Postcard from Cardinals camp for Saturday, March 27, 2021

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Saturday, March 27, 2021

Weather: 82 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Marlins 6, Cardinals 4

By Rob Rains

Spring training will end in a couple of days for almost all of the Cardinals but it is really just beginning again for Kwang Hyun Kim.

Tightness in his back, suffered when he tried to throw too hard in a bullpen session, forced Kim to miss a good chunk of the spring before he got back on the mound on Saturday night.

It was his first appearance in a main spring game since March 8, and his two inning stint was only one less than he had thrown in his first two starts this spring combined.

“I had it in my mind to be careful with my back,” Kim said through a team interpreter. “It was just great to be back.”

Kim allowed triples to the first two hitters he faced, then gave up a sacrifice fly before getting two groundouts. In his second inning, he allowed just one two-out single as he struck out one and got two more groundouts.

“It’s a process to prepare for the season,” Kim said.

Manager Mike Shildt said it was natural that Kim started out a little slow, even though he had pitched in a simulated game since he was injured.

“Still feeling it a little bit, making sure everything was working,” Shildt said. “Everything’s checked out but getting in that competition you get the other team jersey going, you get the fans going, you feel that. I think he started trusting what he was doing and feeling good. He got more comfortable in the second inning and clearly had a better inning.”

Kim will remain in Florida next week when the Cardinals head to Cincinnati to open the season. He will continue to work in simulated games or perhaps make a B game appearance in his next few outings. The Cardinals want him to be able to pitch at least five innings before adding him to the roster and putting him back in the rotation.

“He’s a pro, he gets it, he’s a competitor and wants to be out there,”
Shildt said. “He understands where we’re at and he’s in a good spot. We mapped out what his plan will be based on him feeling good and it looked like tonight he checked that box.

“I don’t think he’s going to be too far off once we get started.”

Here is how Saturday night’s game broke down:

High: Yadier Molina had three hits, including a double, and Tyler O’Neill had two hits, drove in two runs and stole his third base of the spring.

Low: Paul DeJong struck out in three of his five at-bats, although he did also single in a run.

At the plate: Paul Goldschmidt hit his second homer of the spring and both he and Nolan Arenado, who had a double, finished with two hits … Justin Williams, who could perhaps make the team and he the starting right fielder on opening day, was hitless in four at-bats, striking out twice.

On the mound: Jack Flaherty worked three innings in his final tuneup before his start on Thursday, allowing an unearned run. He struck out four and did not walk a batter … Genesis Cabrera allowed a run in his inning of work before Alex Reyes and Kodi Whitley each worked a scoreless inning.

Worth noting: Shildt said the team had “some clarity” on its final roster decisions and the team is expected to make that announcement perhaps as early as Sunday … Shildt did confirm the order for the starting pitchers for the first six games of the season. Following Flaherty will be Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez for the games in Cincinnati, with Daniel Ponce de Leon and John Gant starting the first two games in Miami before Flaherty makes his second start … A 16-year-old Cuban outfielder, Luis Mario Pino, announced on social media that he had signed with the Cardinals but the team has not confirmed the signing of the international free agent.

Up next: Wainwright will get the start in Sunday’s game against the Nationals in West Palm Beach.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

From earlier this week:

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Thursday, March 25, 2021

Weather: 81 degrees, clear

Result: Astros 3, Cardinals 0

By Rob Rains

The Cardinals are counting on Nolan Arenado to get a lot of hits for them this season – they just hope it isn’t often that they need him to get a hit in the seventh inning to break up a no-hitter.

That’s what happened on Thursday night, as they saw the Astros retire the first 20 batters the Cardinals sent to the plate – before Arenado broke up the perfect game with a two-out double in the seventh.

Their only other hit was an infield single by Tommy Edman in the ninth.

“You find your competitive nature taking place in the dugout all the time,” said manager Mike Shildt. “You always want to be able to put together good at-bats. … Fourth inning, guys in the dugout were going, ‘There’s a no-hitter going’ and I was like, ‘It’s actually a perfect game.’”

It stayed that way until Arenado’s at-bat in the seventh.

Here is how Thursday night’s game broke down:

High: With his one scoreless inning, Kodi Whitley remained perfect on the spring, not allowing a run over his seven appearances, covering 6 1/3 innings.

Low: In his final start of the spring, Daniel Ponce de Leon struggled with his control, allowing five hits and walking six in 4 1/3 innings.

At the plate: Other than the hits by Arenado and Edman, the Cardinals had just two other baserunners, both on walks. Paul DeJong walked after Arenado’s double, but Tyler O’Neill hit into an inning-ending force out … In the ninth, the Cardinals also got the tying run to the plate after Austin Dean drew a leadoff walk and Edman reached on his infield hit. The runners were stranded, however, as John Negowski flew out and Edmundo Sosa and DeJong struck out.

On the mound: Ponce de Leon gave up a homer to Jose Altuve in the first and had to be pulled with two outs in the inning after throwing 25 pitches, but he returned to start the second and pitched into the fifth. His status as the fifth starter to open the season likely depends on whether Kwang Hyun Kim is ready to pitch after missing more than two weeks because of back tightness … Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley and Whitley all worked an inning of scoreless relief, with Helsley pitching out of a bases loaded, no out jam by getting a pop up and a double play grounder.

Worth noting: The Cardinals have Kim scheduled to pitch two to three innings on Saturday in “heavy pencil” according to Shildt. Kim has not pitched in a regular spring game since March 8 because of back tightness and has only pitched twice in official games this spring, a total of three innings. How he pitches, and recovers, from that game likely will determine if Kim can take his turn in the rotation the first week of the season or will have to begin the year on the injured list … Andrew Miller and Tyler Webb both pitched in a B game against the Marlins on Thursday. The rest of the players in the game all had already been trimmed from the camp roster … Eight players were returned to the minor league camp after the game – pitchers Johan Oviedo, Jesus Cruz, Evan Kruczynski, Matthew Liberatore, Zack Thompson and Tommy Parsons; infielder Nolan Gorman and outfielder Matt Szczur. There are 36 players left in camp.

Up next: The Cardinals will have a short camp day on Friday before finishing the spring with three more games, starting with Saturday night’s game against the Marlins.

 

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Weather: 81 degrees, sunny

Result: Cardinals 3, Mets 0

By Rob Rains

The Cardinals’ outfield competition took an unexpected turn on Wednesday with the news that Harrison Bader will miss “a minimum” of four weeks because of the arm injury that has bothered him almost all spring.

Bader received a PRP injection to see if that will alleviate the pain that he has been experiencing in his right forearm, including another “flare up” this week.

The recovery period from that injection will force Bader onto the injured list for the start of the regular season. He will have little or no baseball activity for about two weeks, and a better timeframe should be known after that about how long Bader will be out.

John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, has initially put a “four to six weeks” period on the length of Bader’s absence.

Bader has said for much of the spring the injury only affected his throwing and not his hitting, but admitted this week that he also could feel it when he was swinging a bat. He had only three hits in 28 at-bats this spring.

“He just feels like its something he can’t compete consistently with,” said manager Mike Shildt. “It seems to be a recurring issue.

“It’s something that has gone away and keeps coming back. We can’t get it to go away, so here we are.”

The other news on Wednesday which could impact the decisions on which outfielders make the opening day roster came when the Cardinals were informed that an arbitrator ruled that Justin Williams does have a fourth option.

That ruling stemmed from how options were determined based on the shortened 2020 season.

“It gives us a little flexibility should we need it,” Mozeliak said. “Guys are still competing for positions, but it is comforting to know that we do have that should we need it.”

As the battle for the last spots on the roster enters the final days of the spring, John Nogowski and Williams continued to make their case during Wednesday’s game in Jupiter. Nogowski hit his second homer of the spring, and Williams delivered a two-run single that provided the insurance runs.

About Nogowski, Mozeliak said, “He’s had an impressive camp. He knows how to put the ball in play, definitely showing some power too, so it’s been great to see. Not really overly surprised. We felt he was someone who could contribute.”

The Cardinals started Dylan Carlson in center, where he likely will remain as long as Bader is sidelined. Nogowski got the start in left and Austin Dean started in right.

Mozeliak said that overall he has been pleased with how all of the outfielders have performed this spring, led by Tyler O’Neill’s strong performance. O’Neill did not play on Wednesday.

“From an offensive standpoint I think you’re seeing some things you like to see,” Mozeliak said. “I think the group as a whole has done a nice job. Not having Harrison Bader roaming center field is not great news but the fact it’s not season-long, I think we can manage through this.”

Here is how Wednesday’s game broke down:

High: Carlos Martinez had his best start of thr spring, working six scoreless innings.

Low: Dean, in the starting lineup after hitting a pinch-hit home run on Tuesday, went 0-of-4 and struck out three times.

At the plate: Nogowski reached base in all three of his plate appearances, also hitting a single and drawing a walk. His spring average is now .423 … Williams delivered the two-run single in his only at-bat, following Lane Thomas reaching on an error and Edmundo Sosa drawing a walk … Matt Carpenter hit a long fly to center but still was hitless in three at-bats, leaving him 1-of-33 for the spring. “That ball was 103 (mph) off the bat, based on the launch angle it was a home run in virtually every ballpark,” Shildt said. “We play in a ballpark that not only is vast but the ball doesn’t carry and it definitely doesn’t carry to right center. Another productive at-bat with no result for Carp.”

On the mound: Martinez allowed four hits, walked two and struck out five in his fourth consecutive start against the Mets, the first of which was played in Jupiter and not Port St. Lucie. He has one spring start remaining before most likely starting the third game of the regular season, behind Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright … Jake Woodford worked two innings of relief before Jordan Hicks pitched the ninth, walking the leadoff batter before getting a line out and two ground outs.

Worth noting: The Cardinals will play a B game on Thursday against the Marlins, but most of the players will come from the group that already has been trimmed from the major-league roster, Shildt said.

Up next: The Cardinals will play another night game on Thursday, hosting the Astros in Jupiter. Daniel Ponce de Leon will get the start.

 

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Weather: 79 degrees, overcast

Result: Cardinals 5, Nationals 5 (tie)

By Rob Rains

As manager Mike Shildt and the Cardinals spend the next week deciding how to fill the final spots on the team’s bench for the start of the season, what happened in the ninth inning on Tuesday has to be taken into consideration.

Almost as if he had drawn it up that way, most of the players competing for those spots came up to bat – as the Cardinals rallied from a 5-2 deficit to tie the game.

With one out, Justin Williams began the rally with a double. After Lane Thomas grounded out, Austin Dean slammed a two-run pinch-hit home run that closed the gap to 5-4. Max Moroff drew a walk to keep the inning alive before John Nogowski also walked. Jose Rondon then lined a single to left to drive in the tying run.

The Cardinals left the potential winning run on third when Edmundo Sosa grounded out.

“A lot of positive things from those guys,” Shildt said. “It was a good day for the guys off the bench. Appreciate the way they fight; that’s the way we like to play.

“We map it out; the game takes its own twists and turns. We have an idea going into the game who we want to see do what. We knew we wanted to get Dean an at-bat off the bench today and he took advantage of it.

“We tried to line it up like we felt we wanted to hit them. It worked out, doesn’t always, but we had a plan.”

Dean’s homer was his first of the spring and raised his spring average to .321.

Here is how Tuesday’s game broke down:

High: Adam Wainwright continued his impressive spring, allowing just one run and two hits (one of which was a Kyle Schwarber home run) over six innings.

Low: Genesis Cabrera retired only two of the seven hitters he faced in the seventh, giving up three runs, only one of which was earned because of a fielding error.

At the plate: Yadier Molina’s sacrifice fly drove in the first Cardinals run and the second scored on a single by Moroff … Thomas had a single in four at-bats and later scored on Moroff’s hit … Matt Carpenter appeared as a pinch-hitter and grounded out, leaving him 1-of-30 for the spring … Tyler O’Neill was 1-of-2 and also walked and stole a base and is now hitting .400 for the spring.

On the mound: In his team-high 19 2/3 innings this spring, Wainwright has allowed nine hit, walked three and recorded 20 strikeouts while posting a 1.83 ERA. He walked one and struck out seven in Tuesday’s game. “Feeling better every single time I go out there,” Wainwright said. “Every year I’ve gotten further removed from feeling like I was retired I’m kind of turning back the clock a little bit.” He added that in 2017 and 2018, “Everything in my body hurt. My elbow felt horrible. My knees felt bad. My back felt bad. Inflammation completely filled up my whole body. I lost all mobility, couldn’t run anymore, just terrible. I was 36 or 37 and felt like I was 47 or 57. Now I’m 39 and feel like I’m 30 honestly, maybe lower. I don’t know if my body has felt this good ever when I’m pitching.”

Worth noting: Dylan Carlson started in center field and Thomas in right field for the first time this spring … Also for the first time, Nogowski found himself in the outfield, playing the last three innings in left field but did not have any fielding chances … Nogowski drew his eighth walk of the spring, the most on the team, in 32 plate appearances to go with a .375 average and a team-leading 10 RBIs … This was the fifth tie in the Cardinals 19 games so far this spring. They have five games to go before breaking camp.

Up next: Carlos Martinez will make his fourth consecutive start against the Mets on Wednesday, although this game will be in Jupiter unlike the first three, which were in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Despite the day off on Sunday, the Cardinals elected to keep Martinez pitching on his fifth day, starting him in place of Daniel Ponce de Leon.

 

Postcard from Cardinals camp for Monday, March 22, 2021

Weather: 71 degrees, partly cloudy

Result: Marlins 7, Cardinals 2

By Rob Rains

With a week to go in spring training, the Cardinals know who two of their three starting outfielders will be when the regular season begins on April 1 in Cincinnati.

The question is who will join Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson.

The favorite for the job is still the same as it was when the camp in Jupiter opened, Harrison Bader, but his 0-of-3 day on Monday dropped his spring average to .107 with just three hits in 28 at-bats.

“The pressure is always on,” Bader said. “It’s just a matter if you are the one applying it or the one feeling it or receiving it. … I always want to be applying pressure, continuing to compete non-stop.”

Part of the reasons why Bader is still the favorite to begin the year as the starter in center field is Lane Thomas has not had a great camp either (6-of-25) and the Cardinals are still not sure if they are going to keep four or five outfielders, depending if they have a four or five-man bench.

Manager Mike Shildt said Monday that the team likely will give Carlson some playing time in center field in the last few days of the spring, and possibly O’Neill, as they try to sort out both the starting group and the reserves.

Also in the mix for bench spots are Austin Dean, who started in left field on Monday and was 0-of-3, but still has a .296 spring average, and Justin Williams, who has hit .231,  but has the advantage of being the only left-handed hitter among the reserve outfielders.

“We’re in daily competition,” Shildt said. “There’s going to be some tough decisions for sure.”

Here’s how Monday’s game broke down:

High: Carlson hit his second home run in as many game and also drove in the other Cardinals run with a single.

Low: Giovanny Gallegos could not finish his scheduled inning of work as he allowed two hits and walked two, leading to three runs.

At the plate: Paul Goldschmidt joined Carlson with two hits, including a double … Matt Carpenter was 0-of-4 and struck out twice, dropping him to 1-of-29 for the spring, although he did have one hard-hit ball which was still turned into an out.

On the mound: Jack Flaherty pitched into the sixth inning in his next to last start before his start against the Reds on opening day. He could not pitch around two errors, one of which he committed, as the Marlins scored four runs in the fifth … Tyler Webb struck out three in 1 2/3 perfect innings.

Worth noting: Shildt announced that Adam Wainwright will get the start behind Flaherty for the second game of the season in Cincinnati, which lines him up to start the home opener on April 8 against Milwaukee … Kwang Hyun Kim pitched two innings in a simulated game on Monday. Shildt said assuming Kim recovers normally, he likely will make an appearance in a regular game later this week and the Cardinals will then have to make a decision about his readiness to be in the starting rotation when the season begins.

Up next: Wainwright will get the start on Tuesday against the Nationals.

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