Postcard from Cardinals camp for Saturday, Feb. 29

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Saturday, Feb. 29

Weather: 63 degrees, sunny

Result: Cardinals 6, Nationals 3

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – One of the biggest decisions the Cardinals have to make this spring is who will become the starting left fielder. It’s too early to make that call, but Dylan Carlson’s bid appears to be getting stronger by the day.

Carlson reached base in each of his first three plate appearances on Saturday with a walk, a bloop single and a double that ignited a three-run seventh and carried the Cardinals to the win over the Nationals.

That extended Carlson’s streak of reaching base to eight consecutive plate appearances before he finally was retired in his final at-bat, the first out he had made since Tuesday. The 21-year-old is now hitting .500 for the spring and also has drawn four walks.

He was not aware of his streak of reaching base, partly because it has been spread over three games and four days.

“It felt like I had been getting on a lot but I wasn’t really too aware of it,” Carlson said.

His teammates, and manager, are watching and taking notice of what Carlson is accomplishing. He got the start in center field on Saturday.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said shortstop Paul DeJong. “He has no fear. He comes up here and plays his game. He has all the tools you need to be a big-leaguer right now. … He’s doing great with his expectations. He feels everybody around him knows how good he can be and how he can impact this team and it’s not fazing him in the slightest. Props to him.”

Manager Mike Shildt just appreciates the way Carlson has gone about his job.

“You’re just seeing a good player,” Shildt said. “We use the word consistent a lot – consistent approach, consistent technique. You’re seeing a good player with a plan and the ability to execute it. It’s just going out and trusting his approach and playing.”

Carlson said he has just concentrated on one simple goal this spring.

“There’s so much stuff I learn every day,” Carlson said. “I ask a lot of questions. They (the veterans) probably get tired of it honestly. … I try to just keep it as simple as possible. Literally I just try to find a way to get better every day, wherever that leads me. I’ve been able to find a lot of ways to get better.”

Here is how Saturday’s game broke down:

High: In his first start of the spring, Carlos Martinez worked three hitless innings. He did issue three walks, but also recorded four strikeouts.

Low: Jake Woodford allowed all three Washington runs in the seventh, including a two-run homer.

At the plate: DeJong became the first Cardinal to hit two home runs this spring with his solo shot in the second off Patrick Corbin as he hit in the cleanup spot. Eight other players have hit one home run … Tommy Edman had two hits and two RBIs … Andrew Knizner contributed a sacrifice fly.

On the mound: Three relievers expected to make the team, Tyler Webb, Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos, followed Martinez to the mound and combined for four scoreless innings. Helsley had to pitch around two walks in his two innings of work.

Off the field: Yairo Munoz likely will miss about a week because of a sore hamstring, the result of trying to beat out an infield hit … The Cardinals decided to give Matt Carpenter an extra day off as a result of the back tightness he experienced earlier this week. He is expected to play on Sunday … Because of the larger than normal number of pitchers in camp, the Cardinals had several of them throw live batting practice to the extra hitters on Saturday, including top prospect Matthew Liberatore … Mikes Mikolas, who will begin the regular season on the injured list because of a sore arm, will start playing catch about March 11, Shildt said … Justin Williams did not play on Saturday, meaning Austin Dean is the only Cardinal to appear in each game of the spring.

Up next: The Cardinals will play the Astros in West Palm Beach on Sunday. Austin Gomber is the scheduled starter, to be followed by John Gant, Junior Fernandez and Kodi Whitley.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

Here are the postcards from rearlier in the week

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Friday, Feb. 28

Weather: 61 degrees, sunny

Result: Mets 3, Cardinals 2

It wasn’t a perfect outing, and he ended up as the losing pitcher, but there were multiple reasons to be encouraged about Alex Reyes and his performance for the Cardinals on Friday against the Mets.

After struggling with his command in his first appearance of the spring, Reyes showed much better control in his second outing – except for one pitch, which ended up being a game-winning home run for the Mets in the eighth inning of the game in Port St. Lucie.

Before that, Reyes got a ground out and a swinging strike for a strikeout. He also had another strikeout to end his scheduled one-inning appearance.

Here is how Friday’s game broke down:

High: Daniel Ponce de Leon, fighting for a spot on the pitching staff as either a starter or reliever, turned in three scoreless innings, allowing two hits, not walking anybody and striking out four.

Low: In his first game of the spring, Andrew Miller struggled with his control as he issued a walk, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.

At the plate: Paul Goldschmidt hit his first home run off the spring, off Mets’ starter Marcus Stroman … The other run for the Cardinals came on a pinch-hit home run by Austin Dean in the eighth … The Cardinals had only four other hits, two by Harrison Bader, who raised his spring average to .357 … The Cardinals were hitless in seven at-bats with a runner in scoring position.

On the mound: Adam Wainwright allowed one run in three innings in his second spring start, both coming in Port St. Lucie. If the current pitching rotation stands, each of Wainwright’s first four starts of the spring could come on the road against the Mets.

Up next: Carlos Martinez will make his first spring start and second appearance on Saturday when the Cardinals host the Washington Nationals in Jupiter.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Thursday, Feb. 27

Weather: 63 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Braves 3, Cardinals 1

The only results which truly matter in spring training are how players who are fighting for roster spots perform. That made Thursday another good day for Dylan Carlson and Yairo Munoz.

Carlson, the Cardinals’ top prospect, knows he will have to have an outstanding spring to force his way not only onto the roster to start the season but into the regular lineup, He’s trying to do just that.

Carlson, getting the start in right field on Thursday in Northport, Fla., against the Braves, reached base in all three of his plate appearances with a single and two walks. He has now reached base in his last five plate appearances and has raised his spring average to .455.

Munoz, fighting to hold onto his spot as a reserve infielder, had another two-hit game and drove in the Cardinals’ only run with a double, scoring Carlson, in the loss to the Braves. Munoz is hitting .400 so far this spring.

Here is how Thursday’s game broke down:

High: In addition to his two hits and an RBI, Munoz stole his first base of the spring.

Low: Other than the two hits by Munoz and the single by Carlson, the Cardinals were limited to just three hits.

At the plate: The only other hits for the Cardinals were singles by Matt Wieters, Nolan Gorman and Lane Thomas … Tommy Edman started in left field and hit leadoff but was 0-of-3, striking out twice, as his spring average fell to .077 … Other than starting pitcher Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals lineup did not include anybody who currently projects to be a starter in the regular-season opener in Cincinnati.

On the mound: Flaherty worked 2 2/3 innings in his second start of the spring, allowing one run on two hits and two walks … The Braves other runs scored off Dakota Hudson, who allowed three hits in his 2 2/3 innings but did record four strikeouts … Junior Fernandez and Kodi Whitley each pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts.

Off the field: Matt Carpenter was able to run wind sprints and go through fielding drills in Jupiter and said he still expects to be back in the lineup by Saturday. He was scratched from Wednesday’s game because of tightness in his back in what was described as a precautionary move. He was not on the travel roster for Thursday’s game anyway.

Up next: The Cardinals will be back in Port St. Lucie on Friday for the third game against the Mets out of their first eight spring games. Adam Wainwright is scheduled to start and pitch three innings to be followed by Daniel Ponce de Leon. Alex Reyes will make his second appearance of the spring, and Andrew Miller also is scheduled to pitch an inning.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Wednesday, Feb. 26

Weather: 85 degrees, partly cloudy

Results: Marlins 8, Cardinals 7

                   Cardinals 7, Astros 5

Wednesday was a good day to be one of the Cardinals’ top offensive prospects.

Playing against the Marlins in Jupiter, Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman combined to go 5-of-7 with three RBIs and three runs scored while in West Palm Beach, playing the Astros, Ivan Herrera contributed a two-run single while serving as the designated hitter.

Gorman was in the lineup as a replacement for Matt Carpenter, who was a late scratch because of back tightness.

Here is how Wednesday’s split-squad games broke down:

High: The other impressive performance in Jupiter came from starting pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim, who retired all six batters he faced in two perfect innings.

Low: Tommy Edman went hitless in five at-bats in the game in West Palm Beach, dropping his spring average to .100.

At the plate: Carlson had a double and triple while going 2-of-2, while Gorman hit behind him and was 3-of-5, also including a double, and had the three RBIs … Yadier Molina and Yairo Munoz also had two hits each in the game in Jupiter while Edmundo Sosa continued his hot start to the spring with a hit and an RBI … In West Palm Beach, Lane Thomas hit a two-run homer and Justin Williams added a solo shot … Paul DeJong and Brad Miller has had two hits in that game.

On :the mound: Kim needed just 29 pitches, 18 of them strikes, to get through his two innings of work, recording three strikeouts … Genesis Cabrera got the start against the Astros and also worked two scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out two … It wasn’t as good of a day for three relievers who spent much of last year in the Cardinals bullpen as John Brebbia, Tyler Webb and Giovanny Gallegos combined allowed four runs in seven hits in 2 2/3 innings against the Marlins … Angel Rondon, the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year last season, allowed three runs in two innings against the Astros.

Off the field: Carpenter was held out of the lineup as a precautionary move and he said he would have played had it been a regular-season game. He is expected back in the lineup by Saturday … Paul Goldschmidt was originally scheduled to DH in the game in Jupiter but instead played first for the first time this spring.

Up next: The Cardinals will bus across the state to take on the Braves on Thursday in their new spring facility in Northport. Jack Flaherty will make his second start of the spring and be followed by Dakota Hudson, with each expected to pitch two innings.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Tuesday Feb, 25

Weather: 84 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Nationals 9, Cardinals 6

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – Manager Mike Shildt was talking again on Tuesday morning about how the Cardinals likely had unrealistic expectations for Alex Reyes last spring as he tried to come back after missing almost two entire seasons because of injuries.

Because of that experience, the team has emphasized this spring that as much as they hope and want Reyes to succeed, they are taking a much more wait-and-see approach about what he is ready to contribute now following basically another lost season.

If his first performance of the spring on Tuesday was any indication, there is still a lot of work for Reyes before that will happen.

Reyes was not able to complete an inning in what was supposed to be a two-inning appearance as he struggled with his command, walking two and allowing two hits. He retired only one of five hitters he faced.

Reyes was charged with two runs, throwing 24 pitches, only half of which were strikes.

“Fastball command was not there,” Shildt said.

Still, the Cardinals were encouraged tbat Reyes hit 95 mph on the radar gun and displayed a “filthy” changeup.

Here is how Tuesday’s game broke down:

High: Paul DeJong drove in four of the Cardinals runs with a sacrifice fly and a three-run homer, his first of the spring.

Low: Six of the eight Cardinals pitchers allowed at least one run and two hits.

At the plate: Yairo Munoz drove in the other two runs with a two-run homer, his first of the spring … Kolten Wong led off the first with a double and later scored on DeJong’s sacrifice fly … Rangel Ravelo had two more hits, raising his early spring average to .800 … Dylan Carlson got the start in right field and went 0-of-4 … Harrison Bader was hitless in three at-bats, striking out twice … The Cardinals were just 2-of-10 with runners in scoring position.

On the mound: Starter Austin Gomber allowed one run in two innings … In addition to Reyes, Brett Cecil also had a tough outing in his second spring appearance. He allowed two runs on two hits and a pair of walks in his one inning of work … The Cardinals threw three wild pitches in the game.

Off the field: The only Cardinals pitcher who is healthy who likely won’t pitch in the first week of spring games is Andrew Miller. He is being brought along on a slower pace, Shildt said, simply because of his years of major-league experience … Tyler O’Neill, who has not started since the opening game, is expected to be back in the lineup on Wednesday.

Up next: The Cardinals will split their squad for two games on Wednesday, against the Marlins in Jupiter and the Astros in West Palm Beach. Kwang Hyun Kim will get the start in the home game, scheduled to throw two innings, with Genesis Cabrera getting the start in the road game.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Monday, Feb. 24

Weather: 77 degrees, mostly cloudy

Result: Marlins 6, Cardinals 3

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – The Cardinals’ top two pitching prospects made their spring training debuts on Monday. Zach Thompson’s went well. Matthew Liberatore’s did not.

Thompson needed just nine pitches to zip through his inning of work, retiring all three batters he faced in the sixth inning. Liberatore followed him to the mound and threw 30 pitches, only 14 for strikes, as he retired only two of the eight hitters he faced.

The 20-year-old Liberatore, acquired from Tampa over the winter, allowed three hits and three walks, threw a wild pitch and was called for a balk as he was charged with five runs.

It wasn’t the debut he had wanted, but he was able to look at it from a veteran’s perspective.

“I think I was just trying to create a little too much instead of just trusting my stuff and letting it happen,” Liberatore said. “I didn’t perform like I wished I had but at the end of the day I walk away a better baseball player for it.

“My stuff was actually really good despite not being to command it. Stuff wise it felt like it was there. I’m not unhappy with the outcome. Sometimes failure is the best way to learn. That’s one of the few times I’ve run into a lot of trouble and I think going through that is a good thing for me. I got humbled real quick.

“If you had to give me the option of having a game like that today or cruising through all of spring training and then having that happen in the regular season I would choose to have it happen today because I can make the adjustments I need going into the season. I’m going to try to take away what I can learn from the experience and flush the rest.”

Manager Mike Shildt said was what important was what Liberatore took out of the game, and how he used it to make progress moving forward.

“It’s a good experience quite honestly,” Shildt said. “A good opportunity for him. … Try not to make too big a deal out of it. It was an experience for a young man who is 20 years old.”

Thompson, the Cardinals’ top pick in last year’s amateur draft out of Kentucky, got his three outs on two fly balls and a line drive.

“It’s good to get that out of the way,” Thompson said. “I had good defense behind me. You get the adrenalin going, but then you go out and let the instincts take over and go out and compete.

“I didn’t make great pitches but I was ahead in most of the counts.”

Andrew Knizner caught both innings and said despite the difference in the results, there still was a lot to like and be excited about with both Thompson and Liberatore.

“Two different innings, it’s hard to judge a lot on one inning, especially the first one,” Knizner said. “Obviously both guys have really good stuff. You look at the stuff and it’s elite. They both have bright futures.”

The two starters will both likely begin the regular season at Class A Palm Beach.

Here is how Monday’s game broke down:

High: The first four Cardinals pitchers actually held the Marlins hitless through the first six innings.

Low: The five runs in the seventh inning were one more than the Cardinals had allowed combined in their first 24 innings this spring.

At the plate: John Nogowski, getting a chance to play first base as Paul Goldschmidt DHs in the early games, had two hits and two RBIs … Rangel Ravelo, fighting for a spot on the roster, played left field and also had two hits and an RBI … Yadier Molina got his first hit of the spring while Dexter Fowler and Goldschmidt remained hitless in their first two games.

On the mound: John Gant and Ryan Helsley each worked two innings, with the Marlins scoring one unearned run off Gant thanks to two errors, one of which was his wild pickoff throw to second base … Junior Fernandez and Kodi Whitley joined Thompson with scoreless innings. Whitley pitched around a hit by getting three strikeouts.

Off the field: Shildt said he will continue to move Brad Miller and Tommy Edman around the field, starting them at multiple positions. Yairo Munoz already has played both the infield and outfield as well … Miles Mikolas is recovering from his second PRP injection which has limited his baseball activities and will leave him on the injured list when the regular season begins.

Up next: The Cardinals will host the Washington Nationals on Tuesday in Jupiter. Austin Gomber is scheduled to start and be followed on the mound by Alex Reyes. Both are expected to pitch two innings … For the split-squad games on Wednesday, Kwang Hyun Kim and Genesis Cabrera will be the starters.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Sunday Feb. 23

Weather: 74 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Cardinals 3, Mets 3 (tie)

Edmundo Sosa’s bid to win a spot on the Cardinals roster as a backup infielder is off to a nice start.

Sosa hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to pull the Cardinals into a 3-3 tie against the Mets on Sunday in Port St. Lucie. The game was called a tie after nine innings.

Sosa has appeared in the first two games this spring at shortstop, where the Cardinals are searching to find an effective backup to starter Paul DeJong.

Here is how Sunday’s game broke down:

High: Harrison Bader led off the game with a home run and also doubled in his second at-bat.

Low: Starter Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez were not able to complete their scheduled two innings of work before hitting their prescribed pitch count limit for their first appearance.

At the plate: All three of the Cardinals’ runs came on the two homers. Four of their five runs in the first two games have come via a home run … Sosa’s homer followed a leadoff triple in the eighth by Max Schrock, who like Sosa finished the game with two hits … Schrock had a chance for a game-winning RBI with a ninth-inning single but Evan Mendoza was thrown out at the plate as he tried to score from second on the hit to right … Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong made their first starts of the spring and each was hitless in two at-bats, with DeJong striking out in both of his at-bats.

On the mound: Wainwright allowed two hits, including a home run, and walked two in 1 2/3 innings … Martinez only recorded four outs, giving up four hits and walking two and allowing two runs … Daniel Ponce de Leon struck out three and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings while Jake Woodford also worked two scoreless innings.

Up next: The Cardinals return to Jupiter on Monday to host the Marlins. John Gant will get the start, with Ryan Helsley also scheduled to work an inning. Also scheduled to make their first appearance with the Cardinals are left-handers Zach Thompson, their first pick in last year’s draft, and Matthew Liberatore, acquired in an off-season trade. Each is scheduled to pitch one inning.

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