ST. LOUIS (AP) - Music has long been a part of Scott Spiezio's life. Now it's also part of his therapy.
The St. Louis Cardinals' utility player missed more than a month last season while receiving treatment for substance abuse. He poured the emotions from that ordeal and his team's doomed follow-up to a World Series title into the latest CD for Sandfrog, the hard rock band he fronts in his spare time.
The title, ``Offseason,'' speaks to Spiezio's off-field issues, Josh Hancock's drunk-driving death and the team's myriad injuries. Hancock's death was particularly devastating for Spiezio.
``The emotions and the lyrics are very deep,'' Spiezio said. ``There's a lot of songs about dealing with friends and family with problems and overcoming them and seeing that light at the end of the tunnel.
``Whether it's the loss of a teammate, guys getting injured, our team not doing well. Anything. We addressed that a lot in the CD.''
Just as the 35-year-old Spiezio continues to address the nature of his substance abuse in vague terms, the lyrics don't directly take on the issues that troubled him in 2006. But they're definitely the inspiration for a player who disclosed last fall that he'd been struggling with substance abuse for more than six months.
The as-yet unnamed song about Hancock deals more with the fallout for Spiezio, who was too distraught to play for days after the fatal accident in late April.
``It's not necessarily about him, but it's about kind of what I was feeling, the emotions and stuff like that,'' Spiezio said.
Spiezio is Sandfrog's lead singer and the principal writer of the five-member group from his hometown of Morris, Ill. The group's name is a combination of the last names of the four original members. The music has a heavy metal sound, packed with throaty vocals and power chords, and has been variously described as modern Black Sabbath or new metal, in Spiezio's words.
There are no plans to tour.
``I'd like to keep my day job. It's much more easily controlled when you're around these guys,'' Spiezio said, referring to his teammates. ``I have a lot more help than it would be with four rockers on the road.''
There's been plenty of conventional therapy, too, helping Spiezio keep on track and preparing him to better deal with any curveballs that life throws in the future. He met with two specialists in New York to formulate a treatment plan, which he said has become part of his daily routine.
``You've got to put yourself in the right situations, sometimes change friends or go out to breakfast with a friend and not to a place where you can start making bad decisions,'' Spiezio said. ``I've got to be in a frame of mind where I can't lose focus in any way.''
Spiezio's father, Ed Spiezio, was also a utilityman for the Cardinals, playing on St. Louis' World Series champions in 1964 and '67. They became the first father-son duo to win it all with the same team after Scott revived his playing career in St. Louis in 2006.
Interest had been scant and he had to sign a minor league contract after a pair of injury-shortened seasons - a period also marred by a divorce - led to his release by the Seattle Mariners.
Manager Tony La Russa was in Spiezio's corner throughout his absence last year. He showed that support by starting Spiezio at third base the day he was reinstated from the restricted list in mid-September.
When he's healthy and in the right frame of mind, Spiezio gives the Cardinals versatility with his ability to play five positions along with a knack for the timely hit.
He batted .272 in 119 games with 13 homers and 52 RBIs in 2006. Last year, he appeared in only 82 games due to injuries, illness and treatment, managing only four homers, 31 RBIs and a .269 average.
Spiezio, entering the final season of a two-year, $4.5 million contract, wants to be a veteran role model on a team that's suddenly short on that commodity. He's the last man standing in a corner of the locker room now without Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen due to trades, and backup catcher Gary Bennett and reliever Troy Percival, who left as free agents.
He's now the oldest player on the team by nearly two years.
``With a lot of younger players I might have to be more of an example-setter,'' Spiezio said. ``I always like showing up late and pushing the envelope, but I know I'm going to have to change my ways.
``I think I can do that, I think I need to do that.''
He hasn't gotten off to a good start.
At the team's just-completed Winter Warmup, La Russa criticized Spiezio for showing up late for an autograph-signing session
``Scott being late for his signing is not a good sign,'' La Russa said. ``That's one dot off his resume. I don't care what his excuse was. That's not a good way to get started.''
Spiezio's penchant for tardiness is the reason for La Russa's hard-line attendance rule this spring: show up late and you go home.
``I think you're a fool for observing a problem and not doing something about it,'' La Russa said. ``I don't think he missed the actual start of a practice but once or twice, but he was dangerously close several times.
``The rule's going to be, if you miss that, turn around and go home because you're not going to work out.''
Spiezio promises he'll get serious, starting now. He'll still dye the soul patch on his chin Cardinal red the day before spring training because the fans love it, but otherwise he's intent on proving himself anew.
``It's very fair to wonder, I would think,'' Spiezio said. ``I'm smart enough to know there's people going to be watching and saying, 'Is he going to contribute in a good way?'
``If I don't, I would imagine I won't be around.''
And likely headed toward another offseason.
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