Anyway, this post will summarize some of my findings in minor league extended spring training (EST) camp.
Gulf Coast League. Though far from final, about a dozen players from EST are expected on the 2011 GCL roster. The challenge is to give enough playing time to the new draftees while making sure the returnees have received a fair evaluation.
Steven Hill is taking batting practice, but isn't game ready yet. He hopes to be able to return to Springfield on May 25 from his knee surgery.
Robert Stock looks back to normal from his knee ailment. He expects to be back at Quad Cities in a few days.
Ted Obregon is going to be appearing both in the infield and outfield in 2011.
I noticed a Jesus Montero Yankees bat sticking out of Jesus Montero's bag and asked him about it. The Cardinals catcher proudly told me the New York backstop is his older brother. I had forgotten about that.
You can tell it is spring training when… two players on the same team are wearing the same number. OK, that isn't all that rare, but how about when one is home white and one is road gray? For some reason, the Mets clothe their pitchers in white even on the road.
You can tell it is spring training when… teams use two designated hitters just to get hitters at-bats.
White team lineup (most advanced group): Gil 6, Bergman 4, Walsh 5, Sanchez 3, Teran DH, Klein DH, Stock 2, Biserta 7, Argenal 9, Obregon 8.
White pitchers: Jenkins 4/70 (innings/pitches planned), Lucas 2/50, Watson, Lopez, Canache (one inning each).
Red team lineup (younger group): Valera 6, Martin 4, Reyes 9, Washington 3, R De La Cruz 5, Bryant 8, Ramos DH, Tuivailala DH, Montero 2, Ro Castillo 7.
Red pitchers: Benes, Paulino, Kiekhefer, Hernandez, M De La Cruz.
Full camp rosters will be posted here at The Cardinal Nation on Sunday (I hope).
Tyrell Jenkins has "three pitches that are the makings of big-league pitches," including a "tight curve and a change," said one coach. He closed by saying, "Jenkins has a very bright future ahead." I asked several coaches about Jenkins' rumored mechanical inconsistencies. No one seemed concerned in the least.
On this day, Jenkins sat between 92 and 95 MPH and his offspeed offerings were 73-76. He allowed just one run in his four innings on three hits. Jenkins fanned three and walked none. I did see him throw a wild pitch and also pick a runner off first base. The 18-year-old finished his four frames on an efficient 42 pitches. A very impressive performance. Glad I could see it.
Lucas hit 93 and averaged 90. Benes and Hernandez touched 90, but averaged in the mid-upper 80s.
One dark horse that has impressed some of the coaches is Victor De Leon, listed among the Red starters. The 19-year-old with "a really good arm" pitched in the DSL last year, posting a 2.76 ERA.
Rehabbers Francisco Samuel (Memphis) and David Kopp (Springfield) are scheduled to pitch for the White team on Saturday vs. the Marlins. I will provide an update after the 10 A.M. games. Kopp hopes this will be his last outing before returning to Springfield and is confident enough he is buying pizza for all the EST players for lunch after the games. This may be Samuel's first outing, but I will have to check on that.
Lineup vs. Marlins: O'Neill 8, Bergman 5, Walsh 4, Sanchez 3, Medina 7, Klein DH, Moscatel DH, Stock 2, Encarnacion 9, Obregon 6.
The Red team is having a sim game at the same time Saturday morning.
Saturday afternoon update
The White plan was for Samuel to start and pitch the first inning or 25 pitches, whichever came first. I did confirm it was his first outing since his March injury, so some high pitches early on were not surprising.
It started well as his first batter fanned swinging. The second batter flew out deep to right where a nice catch was made by Victor Encarnacion. As an aside, he was called out as "one of our better outfielders" by the coaches, but his bat seems to be behind.
Rehabbing Matt Dominguez, who started the season in the big leagues with Florida, drew a full-count walk then another MLB rehabber, catcher John Baker, singled past second base. In all fairness, the fielder didn't show much movement to his left. Anyway, Samuel buckled down and struck out his final batter, again swinging. He reached 95 and averaged 91 MPH over his 20 pitches.
David Kopp came next. He came out throwing mostly two-seamers in the 88-92 range. Scheduled to go six innings or 80 pitches, the right-hander only lasted five frames.
In the fourth inning, his third inning of work, Kopp was touched for an RBI triple, with that runner scoring on a passed ball (IMO) against Robert Stock. In Kopp's fifth frame, the sixth, he yielded a home run on a hard-hit changeup down the middle.
All in all, he was charged with five runs, all earned, on seven hits and no walks over five innings. Kopp struck out five. They were reportedly the first runs Kopp had yielded during EST.
Scott Bittle took the mound next and had to be extremely frustrated. He issued four consecutive walks and was pulled from the game. The right-hander seemed to be relying on a fastball in the 81-84 range that rode high in the zone. At this point, Bittle's recovery from his shoulder problems seems quite incomplete.
I asked Tyrell Jenkins about his Friday performance. The youngster replied that it was good, but most all of his outings had been good. He answered with quiet confidence, not in a boastful manner.
Jenkins specifically mentioned the positives of having gotten out of a jam. In the third inning, consecutive hits past third base were hit against him before he picked off one runner and I believe induced a grounder to escape.
We had a laugh about his pickoff play. I asked if considered himself to have a good pickoff move. He replied, "It must be pretty good!" He went on to give the coaches credit for calling the play. Jenkins admitted he didn't think the runner was far enough off the bag, but a good throw and a nice tag by first baseman Victor Sanchez did the trick.
As I moved from the White game on the Marlins side of the complex over to catch some of the Red game, I noticed a lone gentleman in the bleachers. It was Palm Beach pitching coach Dennis Martinez. I was a bit surprised to see him there in his casual clothes just to watch a morning game. One reason became clearer when a few minutes later, his son Ricky took the mound.
I was supposed to meet with Cardinals director of international operations Moises Rodriguez this weekend, but he canceled. My best guess is that he is accompanying Carlos Martinez to Quad Cities, where the Dominican youngster makes his official US debut Saturday night. When I get home, it might be appropriate to once again pull out the DVD of the 2009 movie "Sugar," filmed in part in Quad Cities.
In the spirit of openness and full disclosure, I have to admit participating in the Kopp pizza feed, though it was unplanned. As I was leaving Roger Dean to go catch some lunch, one of the trainers stopped me and invited me in to join them. Thanks to Dave!
As mentioned above, I will be posting the White, Red and Rehab rosters on Sunday for subscribers. Early in the week, look for an interview with coach Mike Shildt that explains in detail what EST is all about. I also sat down with Palm Beach manager Luis Aguayo to discuss his team.
As always, thanks to you for subscribing!
Please check back to Friday's article on the Swagerty/Martinez moves as it was updated several times during the day. I expect more roster moves to become visible on Saturday. In fact, the Swagerty and Cleto transactions are now official as are two releases and a Springfield DL stint.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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