Postcard from Cardinals spring training camp for Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023
Weather: Sunny, 85 degrees
Result: Cardinals 8, Marlins 2
By Rob Rains
JUPITER, Fla. – Jordan Walker has played enough games in the minor leagues at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium to know how hard it is to hit a home run in the left-field gap.
He made it look easy on Sunday.
On the first pitch he saw in his first spring training start for the Cardinals, the 20-year-old outfielder launched a three-run homer, estimated at 430 feet, that carried the Cardinals to the win over the Marlins.
Walker was the one swinging the bat against Johnny Cueto, but he wanted to share the credit for the homer with teammate Tyler O’Neill.
“I went into that at-bat knowing that Cueto was a strike thrower,” Walker said. “I actually talked to Tyler before it, and he told me what to look for and how his at-bat went, so a lot of credit goes to him. He told me what to look for and I got the pitch I wanted.
“First homer in a while, I might have forgotten how it feels a little bit. I know the ball dies a lot here so it felt good to get one out of here. You are not 100 percent sure at all in this ballpark, especially when it’s hit to the gaps.”
Walker later beat out an infield single, after fouling a ball off his foot, and also tracked down a fly ball in the sun and caught it against the wall.
“I want to be able to show that I have a lot of tools,” Walker said. “It did feel good but there’s still a lot of things I can work on.”
The performance impressed Cardinals’ manager Oli Marmol.
“It was fun to watch,” Marmol said. “He put something behind that one (the homer). Really good swing. Showed what he is capable of doing, both on the homer and the hustle on the single. He showed well for sure.
“He’s only going to continue to get better too because of the way he goes about it; from his overall work standpoint. He has a plan. I think we are only going to see a better and better version of Jordan Walker.”
Here is how Sunday’s game broke down:
High: The five-run first inning also included a two-run single from Nolan Gorman before Walker’s home run.
Low: Jordan Hicks struggled with his command, unable to get through his scheduled inning of work as he walked three of the six hitters he faced.
At the plate: Gorman’s first-inning single came on a two-strike high fastball, a hard smash past the second baseman. He also singled to right in his second at-bat … It was also a two-hit game for Alec Burleson, Moises Gomez and Masyn Winn, who singled in his first two spring at-bats … The Cardinals were 6-of-13 with runners in scoring position.
On the mound: Starter Miles Mikolas needed just 28 pitches to retire all six hitters he faced, striking out three … Dakota Hudson also worked two scoreless innings, pitching around two hits thanks to an inning-ending double play started by Gorman … Ryan Helsley retired the Marlins in order in his first inning of the spring … Hicks threw 26 pitches, only nine of them strikes, in retiring only two batters.
Worth noting: Hudson, Helsley and Hicks were all charged with a pitch clock violation at the start of the inning, but Marmol said that was because of confusion about when the clock was supposed to start … The Cardinals also got an outstanding defensive plays from Burleson in right field and by first basean Luken Baker … Marmol had yet to hear from MLB officials in response to his criticism Saturday of umpire C.B. Bucknor, but he does expect to be fined for his comments.
Up next: Left-hander Connor Thomas will get the start on Monday when the Cardinals play the Mets in Jupiter. The game will be televised by ESPN.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
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