Monday marked the midway point in the 2013 instructional league camp being run by the Cardinals in Jupiter, Florida. (For basic details on camp structure, duration and roster, click here.)
10 days have transpired since coaches and 38 players reported on September 20 and another 10 days remain until camp closes on October 10. The number of coaches on hand is pretty much the same as in minor league spring training camp, about 15 (plus rehab coordinators, trainers and strength and conditioning coaches), making the student-teacher ratio most impressive.
As a result, there is a very high level of hands-on activity. As the following photo indicates, special assistant to the general manager Gary LaRocque addressed the catchers following drills run by Peoria manager (and former MLB catcher) Dann Bilardello. Instructional team manager Oliver Marmol is second from the right.
Overall, instructs activities are similar to spring training with drills and such in the morning with a 1:00 P.M. game. The Cardinals have a camp day roughly every third day, during which they typically scrimmage, with the Marlins and Mets instructional teams the other regular opponents.
I was initially disappointed that on this particular day, Monday, a camp day, there was no game scheduled. As instructs has been underway for awhile, the players worked all morning, but were allowed to leave after lunch.
More on catching
Before they departed, however, I learned much just from the aforementioned catching drills.
The four catchers working with Bilardello were Steve Bean, Jose Godoy, Elier Rodriguez – and Carson Kelly. No, that is not a mistake. The third baseman is two weeks into what LaRocque called "a good project," a conversion to catching.
At this point, the 19-year-old is doing a good job adjusting to working behind the plate to the point he is scheduled to see his first game action on Thursday. That is the next camp day, providing an environment in which situations can be controlled.
For his part, Kelly seems enthused about his position change. "I have really good support here," he said. "I am having a blast!"
One of two catchers I had expected to see but was missing is Luis Cruz. The 21-year-old Dominican is coming off a .321 season in the Gulf Coast League that was shortened to just 17 games. Cruz is now out with a groin or hamstring pull. He remains in camp, but is not expected to be able to play before instructs concludes.
The other catching-related move is with Luke Voit. The Wildwood, Mo. native is continuing a move to first base that began late in the season while the former Missouri State star was assigned to State College. "This is a good spot for him to do work (at first base)," noted LaRocque.
I may not be able to see Voit play during my time here, however. The 22-year-old is out with a quad injury.
Rowan Wick's move to right field, begun earlier this summer at Johnson City, is continuing as well.
To summarize the score, Voit and Wick are ex-catchers, Cruz is out and Kelly is a new backstop.
Kenny Peoples-Walls had a break-through 2013, during which he placed in the top 10 in the Appalachian League in a number of offensive categories, including batting average, slugging, OPS, runs, home runs and RBI.
It had been reported earlier this fall that the shortstop was going to be tried in the outfield during instructs. After talking with coaches, it is clear that the change has been made - Peoples-Walls is now an outfielder. This was first discussed with the 20-year-old late in the season at Johnson City.
I had the opportunity to ask about all of this to Kenny directly, as well. Look for the audio to appear in the upcoming days.
LaRocque summarized the status of Kelly, Voit, Wick and Peoples-Walls. "We are very pleased with all the players changing positions," he said. "This is the perfect place to do it."
Along with the players listed on the initial rosters, later on the Cardinals added a third Dominican Summer League pitcher in Jorge Rodriguez. The 19-year-old right-hander went just 2-5, but posted a 2.73 ERA in 13 appearances, including eight starts. Rodriguez fanned 57 and walked 19 in 49 2/3 DSL frames this summer.
As I reported earlier, all seven of the Cardinals Arizona Fall League participants are working out in Jupiter. They head to the Valley of the Sun on Wednesday, joining manager Mike Shildt, who has already left Florida.
James Ramsey told me that his broken finger is finally healing. The Memphis outfielder was hit in the left hand by a pitch on August 10 and played the last three weeks of the season with a plastic finger protector inside his hitting glove. Like the others, Ramsey is looking forward to the advanced competition the AFL offers.
Wiry Ben Freeman is one of the pitchers currently rehabbing in camp. The lefty felt constriction of movement in his shoulder so had surgery to clean out his capsule. He was cleared to begin throwing two weeks ago.
Coming off 2012 Tommy John surgery, right-hander Josh Lucas had short stints with Peoria and State College this season but backed off after suffering from nerve irritation in his shoulder. Lucas is scheduled to have his first bullpen on Tuesday.
Kyle Barraclough had tried to rehab his shoulder over the winter, but succumbed to February surgery to repair a small tear. Rehab began two weeks later. The right-hander experienced a flare-up during his rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League in August and again after pitching in the first week of instructs. An MRI this week only found inflammation, though.
I did not see 2012 perfect game pitcher (with Palm Beach) Chris Corrigan around. The right-hander is still trying to work his way back from what had been a life-threatening situation. In April, Corrigan was struck in the head with a thrown baseball and experienced swelling. I was told he is continuing on the road to recovery.
Look for future articles and a series of interviews coming to you from Cardinals instructional league camp in Jupiter in the upcoming days.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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