Postcard from Cardinals camp for Saturday, March 7

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Saturday March 7

Weather: 72 degrees, mostly cloudy

Result: Cardinals 5, Astros 1

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – One of the Cardinals goals coming into spring training was to create as much competition as possible for roster spots.

Saturday’s game against the Astros offered multiple examples that they have accomplished that goal.

Two candidates for the starting rotation, who are probably behind other candidates – John Gant and Austin Gomber – allowed a combined one unearned run over seven innings in the victory.

An infielder trying to win a spot on the team but still likely behind other players as well, Edmundo Sosa, hit his second home run of the spring.

The other example was outfielder Lane Thomas – who probably is in line to make the team but is hoping to become a starter – showed off his speed by scoring from first on a double by Kolten Wong.

Here is how Saturday’s game broke down:

High: Gant allowed just one infield hit, walked two and struck out three in four scoreless innings.

Low: Matt Carpenter struck out three times and also committed a throwing error. Collectively the Cardinals struck out 15 times in the game.

At the plate: Wong doubled in two runs in a three-run fourth inning, which also included an RBI double from Matt Wieters … Wieters also drove in a run with a fielder’s choice grounder in the second and stole his first base of the spring … Sosa’s homer capped the Cardinals scoring … Tyler O’Neill struck out twice and drew a walk in his three plate appearances.

On the mound: The only hit off Gant was an infield single with one out in the fourth … Gomber, who had allowed one run combined in five innings in his first two appearances, allowed just one hit and walked one while striking out three in his three innings in relief … Tyler Webb and Giovanny Gallegos finished the game with scoreless innings. Webb has not allowed a run in his four innings this spring.

Munoz released: The Cardinals made a surprising announcement on Saturday that infielder Yairo Munoz had been released. John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, said the decision was made after Munoz failed to show up for a scheduled MRI last week and then left the team to fly home to the Dominican Republic without informing anybody of his plans other than a teammate, through a text message. Munoz had suffered a hamstring injury a few days earlier that appeared likely to take him out of the competition for a spot on the opening day roster. Mozeliak said he knew Munoz was frustrated last season because of a lack of playing time, but manager Mike Shildt said he thought adding a 26th man to the roster this year would have helped Munoz be used more often, had he made the team. “He decided to go home,” Shildt said. “I wish I had a better explanation.” Mozeliak also was equally uncertain about what happened to prompt Munoz to leave without telling the team. “He wasn’t happy here, he was frustrated with his use last year and didn’t like the writing he was seeing on the wall this year,” Mozeliak said. “The bottom line is he left the club. … it’s very odd.”

Roster Cuts: There were no other surprises among the 13 additional roster cuts on Saturday, the first of the spring. Pitcher Ricardo Sanchez and infielder Elehuris Montero were optioned to Memphis, and pitcher Alvaro Seijas, the only pitcher in camp who had not appeared in a game, was optioned to Palm Beach. Reassigned to the minor-league camp were non-roster pitchers Akeem Bostick, Nabil Crismatt, Seth Elledge, Alex FaGalde, Griffin Roberts, Angel Rondon and Ramon Santos; infielder Luken Baker and catchers Julio Rodriguez and Alexis Wilson. The moves left 57 players in camp.

Off the field: As the Cardinals await more results of tests on Andrew Miller’s right hand, Mozeliak said he is becoming more concerned that Miller will not have enough time to be ready to pitch before opening day and might have to open the season on the injured list … Infielder Brad Miller, who has missed the last several days because of soreness in his lower back, is probably two or three days away from being able to play, Shildt said.

Up next: Dakota Hudson is the scheduled starter on Sunday, when the Cardinals play the Miami Marlins. Genesis Cabrera, who had to come out of his last appearance early because of cracked fingernail, is scheduled to follow Hudson, who is expected to pitch five innings.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

Postcards from earlier this week:

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Thursday, March 5

Weather: 90 degrees, sunny (day)

Results: Cardinals 7, Mets 7 (tie)]         

               Cardinals 11, Nationals 0

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – There was a lot to like about the Cardinals’ split-squad games on Thursday.

Their two leadoff hitters, who most likely will be the two who are used their the most often during the season – Kolten Wong and Tommy Edman – each had multi-hit games, with Wong collecting three hits against the Mets.

Their likely cleanup hitter, Paul DeJong, hit his fourth homer of the spring in just 18 at-bats.

Two of their projected starting pitchers, Carlos Martinez and Kwang Hyun Kim, each had scoreless outings, with Martinez becoming the first pitcher this spring to work five innings.

The offense combined for six home runs in the two games, including three in a six-run fourth inning against the Mets, a solo homer from DeJong, a three-run homer from Lane Thomas and a two-run blast from Matt Carpenter.

Here are how Thursday’s split-squad games broke down:

High: Martinez allowed three hits in his start against the Nationals, did not walk a batter in his five innings and struck out two as he lowered his ERA for the spring to 1.93.

Low: John Brebbia gave up a pair of home runs in the eighth inning as he failed to protect a 7-5 lead over the Mets.

At the plate: Andrew Knizner, Edman and Justin Williams hit the three home runs in the night game, with Edman driving in three runs … Thomas also had a double in the day game … Dylan Carlson had two more hits and a walk in the night game, raising his average to .417 … Tyler O’Neill, also competing for the left-field job, also had two hits and an RBI but struck out three times … Rangel Ravelo had two doubles and an RBI and Austin Dean had a pair of doubles and two RBIs … In the day game Dexter Fowler had his second hit of the spring in three at-bats and is now hitting .095.

On the mound: Kim followed Adam Wainwright to the mound in the day game and worked two scoreless innings, pitching around three hits. He has not allowed a run in five innings this spring … Wainwright struggled with finishing his pitches, allowing five runs in four innings, but thought six of the eight hits he gave up came on good pitches. All three of his starts have come against the Mets … Kodi Whitley remained perfect on the spring with a scoreless ninth against the Mets. He has worked four scoreless innings this spring with eight strikeouts … Top draft pick in 2019 Zack Thompson worked a scoreless inning against the Nationals. He has not allowed a run in three innings. The four pitchers in the night game did not issue a walk against the Nationals until Ryan Helsley walked a batter with two outs in the ninth.

Off the field: Manager Mike Shildt will be married on Friday night, a day off for the team. Shildt acknowledges that it probably isn’t normal for a manager to be married during spring training, but he said, “We didn’t want to plan it during the season and then the possibility of the postseason. A lot of the people we would like to invite are here.” Former Cardinals minor-league coordinator Mark DeJohn and one of Shildt’s childhood friends, Marc Rosenbalm, will serve as his co-best men. The Cardinals players were not invited. “It’s my gift to them on their day off to not have to come to a wedding,” Shildt said.

Up next: After the day off, one of two this spring, the Cardinals will host the Astros on Saturday in Jupiter. John Gant will get the start, to be followed by Austin Gomber.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Wednesday March 4

Weather: 87 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Mets 4, Cardinals 1

It was a slow day for the Cardinals offense on Wednesday as they lost to the Mets in Port St. Lucie.

The Cardinals were held to only three hits through the first eight innings, one of which was a home run by 19-year-old prospect Nolan Gorman.

Jack Flaherty allowed three runs in his four innings of work.

Here is how the game broke down:

High: Gorman’s first home run left him 7-of-22 for the spring, including two doubles and four RBIs.

Low: Flaherty gave up hits to the first three Mets batters in the first inning, putting the Cardinals behind 2-0 before he recorded his first out.

At the plate: Other than Gorman’s home run, the Cardinals had only a double by Austin Dean and a single by Tommy Edman through the eighth inning. Dean was picked off second, and Edman also was thrown out trying to steal second after he was hit by a pitch in the first inning … The Cardinals added two hits in the ninth, from Dennis Ortega and Dean, but ended the game 0-of-5 with runners in scoring position.

On the mound: After giving up the three consecutive hits to begin the game, Flaherty retired nine of the next 10 hitters he faced before giving up another run in the fourth … Daniel Ponce de Leon allowed one run in his three innings of work before Junior Fernandez pitched another scoreless inning.

Off the field: The first round of tests on Andrew Miller’s right hand did not reveal any reasons for why he had trouble getting a feel for the baseball when he was warming up on Monday. Miller was able to play catch on Wednesday and will undergo further testing in the next couple of days.

Up next: The Cardinals will split their squad for a pair of games on Thursday. Adam Wainwright will start against the Mets in Jupiter and is scheduled to pitch four innings, followed by Kwang Hyun Kim. The other half of the team will play the Nationals on Thursday night in West Palm Beach, with Carlos Martinez the scheduled starter.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Tuesday, March 3

Weather: 80 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Cardinals 6, Astros 3

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – As Dakota Hudson watched Gold Glove winner Kolten Wong start a highlight-reel double play to end the first inning on Tuesday, he came to a very good realization.

“With this defense, if I ever walk a guy I’m so mad,” Hudson said. “They give me a chance on every ball. If I keep it on the ground I feel like it’s an out waiting to happen.”

That play set the tone for a solid start for Hudson, who allowed only two balls out of the infield during his four-inning stint, one of which was a home run. He recorded nine of his 12 outs on ground balls and issued his first walk of the spring in his final inning of work in the fourth.

Walks were a problem for Hudson last season, when despite winning 16 games as a rookie, he also issued the most walks in the National League.

“I got a little mechanically out of whack early in the year and I was trying to compete with I had,” Hudson said. “I felt like I kind of nit-picked my way through the first half.

“Going into this spring I was able to work on some things and iron out some things in the off-season and feel like I’m playing catch at a high level and am able to execute some pitches.

“Why not let the best defense play? That’s kind of where my mind’s at right now.”

Manager Mike Shildt thought the efficient 46-pitch outing was “an example of what he’s capable of. He’s having a nice spring.”

Here is how Tuesday’s game broke down:

High: Paul Goldschmidt hit his second homer of the spring, off Justin Verlander. He also had a single, his first hit this spring that was not a home run.

Low: Dexter Fowler had another 0-of-3 day and is now 1-of-18 for the spring.

At the plate: Max Schrock got the start at third base and had a double and a single, driving in one run, while reaching base on walks in his other two plate appearances … Paul DeJong had two more hits as he raised his spring average to .571 … Matt Wieters also hit his first home run while Dylan Carlson had a double and scored twice.

On the mound: Alex Reyes followed Hudson to the mound and allowed one run, but recorded four strikeouts in two innings … Matthew Liberatore, who had a rocky debut in his first appearance, recorded a 1-2-3 inning in his second appearance, getting a strikeout, a ground ball and a foul popup … Tyler Webb worked his third scoreless inning.

Off the field: Andrew Miller underwent tests on Tuesday to try to determine the reason why he could not get a feel for the baseball when he warmed up on Monday. It is not known when the Cardinals will get the results of those tests.

Up next: Jack Flaherty will get the start on Wednesday when the Cardinals play the Mets in Port St. Lucie. He is scheduled to work four innings, with Daniel Ponce de Leon also scheduled to pitch four innings.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Monday, March 2

Weather: 76 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Cardinals 6, Twins 1

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – As the Cardinals begin sorting through all of the relievers in their camp, some know they will be on the roster when the regular season begins. Some know they will be back in the minors.

Then there are the rest, who find themselves somewhere in the middle, a group that includes oft-injured Brett Cecil.

Cecil is trying to prove this spring that he deserves to be in the Cardinals bullpen and to do that, he will need more outings like he turned in on Monday against the Twins.

In his best outing of the spring, and perhaps the best in a lot longer period, Cecil threw 22 pitches, 16 of them strikes, in a scoreless inning. He allowed an infield hit and got two fly outs and one ground out into the shift.

“Encouraging,” said manager Mike Shildt. “Better breaking ball, sharper, everything around the plate more. Coming out more free and easy and looks like he’s able to execute what he wants to do and was able to get outs, which is the most important thing, That’s the best he’s been.”

One of the challenges for Cecil is the learning curve of figuring out how to get those outs with decreased velocity. Only two of his 22 pitches hit 87 miles per hour, several miles slower than he was pitching just a couple of years ago.

“Where do you get your outs, how do you get them, how do you work with the stuff you have,” Shildt said about what Cecil needs to do.

At the moment there appear to be about half a dozen pitchers, including Cecil, competing for two spots in the bullpen when the regular season begins.

Here is how Monday’s game broke down:

High: Yadier Molina had two hits and an RBI.

Low: Dexter Fowler was 0-of-3, striking out in all three at-bats, even though he worked the count to 3-2 during each at-bat. His average for the spring fell to .067, (1-of-15).

At the plate: Three of the Cardinals’ first four runs were unearned because of a Twins throwing error … In addition to Molina, the Cardinals got two hits and an RBI from Tommy Edman and two hits from Rangel Ravelo … Tyler O’Neill also contributed an RBI single … Minor-league catcher Jose Godoy’s single drove in their final two runs … Dylan Carlson reached base twice on a walk and an error … Harrison Bader had a hit and a walk in three plate appearances. His spring average is now .316.

On the mound: In addition to Cecil’s scoreless innings, the Cardinals got solid relief work from John Oviedo (two perfect innings), Zack Thompson (two strikeouts in his one inning) and John Brebbia (one perfect inning) … The Twins only run scored off minor-leaguer Alex FaGalde.

Off the field: After scheduled starter Kwang Hyun Kim was scratched because of a groin issue, Genesis Cabrera had to come out of the game in the second inning because of a problem with a fingernail. He will miss a couple of days … Andrew Miller warmed up but did not pitch because “he didn’t have a feel for the baseball today,” Shildt said. Both Shildt and Miller did not think there was any physical issue involved but obviously there will be tests to try to determine the source of the problem. “I can’t say it’s not a concern,” Shildt said, “but I can’t tell you how great or how light it is but clearly it’s something we have to address.” … Kim is expected to start one of the split-squad games on Thursday … Former Cardinals star Lance Berkman was in camp visiting with coaches and players during batting practice.

Up next: The Cardinals host the Houston Astros on Tuesday. Dakota Hudson will get the start, with Jack Flaherty scheduled to start on Wednesday.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Sunday, March 1

Weather: 72 degrees, sunny

Result: Astros 5, Cardinals 4

Austin Gomber came into spring training a year ago hoping to compete for a spot in the Cardinals’ starting rotation but fell out of contention for that spot after allowing 13 runs in 11 innings spread across four appearances.

The regular season did not go much better for Gomber, who suffered through an injury-filled year that limited him to just 49 innings.

The calendar has turned to 2020, however, and Gomber is putting all of those problems behind as he showed again on Sunday why he should not be counted out of the race for either a starting role or a spot in the Cardinals’ bullpen this season.

Gomber got the start and held the Astros to just one hit over three scoreless innings in the game in West Palm Beach. He did not walk a batter and struck out four as he lowered his spring ERA to 1.80, allowing one run in five innings over his first two starts.

Here is how Sunday’s game broke down:

High: Paul DeJong hit his team-leading third homer of the spring and also doubled as he raised his average to .545.

Low: The Cardinals lost the game in the bottom of the ninth on a pair of bases-loaded walks Rob Kaminsky walked four while getting only two outs, one of which came when a runner tried to score from third on a wild pitch.

At the plate: DeJong’s two-run homer was one of three hit by the Cardinals. Tyler O’Neill hit his second of the spring and Dennis Ortega homered in the top of the ninth to briefly give the Cardinals a 4-3 lead … Kolten Wong hit in the leadoff spot and had a pair of singles … The Cardinals went 0-of-6 with runner in scoring position and also hit into two double plays.

On the mound: John Gant followed Gomber to the mound and allowed the first three runs to the Astros in 2 2/3 innings … Junior Fernandez and Kodi Whitley each worked a scoreless inning before Kaminsky could not save the game in the ninth, allowing one hit to go with the four walks.

Off the field: Infielder Brad Miller was scheduled to start at third base but was a late scratch because of stiffness in his lower back. His status was said to be day-to-day … The Cardinals expect Yairo Munoz to miss the rest of spring training because of a hamstring strain which he suffered in Saturday’s game.

Up next: Kwang Hyun Kim will make his second start and third appearance of the spring on Monday when they host the Minnesota Twins in Jupiter.

 

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