Postcard from Cardinals camp for Friday, March 5, 2021

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Friday, March 5, 2021

Weather: 70 degrees, clear

Result: Nationals 7, Cardinals 6

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – The way he has started off the spring for the Cardinals is the best way Lane Thomas knows to keep himself in the hunt for playing time in the Cardinals outfield.

Thomas has at least one hit in each of the four games he has played to start the spring and had a pair of hits on Friday night, including a two-run double, against the Nationals in West Palm Beach.

Thomas also singled in a run later in the game, raising his early spring average to .500 (5-of-10). He has a hit on every ball he has put in play so far, with all five of his outs coming on strikeouts, including twice on Friday night.

“The guy’s got some real ability,” said manager Mike Shildt. “Nice stroke. I think Lane is off to a respectable start for spring training. He’s putting a good swing on the baseball. He’s getting a good pitch to hit which is what we and he wants to do. He’s finding holes.”

Thomas came into the spring competing for playing time in the outfield primarily with Tyler O’Neill, as Harrison Bader is still the favorite to play most of the time in center and rookie Dylan Carlson expected to get most of the at-bats in right.

Here is how Friday night’s game broke down:

High: Andrew Knizner also had two hits, in three at-bats, and also has a .500 average so far this spring.

Low: After rallying to tie the game in the top of the ninth, the Cardinals gave up the winning run in the bottom of the inning after Johan Quezada issued a two-out walk and that runner later scored on a throwing error by catcher Ali Sanchez.

At the plate: Tyler Heineman’s sacrifice fly drove in the tying run in the ninth, following another sacrifice fly earlier in the game by Max Moroff … Matt Carpenter remained hitless for the spring, going 0-of-2 with a walk and strikeout. He is 0-of-8 on the spring.

On the mound: John Gant got the start and allowed four runs over three innings, including a three-run homer by Alex Avila in the first inning. He gave up four hits and walked two … Former first-round draft pick Zack Thompson worked two innings, allowing three hits and a run while recording two strikeouts, It was his first game wearing No. 57, which had not been worn since Darryl Kile passed away in 2002. “It’s a great honor,” Thompson said. “Actually today walking off the field a fan flagged me down and said he was so excited to see 57 back out there. It’s obvious DK had a big impact on St. Louis and I feel honored they picked me to wear it.” … Kodi Whitley’s first outing of the spring was a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts.

Worth noting: Jack Flaherty was much sharper than he had been in his first start of the spring as he worked three innings on Friday in a “B” game against the Astros, throwing 50 pitches. The Cardinals got a three-run homer from Edmundo Sosa and won the game 4-1. Sosa, playing second base, also threw out a runner at the plate from short right field. Johan Oviedo also was impressive in his two innings of work.

Up next: The Cardinals have the first of their two actual days off of the spring on Saturday. They will host the Astros on Sunday in Jupiter.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

Postcards from earlier in the week:

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Thursday, March 4, 2021

Weather: 70 degrees, clear

Result: Astros 14, Cardinals 0

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – Prior to his first start of the spring on Thursday night, manager Mike Shildt said Carlos Martinez had made a strong case to be in the Cardinals’ starting rotation when the regular season began.

“He’s done everything well,” Shildt said. “He showed up to camp in great shape, he’s going about his work in a really positive fashion. He’s doing everything he can to make it happen … He’s in a good spot in every area.”

A couple of hours later, however, Martinez fell into the same trap that has left all of the Cardinals starters except Adam Wainwright in a funk at the start of the spring schedule.

Martinez gave up five runs in the first inning against the Astros in West Palm Beach, failing to complete the inning, and then thanks to the re-entry rule came back out for the second and did not retire any of the three hitters he faced, giving up another run.

Martinez allowed four hits, walked three and hit a batter. He also didn’t help himself with a throwing error on a pickoff attempt at second base.

“I know the result wasn’t what I wanted but I feel good,” Martinez said. “I know I can be better in the next starts. I’m here to work hard and be in the competition (for the rotation).”

Shildt said one poor start will not lower his confidence in Martinez, especially this early in the spring.

“A couple groundballs got through, a couple of counts got swung in an unfavorable place but his stuff was good, so listen it’s the first time out in spring training,” Shildt said. “I think we can be encouraged by the way the ball was coming out of his hand and a lot of other things.

“He might have tried a little too hard tonight. Carlos is going to be just fine.”

Here is how Thursday night’s game broke down:

High: Alex Reyes worked two perfect innings, striking out three of the six hitters he faced. He has retired all nine hitters he faced in his two appearances so far this spring.

Low: In their first starts of the spring, three of the projected starters for the Cardinals – Jack Flaherty, Kwang Hyun Kim and Martinez – combined have retired only five of the 26 hitters they faced.

At the plate: The Cardinals managed only three hits, a double by Yadier Molina and singles by Lane Thomas and Tyler Heineman … Matt Carpenter hit leadoff and struck out in each of his three at-bats … The team was hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position in being shut out for the second time in the last three games.

On the mound: Genesis Cabrera followed Reyes to the mound and worked a scoreless inning, pitching around two hits, but walked the first two hitters he faced in his second inning of work, both of whom later came around to score … Garrett Williams, a Rule 5 draft pick ,allowed three more runs in the sixth after taking over for Cabrera … Ryan Helsley made his first appearance of the spring and after a leadoff walk recorded three consecutive strikeouts, two looking … The final three Houston runs came off Giovanny Gallegos.

Worth noting: Shildt said he was pleased that the city of St. Louis and the Cardinals had reached agreement to allow nearly 15,000 fans into Busch Stadium to begin the season, giving Nolan Arenado a crowd to welcome him to the team at the April 8 home opener. “It’s really nice to have those fans back. The ovation for Nolan is going to be special and well-deserved and he will get a taste of it,” Shildt said. “Clearly we wish it was at full capacity but he will get a taste of what it’s about playing in St. Louis and the passion of the knowledgeable fans we have.” … Andrew Miller and Jordan Hicks each threw their second live batting practice on Thursday. Shildt said, “We’ll take the temperature of how it looks and move forward.” … Miles Mikolas is scheduled to throw a bullpen this weekend and his next step will be determined by how he feels afterward, Shildt said. Mikolas, recovering from arm surgery, also is dealing with shoulder stiffness.

Up next: The Cardinals will play a second consecutive night game in West Palm Beach on Friday night, this time against the Nationals. John Gant will get the start … The Cardinals will have Jack Flaherty start a B game earlier in the day, against the Astros, also in West Palm Beach.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Weather: 77 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Cardinals 14, Mets 9

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – The Cardinals have only played three games so far this spring, but one battle already appears that it will be as competitive as had been predicted coming into camp.

The team likely will carry nine relievers on its opening day roster, and trying to figure out who will fill the final couple of spots is not going to be easy for manager Mike Shildt and his staff.

Eight relievers combined to cover 8 1/3 innings on Wednesday following a shorter than expected start from Kwang Hyun Kim. Seven of them did well, Junior Fernandez did not, allowing three runs in the ninth inning.

In the first three games of the spring, the combined bullpen allowed just three runs, two earned, in 20 1/3 innings before Fernandez’s outing.

In those 20 1/3 innings, the relievers have combined for 20 strikeouts.

“It’s a real competitive situation,” Shildt said. “Clearly there are opportunities out there to make the club and that’s why we’re here.”

Among the relievers who did not appear in any of the three games are four who almost certainly will be on the team – Andrew Miller, Ryan Helsley, Jordan Hicks and Kodi Whitley.

One newcomer to the group of bullpen candidates made his Cardinals debut on Wednesday, 6-foot-9 right-hander Johan Quevada, acquired from the Phillies for cash considerations shortly before spring training began.

Quezada displayed a fastball clocked in the high 90s as he struck out two and pitched around a double in his one inning of work.

“Liked what we saw, you don’t want to over-react or under-react,” Shildt said. “He threw strikes, which today was not a given for us. He was kind of the gold-star guy today. Got ahead, slider was good, thought he was in command of what he was doing, ball comes out clean. Lot to like in his debut.”

The runs allowed by the relievers on Wednesday other than Fernandez were against Tommy Parsons (unearned) and Connor Jones. The run allowed in the first game of the spring came off Genesis Cabrera.

Here is how Wednesday’s game broke down:

High: John Nogowski, starting at first base in place of Paul Goldschmidt, hit the Cardinals’ first home run of the spring, a three-run shot in the second inning.

Low: For the second time in the first three games, the Cardinals starting pitcher struggled. Kim retired only two of the eight hitters he faced and was pulled from the game in both the first and second inning.

At the plate: Nogowski reached base in all three of his plate appearances, also walking twice … Andrew Knizner had two hits, including a two-run double … Non-roster infielder Jose Rondon also drove in three runs with a triple and a two-run homer … Ali Sanchez, expected to be one of the catchers at Memphis, also hit a two-run homer … Nolan Arenado drove in his first run of the spring with a single in the first inning following a leadoff double by Tommy Edman.

On the mound: Kim got one out and gave up three runs in the first inning, coming out after 27 pitches. In another spring training rules change, he was allowed to re-enter the game to start the second and faced two more batters, recording a strikeout and allowing walk, which later came around to score. He was charged with four runs (three earned), giving up four hits and walking two … Other than Quezada, the other relievers working scoreless inning were Seth Elledge, Roel Ramirez and Jesus Cruz.

Worth noting: John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, said the Cardinals are going to take about a week to decide where to hold their alternate site camp. The team is exploring options closer to St. Louis than Springfield, where the camp was based last summer, in part because the Cardinals share that stadium with Missouri State and the Bears are currently in the middle of their season … MLB announced Tuesday night that the start of the Triple A season will be delayed about a month, until early May, in favor of having players at an alternate site in case they are needed at the major-league level. “I think the alternate camp is going to be used really as insurance for our major-league club,” Mozeliak said. “Ultimately by the time you get to May hopefully you will be in full swing with the minor leagues going. As I look at the alternate site roster it’s really about making sure we have protection for our major-league team.”

Up next: The Cardinals play their first road game of the spring on Thursday night, and the first of their eight night games, against the Astros in West Palm Beach. Carlos Martinez is the scheduled starter.

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Weather: 81 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Cardinals 0, Marlins 0 (7 innings, tie)

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – Before he stepped on the familiar mound for the first time this spring, Adam Wainwright had a few moments since arriving in town when he thought about what it would have been like not being in Jupiter.

A free agent after last season, Wainwright for the first time in his career at least gave some consideration over the winter to listening to offers from other teams before re-signing with the Cardinals.

He has been reminded this spring of what he would have missed had he not returned to the only spring training home he has known for the last 17 years.

“Every now and then this spring training I will see somebody who I know their name just from being here forever and I say, ‘’Hey how you doing, how’s your family, how was your off-season, blah, blah, blah’ and have a normal conversation – and I walk away from that conversation going, ‘If I had gone somewhere else, I wouldn’t have known anybody,’” Wainwright said Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t have known so-and-so’s family and what their off-season was like; it would have been a totally different start. Now I will be honest, some of that seemed kind of interesting, a new adventure, but I’m liking the new adventure we’re having inside the same clubhouse. That seems like a cool one for me.”

Wainwright was back on the familiar Roger Dean Chevrolet mound on Tuesday but his stay was brief; he needed only 20 pitches to retire all six Marlins hitters he faced in two perfect innings, throwing 14 strikes.

As familiar as it was to be on the mound – and pitching well – Wainwright also was reminded that especially early in the spring he can be too eager to get going, proving once again that he is never too old to learn.

“What was really cool is that I have timing zones where I need to be in this spot before a game and then progress to this spot to be ready for that spot before I can go out and perform,” he said. “Inevitably the first time out there, before you can learn how to control your emotions again, you go ‘heck with it’ and just go. It was fun to have those same kinds of feelings come back today.

“It also was fun to kind of squash it a little bit and go, ‘I hear ya body, I feel you trying to do things you’re not ready to do yet’ just relax, it’s the first start. I was talking through all of this with myself, it was really fun and made myself smile. It was cool to think back about a lot of the experiences I’ve had and learn from it.”

Before he even thought about the offers from other teams or re-signing with the Cardinals, the 39-year-old Wainwright first had to decide that he wanted to be where he was on Tuesday, back pitching again.

What helped him do that was what he heard from some of his teammates at the end of last season when he arguably was the Cardinals’ best starter.

“Guys reached out to me and said, ‘Dude you can’t retire,’” Wainwright said. “I appreciate that so much. It made me feel pretty nice. Two years before I heard, ‘Nice having you around for those years that you used to be a decent pitcher.’ It’s good to have the script flipped a little bit.”

Here is how Tuesday’s game broke down:

High: The five Cardinals pitchers combined to allow just two hits to the Marlins and did not allow a runner past second base.

Low: The Cardinals had only four hits, and saw their best chance to score wiped out when pinch-runner Delvin Perez tagged up and tried to score from third on a fly ball in the seventh inning but was thrown out at the plate.

At the plate: Matt Carpenter was in the leadoff spot and was hitless in two at-bats but stung both balls, one reaching the warning track in right and the other an out into the shift … Nolan Arenado had his first hit for the Cardinals, a single, while Paul Goldschmidt, Tyler O’Neill and Mac Moroff had the other hits.

On the mound: Daniel Ponce de Leon (2 innings), Matthew Liberatore, Jake Woodford and Tyler Webb (1 inning each) followed Wainwright to the mound and combined to complete the shutout. Ponce de Leon walked the leadoff batter in each of his two innings, but each was erased, first in a double play and then on a caught straling from Tyler Heineman … Liberatore, in his first actual game since last March, had to pitch around two walks and a balk.

Worth noting: On the day after Jordan Hicks threw his first live batting practice of the spring, which manager Mike Shildt called a “monumental step” in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, there were rave reviews for Hicks’s outing. “Everything’s really encouraging,” Shildt said. The team is working on the trajectory for the next steps in Hicks’s comeback, which will likely be in a “B” game or a simulated game, depending on the timing. Shildt said he is “moving closer for sure” to an appearance in a regular spring game … Voting is now open at Cardinals.com for this year’s Hall of Fame selection. The candidates are Keith Hernandez, Matt Morris, Edgar Renteria, Steve Carlton and Lee Smith. The winner will join last year’s class of Bill White, Tom Herr and John Tudor, whose ceremony was canceled because of COVID … Carpenter started at second base; his last regular start at that position was on May 23, 2018. He made a backhand stop and got the out on his only fielding chance, and turned the pivot on a double play.

Up next: Kwang Hyun Kim will get the start in Wednesday’s game against the Mets in Jupiter; Carlos Martinez is scheduled to make his first start of the spring on Thursday night against the Astros in West Palm Beach.

 

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