Postcard from Cardinals camp for Sunday March 17

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Sunday March 17

Weather: 77 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Marlins 4, Cardinals 2

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – The lens through which a manager can look at a loss is different in spring training than it is during the regular season.

Thus it was possible for Mike Shildt to look at a game in which the Cardinals were no-hit for eight innings on Sunday and find some positive takeaways.

“You see a guy in (John) Gant who was able to pitch around some things and make some pitches when he had to and limit damage,” Shildt said. “Defense was really clean. Testament to how we compete; no-hit through eight and the guys look up and bear down.

“Bear down just means a little more focus. You look up and you have the tying run with (Andrew) Knizner, (Jose) Martinez and (Tyler) O’Neill coming up. Feel pretty good about what that looks like but at the end of the day it wasn’t good enough. Take out the positives and continue to build more consistency with other areas.”

The Cardinals had seven of the eight position players they expect to start on opening day in Milwaukee in the lineup against the Marlins, with only Matt Carpenter missing.

Former Gateway Grizzlies pitcher Trevor Richards kept that group hitless through the first six innings, and for the first eight innings the only Cardinals to reach base were because of errors (two) and a hit by pitch (one).

In the ninth, however, Dexter Fowler broke up the no-hit bid with a clean single to right leading off the inning.

The Cardinals still had Fowler, Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong in the lineup in the ninth not because Shildt wanted to break up the no-hitter but just because of the pace of the game. All had been scheduled to get at least three at-bats and play at least seven innings.

The team has seven games left before breaking camp and leaving Florida.

“If you come out of spring training and you haven’t worked on certain things then you have a high likelihood of not playing clean baseball,” Shildt said about the start of the regular season. “I really believe that spring training is an opportunity to work on getting ready for the season. That’s the mindset we have. We’re building our blocks. We still have a nice week of games left and we’re in a really good spot for it.

“I feel good about where we are heading for playing the Brewers on March 28.”

Here is how the game broke down:

High: Despite a forecast calling for a good chance of rain, it turned into a beautiful south Florida spring afternoon.

Low: The two-hit day dropped the Cardinals’ team batting average through the first 24 games this spring to .228, the lowest in the majors.

At the plate: Goldschmidt followed Fowler’s hit with a single, the Cardinals’ only other hit in the game … Knizner drove in a run with a ground out, and the other run scored on an error … The Cardinals also failed to draw a walk in the game … Marcell Ozuna was 0-of-2, dropping his spring average to .111.

On the mound: Gant worked four innings but had to come out of the game at that point because of an elevated pitch count. He gave up one run on four hits … Gant, competing for the open spot in the rotation, will get one more start this spring … A leadoff walk led to the first run of the spring against Chris Beck, and Tyler Webb gave up a two-run homer in the eighth.

Off the field: Carpenter was scratched from Sunday’s lineup because of tightness in his back, which occurred when he was working out on Saturday. Shildt said he was not overly concerned, and that Carpenter’s absence was a precautionary move. He also is expected to miss Monday’s game, and the team has a day off on Tuesday. Shildt said he is hopeful Carpenter will be able to play on Wednesday … First baseman Rangel Ravelo had an MRI on Sunday because of a rib injury suffered a few days ago which has lingered. X-rays on Saturday were negative … Carlos Martinez’s wife gave birth to a baby girl on Saturday.

Up next: Dakota Hudson, the other candidate for the starting rotation, will get the start on Monday against the Phillies in Jupiter with Andrew Miller, Alex Reyes and Jordan Hicks set to pitch in relief. Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty are scheduled to pitch against each other in a minor-league squad game between Memphis and Springfield on a back field.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

From earlier this week:

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Saturday March 16

Weather: 78 degrees, overcast

Result: Cardinals 8, Nationals 5

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – A year ago Nolan Gorman was playing high school baseball in Arizona. On Saturday, he was facing three-time Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer.

While Gorman no doubt will remember striking out twice against Scherzer, it was what he did in his third at-bat against the Nationals that has Cardinals fans excited about the 18-year-old’s future.

Facing former Cardinals minor leaguer Kyle Barraclough in the seventh inning, Gorman blasted a home run over the right field wall in the game in West Palm Beach.

Gorman was the Cardinals’ top pick in the draft last year and spent the season at rookie-level Johnson City and Class A Peoria, where the third baseman is expected to begin this season.

He was making his first start in a major-league spring training game, called over from the minor-league camp, as a late addition to the lineup. Evan Mendoza was scheduled to start at third base but he was moved to first base when Rangel Ravelo had to be scratched because of soreness. Gorman’s first at-bat in a spring game came as a pinch-hitter on March 9 when he flew out to center field.

Gorman, who won’t turn 19 until May, hit a foul ball off Scherzer in each of his two at-bats against the St. Louis native. He was called out on a checked swing in his first at-bat, then swung and missed strike three in his second at-bat.

He got another at-bat in the eighth against former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal and struck out on a 102 miles per hour fastball.

On defense, Gorman started a 5-4-3 double play to end the fifth inning but also was charged with two fielding errors in the eighth.

Here is how the game broke down:

High: The Cardinals rallied to win the game with a five-run ninth inning off Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, capped by a three-run homer from Andrew Knizner.

Low: Austin Gomber struggled again. He gave up all five of the Nationals’ runs on eight hits over four innings, including another home run. Gomber has served up six homers in 11 innings this spring and has  a 10.64 ERA.

At the plate: The Cardinals trailed 5-1 when Scherzer came out of the game as he recorded nine strikeouts over six innings … Jose Martinez had two of the Cardinals four hits off Scherzer, including an RBI single in the first inning … Tommy Edman had a big day, leading off the game with a triple off Scherzer, then adding an RBI double in the ninth inning rally … Randy Arozarena followed Gorman’s homer with a home run in the seventh that cut the lead to 5-3 … Edman’s double made it 5-4, and Max Schrock tied the game with a two-out, two-strike RBI single before Knizner hit a bomb over the left field wall … Francisco Pena was 0-of-3 as he caught and played for the first time since suffering an oblique injury on March 5.

On the mound: Six relievers combined to shut out the Nationals over the final five innings, allowing just three hits and one walk … Dominic Leone has not allowed a run in six innings of work this spring … John Brebbia was able to pitch around two hits while striking out two in his inning of relief.

Off the field: Schrock and Arozarena were two of four players sent to the minor league camp after the game, along with catcher Jeremy Martinez and pitcher Hunter Cervenka … The moves left 45 players in camp … Carlos Martinez was not at the Cardinals’ complex on Saturday because his wife went into labor … Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas are scheduled to pitch against each other in a squad game on a back field on Monday … Manager Mike Shildt said Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha’s next starts next week also will come on a back field.

Up next: The Cardinals are expected to use their projected regular lineup for each of the next two days as they play Miami on Sunday and the Phillies on Monday in Jupiter. John Gant will get the start against the Marlins.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Friday March 15

Weather: 79 degrees, cloudy

Results: Astros 11. Cardinals 2

Astros 5, Cardinals 2

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – The Cardinals had two chances to try to jump-start their struggling offense on Friday night, splitting the team in half for two games against the Astros.

The results, however, were still disappointing.

With six of their probable opening-day starters in the lineup for the game in Jupiter, the Cardinals generated just two runs on six hits, one a solo homer by Paul DeJong.

With the other two probable starters and three likely bench players in the lineup for the game in West Palm Beach, the Cardinals were no-hit through the first four innings by Forrest Whitley, ranked as the best pitching prospect in baseball, and were shut out on five hits.

The Cardinals have scored a combined four runs in their last five games.

Through their first 22 games this spring, the Cardinals are ranked last in the majors in runs (75) and in team batting average (.228).

Here is how the games broke down:

High: Adam Wainwright pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and was charged with two runs (one scoring after he left the game) in the game in Jupiter. He struck out five and retired 13 of the last 15 hitters he faced.

Low: Andrew Miller failed to retire any of the four batters he faced after relieving Wainwright, walking three in a row before giving up a single.

At the plate: The other RBI in the game in Jupiter came on an RBI single by Randy Arozarena … Dexter Fowler reached base twice, on a single and a walk, and stole a base … At West Palm Beach, the Cardinals were held to a double by Tyler O’Neill and four singles and were 1-of-10 with runners in scoring position. Combining the two game totals, they had just two hits in 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position … Drew Robinson had two stolen bases.

On the mound: Miller’s wild streak led to a six-run sixth inning for the Astros as Ryan Meisinger followed him to the mound and gave up a grand slam to the first hitter he faced … Jordan Hicks gave up his first run of the spring as he walked two and gave up a hit in his one inning of work … Alex Reyes worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning, but then stayed in to pitch the ninth and gave up a three-run homer … At West Palm Beach, Daniel Ponce de Leon struggled with his control, walking the bases loaded in the first inning and four total in his four innings. He also gave up a two-run homer to former Cardinal Aledmys Diaz … Chasen Shreve and Tyler Webb, battling to be the second left-hander in the bullpen, each gave up a run in relief.

Off the field: Astros manager A.J. Hinch was ejected by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez after they got into a shouting match after Ponce de Leon had thrown one pitch in the bottom of the first inning … Francisco Pena is expected to catch on Saturday. He has been out since March 5 because of an oblique injury … Jedd Gyorko hopes to be able to play on Monday. He has been out since March 3 because of a calf injury.

Up next: The Cardinals will be back at West Palm Beach on Saturday to play the Nationals, facing Max Scherzer for the second time this spring. Austin Gomber will start for the Cardinals.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Thursday March 14

Weather: 79 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Cardinals 1, Mets 1 (tie, game called after 9 innings)

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – The Brett Cecil watch moved to one of the back fields at the Cardinals’ spring training complex on Thursday, but the results were not any better than they have been in the main stadium.

Pitching against Cardinals’ minor-leaguers trying to make the Memphis roster, Cecil needed 26 pitches to get through an inning in which he walked one, threw a wild pitch and hit a batter.

Of his 26 pitches, 14 were balls, including the first pitch  to five of the six hitters he faced. On the other at-bat, Cecil hit Edmundo Sosa with the first pitch.

Cecil had a 3-2 count on each of the first three hitters he faced. He ended up retiring Jose Godoy on a grounder to second; walked Conner Capel and retired Kramer Robertson on a pop out

Ramon Urias reached on an error by third baseman Nolan Gorman, on a 3-1 pitch, before Cecil hit Sosa to load the bases. He threw a wild pitch on his first pitch to Adolis Garcia, allowing a run to score, before Garcia flied to right to end the inning.

The performance did little to change the prevailing opinion that Cecil will not be part of the opening day roster. He has only pitched two innings this spring in actual games, and even though he did not allow a run, the results were not positive.

There is still two years left on Cecil’s original four-year contract, and the team owes him about $15 million.

If Cecil has to go back on the injured list when the season begins, the battle to be the second left-hander in the bullpen behind Andrew Miller likely will be between Chasen Shreve and Tyler Webb.

Both have been effective this spring, although Shreve has given up a run in two of his five appearances. He has allowed only two hits but has issued four walks in 4 1/3 innings while recording only one strikeout.

Webb has made six appearances, covering six innings, and has allowed just two runs (one earned) on four hits. He has issued just one walk, in his first game of the spring, and has seven strikeouts.

Both Shreve and Webb are scheduled to pitch in Friday night’s game in West Palm Beach. It’s also possible the team could consider Austin Gomber for that role.

Complicating the decision is the fact that Shreve is out of options, as are two of the right-handed pitchers who could make the team as relievers, John Gant and Mike Mayers. It’s unlikely the team would want to have three relievers who are all out of options in their bullpen.

Here is how the game against the Mets broke down:

High: Harrison Bader reached base three times on two hits and a hit by pitch and stole three bases. According to the Cardinals and the Elias Sports Bureau, Bader is the first Cardinal with three stolen bases in a spring training game in the last 25 years.

Low: The Cardinals’ offense continued to struggle. They have scored a combined two runs in their last three games.

At the plate: The Cardinals had just four hits other than the two singles by Bader. Jose Martinez tripled in the seventh, and pinch-runner Dylan Carlson scored on a double by Yairo Munoz … Their other hits were singles by Rangel Ravelo and Drew Robinson … Robinson struck out in his other three at-bats … The team was just 1-of-10 with runners in scoring position.

On the mound: Michael Wacha allowed five hits and walked two in five innings but managed to keep the Mets from scoring, lowering his spring ERA to 1.93 … Dominic Leone and John Brebbia each worked a scoreless inning of relief, while the only Mets run came against Mayers, but he was able to limit the damage by pitching out a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth.

Off the field: John Gant pitched two scoreless innings against the minor leaguers in the intra-squad game … Former pitcher Chris Carpenter is back in camp for several days … The minor-leaguers will play intra-squad games on Friday before their spring schedule of games begins on Saturday.

Up next: The Cardinals will play two split-squad games against the Astros on Friday, both night games. Adam Wainwright will start in Jupiter, scheduled to be followed by Miller, Alex Reyes and Jordan Hicks. Daniel Ponce de Leon will start the game in West Palm Beach. The night game in Jupiter will be the first there for the Cardinals since March 13, 2009.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Wednesday March 13

Weather: 78 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Marlins 4, Cardinals 1

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – Spring training will come and go without Carlos Martinez pitching in a game. When he does pitch again for the Cardinals, and whether that will be as a starter or reliever, is still to be determined.

Manager Mike Shildt said before Wednesday’s game against the Marlins that Martinez, out all spring because of a weak right shoulder, has been cleared to resume playing catch on Thursday. He will do that for about a week, then be re-evaluated.

A decision on whether to have him prepare to start or relieve likely won’t be made for at least two more weeks, Shildt said.

“That’s impossible to answer right now on a couple of levels; one where our team is because it’s team first, and two, where he’s going to be a week from now. … We’ll take the temperature of where he’s at and what it looks like and where we’re at and what that looks like.

“He’s on a progressive plan with throwing. He’s got to prepare to get back on the mound, that’s where we’re at. You’re probably looking at, irrespective of whether it’s as a starter or reliever, a couple of weeks of throwing to get to the mound to be able to execute bullpens.”

Shildt is fine with delaying that decision, and is just pleased that Martinez cleared the first “hurdle” he needed to pass to resume throwing.

“We’ll be closer to figuring out what the fork looks like (starting or relieving) and what he needs, whether he stays here or goes with us, we’ll figure out what that looks like,” Shildt said.

Obviously Martinez could pitch sooner for the Cardinals as a reliever rather than as a starter because of the time he lost this spring and the need to build his arm back up to throw 100 pitches and cover at least six innings if he is going to start.

The Cardinals also have to decide which is the best spot for Martinez to keep him healthy and not have a repeat of last year’s injury issues.

“Either way we are going to make sure he’s set up for success over the long haul of the season,” Shildt said. “Part of it is how confident he is and we are about his ability to handle X number of months in a starting capacity. We don’t want to have any setbacks like we’ve had in the past with him.”

Martinez, who said earlier this spring that he considered himself a starter, was not as adamant on Wednesday.

“I’m a starter until somebody tells me otherwise,” Martinez said. “If they tell me otherwise I’m more than happy to help the team another way.”

 Here is how Wednesday’s game broke down:

High: Andrew Miller had his fourth consecutive scoreless outing. Over those four innings, he has allowed two hits, has not walked a batter and has struck out six.

Low: The other Cardinals’ pitchers combined to issue eight walks, including walking the opposing pitcher twice, once by Dakota Hudson and once by Jordan Hicks.

At the plate: The Cardinals broke an 18-inning drought without a run when they scored their only run in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Max Schrock … They had just two other hits, both by Marcell Ozuna. One of the hits was a double inside the left field line, his first extra-base hit of the spring … Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Wieters were both 0-of-3 and each struck out twice.

On the mound: Hudson had to come out of the game after three innings because of an elevated pitch count. He only allowed two hits and one run, but did issue three walks … Hicks walked the bases loaded in his only inning, but got out of the inning with a strike out … Tyler Webb also worked a scoreless inning, pitching around two hits.

Off the field: Second baseman Kolten Wong was scratched from the lineup and sent home because he was “under the weather” Shildt said … The Cardinals will play a squad game on Thursday, with John Gant and Brett Cecil scheduled to pitch two innings … Pitchers will begin hitting starting with Thursday’s game against the Mets.

Up next: Michael Wacha will get the start in Thursday’s game in Jupiter.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Tuesday March 12

Weather: 71 degrees, overcast

Result: Braves 5, Cardinals 0

The good news for Miles Mikolas, who will be the starter for the Cardinals on opening day in a little more than two weeks, is that his start on Tuesday came in a game that didn’t really count.

Mikolas was roughed up by the Braves, giving up eight hits in five-plus innings and was charged with all five of their runs in the game in Orlando.

Two of the hits were home runs, and one of the runs came after Mikolas came out of the game in the sixth inning. He likely will have two more starts in Florida, although at least one of those could be against minor leaguers on the back fields, before making the start in the opener of March 28 in Milwaukee.

Here is how the game broke down:

High: Yadier Molina made the trip to Orlando and had two of the Cardinals’ six hits.

Low:  The Cardinals were 0-of-6 with runners in scoring position in getting shut out for the second time this spring.

At thr plate: Three of the Cardinals hits were doubles, by Yairo Munoz, Drew Robinson and Rangel Ravelo …Their only other hit was a single by Harrison Bader … Tyler O’Neill was 0-of-4 and struck out three times.

On the mound: Alex Reyes pitched a scoreless inning in his third outing of the spring, recording two strikeouts … John Gant also pitched a scoreless inning with one strikeout.

Up next: Dakota Hudson, the current favorite to win the open spot in the starting rotation, will get the start on Wednesday against the Marlins in Jupiter.

Fostcard from Cardinals camp for Monday March 11

Weather: 81 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Cardinals 3, Nationals 2

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – It was about the smallest sample size possible – fielding two balls and making two throws to second base – but it definitely was a step forward for Marcell Ozuna.

Ozuna started in left field for the first time this spring for the Cardinals on Monday and didn’t have to wait long – the second batter of the game – before getting his first chance. Trea Turned dumped a ball in front of him and beat Ozuna’s throw to second, but it was a strong, accurate throw against one of the fastest runners in the league.

“I think there is more in him than he showed,” said manager Mike Shildt. “But already that throw was more representative than a lot of the throws last year.”

Ozuna played seven innings and the only other ball hit his way was a single in the seventh inning, requiring only a routine throw to second.

“My arm is better than before,” said Ozuna, who estimates that the off-season surgery has made his arm and shoulder feel better now than it has for several years. “What I liked about that throw (in the first inning) was it was strong.

“After that I said give me one more, give me another chance.”

Ozuna will not play on Tuesday and said he will spend the day in the batting cages, working on his timing. His 0-of-3 game on Monday left him with just one hit in 23 at-bats this spring, but Shildt likes the way he is swinging the bat.

“He’s getting through the ball better,” Shildt said. “It looks better. He’s still working on timing, which is why we’re in spring training.”

Shildt said Ozuna likely will play in most of the Cardinals’ remaining spring games, and Ozuna said that will give him plenty of time to be ready for the start of the regular season.

“Quite honestly, he had more intensity in the last week (in workouts) than he had today,” Shildt said. “He’s pretty much back in left field getting ready to go.”

The best outfield throw of the game came from Dexter Fowler, who threw out Adam Eaton at the plate as he tried to score from second on a single to right.

Here is how the game broke down:

High: In addition to throwing out Eaton at the plate, Fowler had two hits, one a bunt single, drove in a run and scored a run.

Low: John Brebbia gave up two hits and a run in his one inning of relief, leaving him with a 5.79 ERA for the spring.

At the plate: The Cardinals had six hits and scored all of their runs in 5 1/3 innings against Max Scherzer. Two of the runs scored on a double by Paul Goldschmidt … Jose Martinez’s bid for a home run was caught against the wall in center field and he had to settle for a single in four at-bats as the DH … Regulars Harrison Bader and Kolten Wong also had singles in the game.

On the mound: Jack Flaherty became the first starter to work five innings this spring, giving up one run on three hits. He walked one and struck out five … Andrew Miller pitched one inning, striking out two, and Jake Woodford worked two scoreless innings to earn the save.

Off the field: The Cardinals trimmed six more players from the spring roster, leaving 49 players in camp. Sent to the minor-league camp were pitchers Woodford and Connor Jones; catchers Brian O’Keefe and Jose Godoy, infielder Ramon Urias and outfielder Lane Thomas … Jedd Gyorko, who has not played since March 3 and has played in only six games this spring because of a calf injury, has resumed taking batting practice but is still several days away from game action, Shildt said … It is likely that most of the team’s projected starting pitchers will get some work on the back fields before the end of the spring, Shildt said.

Up next: The Cardinals play the Braves in Orlando on Tuesday with Miles Mikolas getting the start and Alex Reyes set to pitcher another inning out of the bullpen.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out STLSportsPage.com. Rob Rains, Editor.