After Wednesday's rain caused the grounds crew to cancel minor league action (a decision not popular with some of the Cardinals coaches), the Cardinals played three games and had a simulated game (pitching instruction with live batters but no fielders) on a fourth field.
The major league club prepared to entertain the Washington Nationals. In morning news, there were many happy players and coaches as Oakley set up a tent to supply new sunglasses.
I asked Kyle Lohse if he had ever been the opening day starter, especially during his days in Minnesota. His reply, "Not with Brad Radke there, I didn't!" Lohse called Radke one of the people from whom he has learned a lot. A bad shoulder forced Radke to retire at 33 years of age after the 2006 season.
Mark Hamilton told me his recent right quad injury was the first time for him. The first baseman said he had "felt it a little bit for 2-3 days" and then it tightened up in conditioning drills. He is 100 percent now after missing eight or nine days.
Nuggets from Mike Matheny's morning media briefing:
I asked him what topics he covered in his team meeting at 9:15 am. He said that while he spoke a lot early on to establish himself, including the daily quotes, he now has coaches and veteran players also participating.
Chris Carpenter will be having a third day of tests after "nothing stood out" over the first two days. The manager said they would "compile the results" from the various tests and share them in a day or two.
Though he did not handicap them, Matheny noted there are a couple of roster spots still in play with versatility being a key factor in the decision.
One of those contenders is Erik Komatsu. Matheny noted that the outfielder "did it again yesterday. He has been pretty impressive." The manager admitted he asked his boss, general manager John Mozeliak, early on if Komatsu's Rule 5 status meant he should receive special consideration. Matheny was assured the intent is to select the best 25 players, despite their backgrounds. Komatsu's selection "proved our scouts right," as the manager gave a nod to those who identified the outfielder.
Asked about the Owners Meeting on Wednesday, Matheny was complimentary, noting that they group members are "appreciative and supportive." He said that in some other organizations, "you don't even see the owners." The skipper joined the group for dinner Wednesday night.
Carlos Beltran played in centerfield on Thursday against Nats' left-hander Gio Gonzalez, something Matheny agreed is a "big deal." He made it clear that this could be his approach vs. LHP during the season if Allen Craig is available to play in right. Beltran's "pacing himself" has been "part of the spring plan" all along.
Matheny also seems set to put Beltran in the number two spot in his batting order. The reasons sounded as much about the 3-4-5 batters already being comfortable in their spots as it is about Beltran's on-base skills. The manager did mention the desire for his better hitters to get more at-bats but also that he has to "try to get him comfortable" hitting there.
Jon Jay received praise for improved centerfield play this spring, specifically by taking the further step of quarterbacking more – providing direction to the corner outfields and taking charge.
Over on the minor league fields, the big news was rehabbing outfielder Allen Craig. He led off for Memphis and Springfield in alternating innings, doing all his damage for the Redbirds. Craig was on base four of five plate appearances for Memphis, with two walks, a single and an opposite field home run (see photo) that went out to right-center off Shooter Hunt. There was a bit of wind behind it. He also fanned once for the Redbirds (against lefty Barrett Browning) and at least three times for Springfield.
I spoke with former Cardinals third baseman Scott Cooper, who is in minor league camp as a guest instructor. With two children at home under five years old, Cooper is trying to decide if he is ready to enter coaching full-time. He works with hitters in St. Louis.
Oscar Taveras and shortstop Ronny Gil got in their morning work, then headed over to the main stadium for the 1:00 game. Taveras wore #90 and Gil donned #91. In the above photo, Taveras was being transported from the back fields by minor league field coordinator Mark DeJohn.
In a potentially bad note, centerfielder Tommy Pham suffered what appeared to be a shoulder injury when diving for a ball in the outfield. After walking off the field holding his wing, he was taken away on a cart. Earlier, he had hit a home run.
Memphis broadcaster Steve Selby has been very visible at minor league games this week. I am impressed in his investment of time to learn about the players he will be covering this season. A real pro. His long-time radio partner, Charlie Lea, passed away over the winter. Former Cards second baseman Bo Hart will join Selby for selected Redbirds broadcasts in 2012.
I didn't get all the pitchers' velocities, but here are some:
Scott Gorgen topped at 93 with an 82 changeup. Gorgen looked very impressive, tossing three scoreless on one walk and four strikeouts.
Richard Castillo 88-91
Boone Whiting 85-88, slider 77-78
Pat Daugherty 86-88
John Gast 89-90
Shooter Hunt 90-92
Chris Corrigan 89-91
Finally, Robert Stock (pictured) topped at 91 with changeup at 77-78. He was working from a full windup instead of the stretch, with the latter having been used exclusively in his previous outings. Some think his velo will rise a few mph as a result of using the windup.
Many, many more photos and interviews will follow over the upcoming days.
Link to Wednesday's spring training news from Jupiter
Link to Tuesday's spring training news from Kissimmee
Link to Monday's spring training news from Orlando
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 content during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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