaks that he believes will help him keep his pitch count lower, so that he can stay in the game longer.
Getting ahead more regularly will be key, but Miller said that pitching down in the strike zone could have the biggest effect in reducing the number of pitches he throws per inning.
Hitters have had a tough time making solid contact on Miller's high four-seam fastball, but a number of those pitches have been fouled off. If Miller can incorporate more fastballs lower in the strike zone, it will force hitters to stop sitting on those high pitches. In turn, that should help Miller get more swings and misses when he does elevate his fastball.
"I can't get carried away with trying to strike guys out when I need to just try to keep my pitch count down and throw down in the zone," Miller said. "That should get them to put the ball in play, instead of leaving it up and having them hit a lot of foul balls.
Said manager Mike Matheny: "His best game he had was that one-hitter [on May 10]. He was effective, but he always went through a couple innings there in the middle where he got quick innings and was down. I think there's value to that."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.