Cards Spring News from Jupiter: 03/24/15

Brian Walton’s Tuesday notes from St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida. Jaime Garcia's sim game and minor league action share the bill.

Tuesday was an atypical day in St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp. With St. Louis coming off two away games on the Gulf Coast followed by this day off, things should have been quieter than usual on the major league side.

However, Jaime Garcia pitching in a simulated game changed everything. There was a quite a buzz on Field 1 at 10 a.m.

The minor leaguers continued their game action on Tuesday. On the docket is five games on the Marlins side of the Jupiter complex. To accommodate a Miami meeting, the starting time was an hour later than usual – at 2:00 p.m.

Garcia’s outing

The left-hander threw five simulated innings with a target of 80 pitches. Manager Mike Matheny, among a group of five coaches positioned behind a portable screen just a few feet behind the catcher, said Garcia collected “about 48 outs” with his 80 offerings.

Other coaches alongside Matheny were Jason Simontacchi, Cal Eldred, Tim Leveque and Randy Niemann.

Watching from normal distance were a number of coaches as well as front office officials Tony Ferreira, Gary LaRocque, Gaylen Pitts, John Mozeliak, John Vuch and Michael Girsch (not pictured).

I found it interesting that no opposing scouts seemed to be in attendance.

Matheny noted a high number of ground balls Garcia induced and “funny swings” from the hitters along with pitches that showed “movement and life.”

The hitters were Steve Bean, Michael Ohlman and Rowan Wick. When Tony Cruz was not catching Garcia, he also batted in those half-innings.

Always the teacher, Matheny stepped out to tutor Bean on his defense between (simulated) innings.

Ohlman seemed to be the only one to hit Garcia with any regularity, getting four hits by my count. Jaime did not take it lying down, brushing Ohlman back with inside pitches at least twice.

With only four batters, it made sense that the hitting coach core was smaller – assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller and hitting coach John Mabry sitting off to one side.

Matheny noted that if Garcia continues to feel good, he will likely start in five days. The manager also noted the piggyback arrangement “came up short” recently, so he may have the starter throw 80 pitches and the next throw 40 in the game and 40 more in another sim game or move to a minor league game right after to ensure all the starters can get their work in.

I asked Matheny if his reference to “came up short” was to Marco Gonzales going just two innings and Carlos Martinez going three frames in their recent piggyback outings. The manager answered, “Yes.”

Equally impressive was the other pitcher, Alex Reyes, who was targeted to throw four innings and 60 pitches. Bean was the receiver. I did not get his strikeout total, but I did see him fan Cruz on three pitches and Wick at least once. On the other hand, later in the game, Cruz got Reyes back, blasting a ball over the left-fielder’s head for a resounding double.

Matheny was among the many who liked what they saw in Reyes. The manager said, “This kid can pitch. He threw 3-2 hooks and 2-1 change-ups. He is not just a thrower anymore. He looks more developed than his age.”

In addition to catchers Cruz and Bean, the fielders for this game were Alex De Leon at first, Darren Seferina at second, Leobaldo Pina at short, Danny Diekroeger at third, with an outfield of Ronald Castillo, Anthony Ray and Luis Cruz.

No Pham yet

I asked Matheny when we would see Tommy Pham playing in a major league game. The manager said he has no idea as it is based on his treatments. The quad injury that was originally said to last a few days is well into its second week. Our 13th ranked Cardinals prospect seems to be losing any chance of making St. Louis out of camp.

Stone thrown

First baseman Jake Stone has been given his release by the Cardinals. The 24-year-old was the organization’s 27th-round draft pick in 2013. Last season, the left-handed hitter struggled at Peoria, batting .136 in 34 games. Sent down to State College, he showed somewhat better results, but it appears that Alex De Leon will be manning first for the Chiefs to open the season.

Rauh released

The Cardinals released right-handed reliever Jeff Rauh. The 25-year-old free agent signee pitched three years in the system, including having the same kind of problems in the Midwest League as did Stone. Rauh also finished 2014 back in the New York-Penn League, where he had pitched the prior season. His State College ERA in 2014 was 4.17 and he fanned 28 and walked 16 in 45 1/3 innings.

Minor league starting lineups and pitching plans for Tuesday

In addition to the five scheduled contests against the Marlins, the Cardinals also held a simulated game on the minor league side in the afternoon. However, because the five were on the Marlins half of the complex, I did not get over to see the sim game on the Cardinals side. In fact, the four lower-level clubs’ contests were on the Marlins’ quad, making it easier to switch my viewing and photo-taking among the games. Because the Memphis game was further away and because I have seen those players more, I only spent a couple of innings there.

Memphis Pos Springfield Pos Palm Beach Pos
Shildt Mgr Bilardello Mgr Marmol Mgr
Tilson 8 McElroy 8 Sierra 8
G Garcia 6 R Reyes 4 Drake 7
A Garcia EH Caldwell 5 Diekroeger 5
Washington DH Voit 3 De Leon 3
Jon Rodriguez 3 Ehrlich 2 Wiley 4
Wisdom 5 Popkins 7 Turgeon  DH
B Valera 4 C Kelly DH Radack 7
O'Neill 7 Castillo 9 Neil 2
S Rodriguez 9 Sohn 6 Pedroza 6
Rosario 2        
Pitchers   Inn/pitches   Inn/pitches  
Petrick 3/45 Petree 3/45 Kaminsky 4/60
Thomas 2/35 Barraclough 2/35 Rowland 2/35
Waldron 2/35 Helisek 2/35 Polanco 1-2/35
Socolovich 1-2/35 Shaban 2/35 Echemendia 1-2/35
Sherriff 1-2/35 Perry 1-2/35 Lomascolo 1-2/35
        Lucas 1-2/35
Side sessions       Side sessions  
Memphis   Springfield   Palm Beach  
Donofrio   Hald   Littrell  
Heyer   T Lee   Llorens  
Peoria 1 Pos Peoria 2 Pos Sim game Pos
Kruzel Mgr J Rodriguez Mgr    
Mercado DH Alvarez 4    
Sosa 6 Vargas 5    
Gronsky 5 Pina 6    
Ustariz 3 Bautista 9    
Velazco 2 Franco  DH    
Pritchard 9 Medina  DH    
Peoples-Walls 7 R Garcia  3    
Schulze 4 Lacy 7    
Acevedo 8 Lopez 2    
    Vigo 8    
Pitchers   Inn/pitches   Inn/pitches  
Gomber 3/45 Santos 3/45 Cornelius 3/45
Baez 3/45 Parra 2/35 Greenwood 2/35
Grana 1-2/35 Jrodriguez 2/35 Baker 2/35
Gerdel 1-2/35 Brito 1-2/35 Swagerty 1/20
De La Cruz 1-2/35 Hawkins 1-2/35 Bautista rehab 2/20
Escudero 1-2/35     Gallardo rehab 2/20
Side sessions          
Peoria   Peoria 2   MLB sim game  
Pearce   Dobzanski   Reyes 4/60
Perdomo   Williams      
D Perez   Bohannon      

Velo time

Velocities from some of Tuesday’s pitchers follow.

Pitcher Fb Other Ps Notes
Gomber 90-91 C-up 80 Hand comes over head in release
Santos 90-91   At least two walks and run against
Petree 88-91 Slider 82  
    C-up 79-80  
Kaminsky 89-92 Curve 79-80 Touched 93
Baez 95-96 C-up 85-86 Hardest thrower I saw today
Barraclough 93-95 Split 85 I see why the Cards like him
Rowland 90-91 Split 85-86 Struggled, but still very new to org
Helisek 89-91    
Parra 90-92 Curve 76 At least two scored against him
Grana 90-93 Curve 68  
Jorge Rodriguez 92-93 C-up 84 Tall/slender, little hesitation in del.
Gerdel 86-87 C-up 76  
Polanco 93-94 Curve 73 Strong mix of pitches
    C-up 84  
Shaban 92    
Brito 87-88 Curve 71-73 At least two Miami runs scored
De La Cruz 86-94 Curve 73-77 Wide variance in fastball velocity
    C-up 79-81  
Echeverria 88-90 Curve 74-75 Recent Cuban signee
    C-up 77  
Escudero 88-90 C-up 77-81  
Perry 90-92 Curve 79-80 Curve ball was very effective
Lomascolo 82-88 Slider 76-77 What looks like high 3/4 delivery
Hawkins 84-86    

My miscellaneous musings

My random observations from the afternoon’s games begins with the player about whom everyone seems to want to know – Magneuris Sierra. Leading off for Palm Beach, he lined a ball off the pitcher’s instep and took third on a Blake Drake single. Sierra came home on a 3-6-3 double play off the bat of Danny Diekroeger. It was the first of at least three Palm Beach runs.

In his next at-bat, however, facing the same lefty, Sierra flailed at two consecutive breaking pitches and fanned. I get the feeling that Sierra may be tested with a Peoria assignment to open the season and if so, I hope he fares better out of the gate than did Rowan Wick and Kenny Peoples-Walls in 2014. Then again, if it ever gets to that, Carson Kelly is proof that being sent back down from Peoria is hardly fatal.

Rough physical impressions: Richy Pedroza seems tiny. Blake Drake is taller than I remembered, but is still very slender. Though he is a natural centerfielder, he moved to left because Sierra was also starting. I wonder if Drake has enough bat for a corner.

Peoria 2 rolled an inning against their competition, which means they scored enough runs that the Marlins team artificially declared the third out against the Cardinals hitters. However, later in the same game, the tables were turned on tall and thin right-hander Jorge Rodriguez. Over in the Palm Beach game, an inning was also rolled against newcomer Robby Rowland.

Springfield second baseman Robelys Reyes made the best defensive play I saw on this day. On a chopper up the middle, he ranged far to his right, leapt to stab the ball and fired it in mid-air in one motion. The throw was just in time to beat the Marlins baserunner to first.

I did not see a lot of offense on the day on any of the fields as I think I saw more scores on Miami errors that hits. Or at least it seemed that way. I only caught one Cole Lankford at-bat, but he looked good, drawing a walk and stealing second base. Luke Voit had a warning track out for Springfield as did Jonathan Rodriguez for Memphis.

Oscar Mercado with Peoria 1 had two of the harder-hit balls of the day. Early on, his blast to left was hauled in on the warning track. Later in the game, his shot to right-center split the outfielders and bounced to the wall. The double plated a run.

Much more to come this week.

What is next

Working rosters will be posted in a separate article on Wednesday.

Remember to check The Cardinal Nation Blog each evening during spring training for the day's minor league stat highlights and notes and the Roster Matrix. The matrix has every transaction listed along with all players in the system by level and position, including the Cardinals entire 40-man roster and non-roster spring training invitees, STEP campers and more.

Join the spring training discussion with other Cardinals fans here

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

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