Each day in St. Louis Cardinals extended spring training camp brings a variation on the same themes, as well – working on drills to get better in the morning, with games in the afternoon to apply their learning.
On Thursday, the odd scheduling that is the result of having five EST teams in the area (two Cardinals, two Mets and one Marlins) comes into play. The more experienced Red team played on the Miami side of the Roger Dean complex, with the White squad having a "camp day."
The latter meant the youngest players scrimmaged against each other in a unique arrangement I will explain below. For that reason and the sheer distance to travel among three games being played concurrently in opposite sections of the complex, I spent most of my time on Marlins Field 2 with the Red.
I say "three games", since the Palm Beach Cardinals had a 10:35 A.M. contest against Lakeland in the main stadium. I saw the first four innings of that game before heading to the back fields.
Palm Beach notes
To be honest, there hadn't been much to say about the Florida State League club on this trip. In my first two games there, the Cardinals scored just two runs. Both were tacked on in the final inning to avoid being shut out. A season-long problem of few run producers stepping forward continues.
Morning games are typically "Education Days," which means buses of grade schoolers pull up and unload energetic youths. Before this game, each school designated one student to participate in a "press conference" during which they could ask one question to Cardinals outfielder David Popkins. They all seemed to have fun with it.
In Thursday's game, starter Scott Gorgen was touched for two runs in the first inning, but he had help. Talented but inconsistent shortstop Ronny Gil had his glove on two grounders, but couldn't make the play on either. Both runners eventually came around to touch home. The second-year FSL player then made a strong play to save another potential score. It is all about consistency.
Strikeout-prone cleanup man Jonathan Rodriguez worked a hard-earned walk to open the second. Not a small man, Rodriguez still danced off first base, distracting the Lakeland left-handed starter. The third throw over was wild, allowing Rodriguez to advance to third. Danny Stienstra did his job, hitting the ball to the right side. His groundout scored the run.
In the third, the Cards pulled ahead when Gil reached on a Texas Leaguer before Nick Longmire blasted his third long ball of the season. It quickly cleared the left field wall at the 355 foot mark and gave the Cards a 3-2 lead.
In the fourth, Stephen Piscotty had trouble with a hard-hit ball in right. He spun the wrong way as the ball went over his head for a double. He generally gets good marks for his arm, but is still a work in progress as a right-fielder.
Speaking of Garcia, I had an interesting pre-game conversation with him. Seeing me around with my camera and taking notes made the outfielder wonder. He asked if I had any information he could use to better understand about how pitchers are pitching him. I told him no, but complimented him on his initiative – trying every way to get better.
Not having enough players, specifically infielders, to have a full intrasquad game, manager Steve Turco created a match in which his batting order batted every half-inning, against two different batteries.
Starting pitchers were Hector De Los Santos and Ben O'Shea. Each was scheduled to go four innings of about 15 pitches each, followed by a single frame each from Steven Sabatino and Fernando Baez.
There was a defined defensive rotation in which players moved in and out and sometimes between positions.
|De Los Santos||88-91|
Other than the pitchers who were in full uniform, the players were not wearing uniform tops with names or numbers. That made tracking more difficult.
My only highlight from the game is a solo home run by Lance Jeffries against Sabatino. Ben O'Shea is a big guy who does not throw hard.
After the first inning, I caught the remainder of this 10-inning affair, which the Red won in their last at-bat. As in the earlier Marlins games, rehabbing major leaguers Kevin Kouzmanoff and Logan Morrison batted second and third each inning for at least the first half of the game. With Kouz hitting righty and LoMo coming from the left side, the Cards pitchers had their work cut out for them.
Another pitcher I was anxious to see started for the Red, Cory Jones. Though his fastball was in the 91-93 range, he topped out at 95. He was not shy to use his secondary pitches, including a nice changeup. As you can see in the photo at the top, he brings the ball from behind his head, making it difficult for hitters to pick up his pitches.
In the second, the Marlins got out on top. After a single, Kouzmanoff doubled into the right field corner. Morrison plated the run on a 4-3 ground out. The two major leaguers were retired in the third with Morrison drawing a walk in the fourth.
Jacob Booden took over in the fifth. He is tall and slender in the Wainwright-Macha mold. After two walks to open the sixth, Morrison was due up. Pitching coach Dernier Orozco came out for a discussion. An infield fly to second base occurred on the next pitch, followed by two more fly outs as Booden escaped.
In the seventh, Morrison reached on a blooper over second. After Booden put another runner on base, he again ducked any damage.
Tyler Mills followed in the eighth. Given his fastball is below average in velocity, his coaches were calling out for him to deploy his changeup and offered encouragement when he did. I sensed the former Michigan's star's biggest challenge may be in getting his confidence back after missing so much time due to elbow problems.
The Marlins scored their second run against Mills on a walk, wild pitch, out, sac fly sequence.
Chris Thomas pitched the ninth and looked good. He was very efficient and note the difference in velocity of his offerings.
Through nine innings, the Red team had just three hits. In the top of the 10th, Luis Cruz walked before Adam Ehrlich had his second single of the game. On a 2-0 count, Trevor Martin doubled over the first base bag to score Cruz. After Matthew Young fanned, the tying run in Ehrlich scored on a wild pitch. The Red took the 3-2 lead on a Jem Argenal sac fly as Martin scored.
Willy Paulino hit a batter with one out in the home 10th and quickly ended the game after inducing a 6-4-3.
Link to earlier reports
Cards extended spring camp report: 05/15/13
Cards extended spring camp report: 05/14/13
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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