Cards spring news from Jupiter: 03/13/13

Brian Walton's Wednesday notes from St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida.

It was an atypical day in St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp on Wednesday. With St. Louis off for the second of three days this spring, things were extremely quiet on the major league side, but the minor leaguers had their first official intrasquad games.

As a side note, there were larger crowds at the morning workouts than I have seen many springs at the regular 1:00 P.M. games (and only some of them were memorabilia hounds).

Reifer released
The Cardinals gave right-handed pitcher Adam Reifer his unconditional release on Wednesday. The 26-year-old was competing with a number of other relievers for jobs with Triple-A Memphis.

On the 40-man roster from November 2010 to November 2012 and a top prospect at one time, Reifer's fortunes dipped after a season-ending knee injury suffered in April 2011. The Cardinals' 11th-round draft pick in 2007 did not ever reach St. Louis.

Swagerty getting it back
Right-hander Jordan Swagerty threw 10 pitches to live batters on Tuesday, another step in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Based on the amount of time remaining in camp, Swagerty will likely not be ready to open the season in Springfield.

He could "rehab" with Palm Beach, though that would take a roster spot away from someone else. Swagerty could also remain behind in extended spring training to finish ramping back up. That ramp up could be accelerated if he works in relief, but I sense the organization would like him to start if the medical staff approves.

Martinez' fall
What a rough period this is for right-hander Carlos Martinez. Instead of being in major league camp, the right-hander is now late for minor league camp as well. Even if his visa would be issued soon, Martinez may have to open the season in EST. While the Cardinals are monitoring his throwing in the Dominican, they cannot have him ramp up activity without knowing when he could pitch in games. Reportedly the delay is with new personnel in the American consulate as opposed to any new evidence.

Reyes stacked up behind
Second baseman Robelys Reyes' own visa situation is also stalled, just as it has been for the last three years. Understandably, the Cardinals have made Martinez a higher priority. In Reyes' case, if he can't make it to the US, his Cardinals time may end. He is not going to play again in the Dominican Summer League.

Moves into the outfield
Roberto De La Cruz, a $1.1 million sign in 2008 as a third baseman, has undergone another position change. A first baseman last year, the 21-year-old is now an outfielder. The hope is that De La Cruz can find a comfortable home defensively and he can realize his hitting potential.

Ricardo Lizcano, a catcher at Johnson City last season, is also among the outfielders in camp. The 22-year-old native of Toledo, Ohio signed as a non-drafted free agent last July.

Gaub gone
Left-handed reliever John Gaub, removed from the 40-man roster last September, has decided to retire. The Cardinals were the 27-year-old's fourth organization in 2012 alone. The Minnesota native reached the major leagues, pitching in four games for the 2011 Chicago Cubs.

No more Country Fried
Catcher-utilityman Steven Hill, selected by the Oakland A's from the Cardinals in the minor league phase of the December 2012 Rule 5 Draft, has decided to retire. The 28-year-old, taken by the Cards in the 13th round in 2007, appeared in a total of 10 games with St. Louis in 2010 and 2012.

Extended shortened (for some)
The majority of non-holdovers from minor league spring training will not join extended spring training immediately on April 3 when EST officially opens. The academy players will have a mini-camp in the Dominican starting on April 1 and will join the others in Jupiter, Fla. on April 15.

Barraclough out longer
After experiencing some shoulder discomfort late last season, Class-A right-hander Kyle Barraclough has a recurrence this spring and is expected to be out "an extended period." No other Cardinals have what are considered to be serious injuries.

McElroy's progress
As I first reported from instructional league last fall, outfielder C.J. McElroy is learning to switch-hit. Though the 19-year-old was told not do it when playing in MLB games for St. Louis, the natural right-handed hitter is batting from both sides in camp games. After checking on him on his progress during the off-season, coaches seem encouraged.

WBC for Barry
Like me, former Cardinals trainer Barry Weinberg is a new arrival in camp. The long-time Tony La Russa confidant had served as the head athletic trainer for Chinese Taipei in the World Baseball Classic until they were eliminated.

Wittels' move
After being released as a position player by the Cardinals last fall, Garrett Wittels enlisted the help of a California pitching coach to re-learn how to pitch. Like many, Wittels had pitched as a youth, but left it behind in college. On the West Coast, Wittels the new pitcher was seen by scouts and the Cardinals re-signed him.

Velo time
Here are velocities from some of Wednesday's pitchers.
Robert Stock: 92-95, offspeed 74-77
Tyler Melling: 85-88
Luis Perdomo: 90-92
Ben O'Shea: comment overheard: "He does nothing but hit the corners."
Lee Stoppelman: 89-91
Mitch Harris: 81-83, offspeed 67: The Cards are willing to give the former Navy officer time. Their focus is getting him increased rotational capacity in his mid-section, considered crucial to pitching success. A very good athlete, Harris can jump the highest and furthest of any player around, I was told, but that does not translate into pitching.
Ramon Delgado: 91
Jose Almarante: 93, curve 75-79.
Sam Tuivailala: 98, but threw only fastballs, really fast ones

Minor league starting lineups from Wednesday

Group 1 Pos Group 2 Pos
O'Neill 8 Mateo, Lu 4
Albitz 6 Ramsey 8
Huffman 7 Piscotty DH
Romak 9 Wisdom 5
Pham DH Garcia, A 7
Cerda 5 Longmire 9
Rodriguez, J 3 Medina, D 3
Walsh 4 Keener 2
Klein 2 Williams 6
Corrigan 2 P Gorgen 2 P
Greenwood 2 Stoppelman 2
Delgado 1 Almarante 1
Creath 1
Group 3 Pos Group 4 Pos
Tilson 8 McElroy DH
Mateo, Le 6 Valera, B 4
Caldwell 4 Kelly, C 5
Washington 3 Schaffer 3
Bryant DH Mejia 6
Castillo, R 7 Bean  2
Apelian 9 Walton 7
Melchionda 5 Popkins  9
Wick  2 Ramos 8
Stock 2 p Melling 2 P
O'Shea 2 Garcia, S 2
Harris 1 Aldrete 1
Tuivailala 1 Aguilar 1
Group 5 Pos Group 6 Pos
Wiley 4 Gonzalez, Y 8
Peoples-Walls 6 Perez, L 4
Acevedo 8 Argenal  3
Bergin 3 De La Cruz, R DH
Deol  7 Lewis 2
Garcia, R  5 Capellan  9
Lizcano 9 Medina, R 3
Godoy 2 Barbuena 6
Almaraz DH Parque 7
Foody 2 P Cuda 2 P
Bautista 2 Perdomo 2
Scanio 1 Sabatino 1
Mitchem 1 Booden 1

Remember to check The Cardinal Nation Blog in the evenings for the day's minor league stats and notes.

More to come this week...



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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