Once again, I am reporting from St. Louis Cardinals extended spring training camp in a very quiet, sunny and windy Jupiter, Florida. To be accurate, it is quiet for the fans and media, but not for over 70 players active and another 15 rehabbing.
Here are some injury updates before we get to game news.
When I last spoke with DL’ed Palm Beach second baseman Mason Katz late in spring training, he seemed to be in the exact same place he is today – ready to be cleared to start hitting. What changed was a setback in which he re-injured his groin, which cost him about six weeks.
Right-hander Jery Then is on Peoria’s disabled list due to shoulder soreness which has gotten better through rehab. The reliever thinks he could be back at the end of the month.
Cardinals 2016 first-round draft pick Nick Plummer told me there is no set time table for his return, but his hand is scheduled to be checked by doctors next week. His specific injury was the removal of the hamate bone from one of his hands.
Hicks not hurting
The Cards’ supplemental pick last June, pitcher Jordan Hicks, has yet to throw an official pitch as a professional. The right-hander was held out after signing last summer due to shoulder inflammation. The teenager rehabbed in both Jupiter and St. Louis between then and now.
This spring, Hicks’ workload is being ramped up slowly. He began with a single inning, then two and now three. Hicks hopes to get to five by the time short-season ball opens in about six weeks. The right-hander is on Friday’s pitching schedule. I am looking forward to it.
Though I did not see him, injured Palm Beach pitcher Luke Weaver was scheduled to throw a side session on Thursday. That would seem to suggest his return from his spring training hand/thumb injury may be nearing.
Why not helmets for umps, too?
The White game was delayed several times after the home plate umpire was struck in the head by a foul ball in the fifth inning. He tried to remain in the game, but tapped out an inning later. While the base umpire returned to the clubhouse to don the home plate gear, pitching coach Darwin Marrero took over balls and strikes duty standing to the shortstop side of the pitcher.
During the delay, it made me wonder why the umpires behind the plate don’t wear helmets under their masks like catchers. Safety should matter for everyone. Hoping today’s umpire will be ok.
Torres leading pink shirt brigade
Outfielder Carlos Torres shows his years of coming to camps in Jupiter. His badge of courage? A jersey that is fading pink from wear and repeated re-washing.
Red and White
As noted in the earlier article detailing the extended spring training rosters, the Cardinals players in camp are split into two teams.
White players, led by State College skipper Johnny Rodriguez, are the more experienced ones while the Red team, headed by Johnson City Cardinals manager Chris Swauger, typically includes the younger players. Nothing is cast in ink as players move across rosters as necessary.
The Cardinals have two EST teams as do the Mets. The Marlins have just one. With the odd number of teams, one of the five has a camp day every day.
The format of EST starts with 6:30, 7:00 and 7:30 AM buses from the hotel. Hitters can get early work. 8:30 is the formal start with Yellow Pad reviews led by the managers (a George Kissell staple) followed by stretch and conditioning, followed by long toss. Next is Fundamentals, with the specifics decided by the managers. By 9:30, it is time for batting practice followed by an early 10:30 AM lunch and games at noon. Saturdays have a compressed schedule that ends with a 10 AM contest.
On Thursday, the White squad played the Mets 2 team on Field 1, the closest to the clubhouse. On the Kissell Quad was the Red game in which Miami was the opponent as well as a third, Sim Game.
Pitching plans and velocities
|Seijas||3/50||88-91 T93||Reyes||Not listed||91-94 T97|
|Cb 78||Cb 74-77|
|C-up 80||Almonte||NL||87-88 T89|
Red notes (mostly Alex Reyes)
While I had hoped to watch most of both games, with my priority on the youngest players on the Red team on Field 2, my plans changed. First of all, Fields 1 and 2 are not near to one another despite what their designations imply. Field 1 is closest to the main stadium, while Fields 2 through 5 make up what is called the Kissell Quad.
More importantly, top prospect Alex Reyes started for the White team on Field 1. Yet, I was torn, as the Cards’ big international signee from 2015, Alvaro Seijas, was the starter for the Red. Though conflicted, I stayed with the Red squad for almost all of the first five innings – until Reyes departed from the game. This will skew my coverage for the day – but it was worth it!
I believe the game finished 4-1 in favor of the Cardinals with the lone Mets run scoring in Reyes’ final frame, the fifth. More on that coming.
Here are my notes from each of Reyes’ innings:
1st. Walked leadoff man, then picked him off and he was tagged out in a rundown. Threw fastballs on initial 13 pitches before two curve balls. Struck out the last two batters on 96 mph fastballs after working in the 91-94 range. 19 pitches.
2nd. Hit batter by pitch. Pop up. Two strikeouts. Last one looking at 96. 18 pitches
3rd. By this point, Reyes was more effectively mixing in his change (85 mph) and curve. For the third straight inning, he put the leadoff man on base, though, this time due to a walk. After a fly ball out, a 6-4-3 double play ended Reyes’ most efficient inning at nine pitches.
4th. Reyes fanned the leadoff man on a 76 mph curve. After another walk, he picked up yet another strikeout on a 96 mph offering before the inning ended on an out to the third baseman. 14 pitches.
5th. After a 4-3 for the first out, Reyes issued a free pass for the third straight frame. A ground rule double down the left field line – the best ball hit against him on the day – put two in scoring position. A passed ball by McCarvel allowed the Mets runner on third to score. I missed the second out, but he finished on 97 and 96 mph fastballs to strike out his final batter. 21 pitches.
Of Reyes’ 82 pitches on the day, 61 were fastballs. Of the fastballs, 38 were 93 or 94 mph, indicating where he mostly worked.
I was told by a Cardinals pitcher charting pitches that Reyes had hit 100 mph last time out, though the 97 at the end was his max on Thursday.
In the home third inning, the Red offense scored as 17-year-old shortstop Jose Martinez stroked an RBI double to deep center field. He joined the Cards from Kansas City in return for Tony Cruz.
The Red squad scored again in the fourth when Ryan McCarvel blasted a ball over the fence in left field (see photo). I missed the other two Cardinals scores.
After Reyes, Harley Holt pitched two scoreless innings and Max Almonte and Julio Mateo added one each to finish the 4-1 win.
I couldn’t help myself so I ended up sneaking over (ok sprinting) to see Seijas pitch one inning while the White team was hitting. I saw a 17-year-old with a lot of potential, but a lot of learning to do. His fastball was in the 88-91 range and he dialed it up to 93 when needed. The 17-year-old also showed a curve at 78.
In his second inning of work, Seijas threw somewhere around 25 pitches, walking two batters before the inning was finally turned over by manager Chris Swauger before the third out was secured. To his credit, Seijas did not allow a run.
Bryan Dobzanski then worked three scoreless innings, but I saw little of it.
Protecting a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth was lefty Bob Wheatley. I believe it was his second inning of work. A misplay by a too-shallow-playing right fielder Sanel Rosendo put a runner on second. A wild pitch in the dirt led to the Miami runner trying to take third. Catcher Steven Zavala’s throw was air-mailed over the third baseman’s head, enabling the Fish to tie the score. A second runner came home on a sac fly and the third on a single to deep short. Swauger rolled the inning before the third out was secured.
When I was away, the White club scored two in the bottom of the eighth to knot the score at 3-3.
The deadlock did not last long as the Marlins slapped an RBI single off Brady Bowen in the top of the ninth to re-take the lead, 4-3.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals loaded the bases before the Fish conveniently rolled the inning despite having two more pitchers remaining to work.
Bowen rebounded with a very efficient 10th inning. His 1-2-3 second frame ended with a swinging strikeout.
The Whites also went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th before it got weird. The Cards were out of pitchers but Miami wanted their final hurler to throw. So essentially the top of the 11th was skipped.
Though I joked about Torres’ pink shirt earlier, I also should note that he swing a nice bat, with a single (but was thrown out trying to steal) in the middle innings and with two out in the bottom of the 11th, a double into the right field corner. However, he was stranded there to end the game, 4-3 in favor of Miami.
Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Expanded Cardinals Extended Spring Training
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