The day after the St. Louis Cardinals, Memphis Redbirds and Springfield Cardinals were away for the day to take on their New York Mets counterparts at Port St. Lucie, the same opponents shifted their action to Jupiter, Florida on Saturday. The Palm Beach and Peoria clubs took to the road to face their Class-A Mets opponents.
Matheny Cliffs Notes
As he does each morning, manager Mike Matheny answered questions from the media. Here are some quick summaries.
As already posted, the moves to minor league camp of Luke Weaver and Mitch Harris were announced.
Tommy Pham’s swing change and on-going vision challenges were discussed. The manager acknowledged that Pham has received about as many at bats as anyone on the roster this spring in an attempt to get going. Coming into Saturday, Pham’s 34 at-bats were third on the roster after Paul DeJong (39) and Jose Martinez (36).
Tyler Lyons, who has pitched on the back fields, will make his spring debut on Sunday, if cleared on Saturday. If truly ready to open the season, the left-hander could bump Miguel Socolovich off the team and potentially out of the organization, as neither have minor league options remaining..
When asked if Paul DeJong could play the outfield in a pinch, the manager said they have discussed it internally. The next comment was the surprise that Matt Adams had worked out in left on the minor league fields that morning under the eye of Willie McGee. I spoke with McGee, who said he just advised Adams to get a lot of repetitions in the field. He took the advice to heart. Before MLB batting practice was complete late morning, Adams appeared back on the main field in left with an outfielder’s glove, shagging flies. However, in spite of what other reports suggested, Adams did not play in minor league games Saturday afternoon. One has to wonder why it took the team this long to consider the idea, as nothing about the roster situation has changed in weeks.
How about the star power in this photo with two special assistants, Jose Oquendo and McGee?
Versatile Greg Garcia and Jedd Gyorko are potential emergency catcher options, per the manager.
WBC is more than money
According to a knowledgeable source, players on first round teams in the World Baseball Classic will receive $17,000 each, while reaching the finals could get $40,000 and the title could bring well over $100,000 each.
I saw Team Israel’s Corey Baker on the back fields on Friday and spoke to him on Saturday. Both he and Trey Nielsen (Team Italy) no longer have stalls in the MLB clubhouse. Though there was no announcement they were reassigned to minors camp, that happened upon their return to Jupiter.
Baker seemed genuinely excited about Team Israel’s success and volunteered that he would have played for free if necessary. For St. Louis, he pitched in just one game and threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings before leaving for the WBC.
As a result of the WBC, Nielsen was in camp, but never had a chance to pitch – or impress – the Cardinals this spring.
Ryan Sherriff did not pitch in the WBC after starring in the fall qualifier for Israel. But while he did not cash in this spring, the lefty has been one of the quiet surprises for St. Louis. If he can just get onto the 40-man roster, Sherriff could work himself into the I-55 lefty role that Dean Kiekhefer filled last season. Over the long haul, that could be worth far more than the $17,000 he missed out on.
Allen and Sweet Music
Newly-hired Johnson City hitting coach Brandon Allen is pictured talking with Mets coach Frank Viola. Allen worked with the former Twins and Mets star in the White Sox system. "Sweet Music" is now the pitching coach for Triple-A Las Vegas.
No ring for Nick
Nick Plummer spent 2016 rehabbing in Jupiter, where his 2015 team, the GCL Cardinals, won the title last summer. During 2016, the outfielder was on another championship club’s disabled list, Johnson City. Turns out he did not get two rings or even one. Not playing meant he was passed over.
Plummer told me he is fine with that and said he hopes to earn one in 2017.
The above is Plummer’s RBI double mentioned in the game recap below.
Minor league starting lineups and pitching plans
Following morning workouts, the two 1:00 p.m. games were held in Jupiter. Here are the lineups for all four contests. Also included are the sixth-inning replacements for the Memphis and Springfield games I attended.
Formerly shortstop-only Juan Herrera playing third base caught my eye, as that could help part of an opposite depth problem at both positions.
|Memphis||Pos||Mem 6th||Springfield||Pos||Sprf 6th||Palm Beach||Pos||Peoria||Pos|
|Chinea||3||Grayson||McCarvel||3||E Rodriguez||E Garcia||2||Sanchez||8|
|Je Martinez||2||Knizner||Plummer||7||Denton||Trosclair||3||V Garcia||DH|
On the pitching side, it is hard to beat the two starters, Jack Flaherty and Sandy Alcantara, each bidding for a spot in the Springfield rotation. More on their exploits below.
Velocities from Saturday’s Memphis and Springfield pitchers follow. The numbers are accurate but the offerings themselves are identified on a best-effort basis on my part.
|Jack Flaherty||92-94||Sl 83-86|
|C up 88|
|Sandy Alcantara||95-97||C up 88-89|
|Trey Nielsen||89-90||C up 84|
|Jimmy Reed||86-89||C up 82|
|Thomas Lee||85-88||C up 81|
|Michael Heesch||80-84||Sl 77|
|Pedro Echemendia||88-91||C up 83-85|
|Steven De La Cruz||93-94||Sl 84|
|Ronnie Shaban||88-90||Sl 83-86|
My miscellaneous musings
Tebow Mania III
My third Florida interaction with Tim Tebow occurred on Saturday.
Tebow homered off Arturo Reyes in St. Louis' game, though I was on the back fields so did not witness it.
Alcantara was not that efficient, throwing a fair number of pitches, but was more stretched out than most in minors camp. In the first, he logged an impressive strikeout looking on an 88 mph change. After an 82 mph curve eluded catcher Jeremy Martinez and the runner moved to second, the inning was rolled. Typically, that is due to pitch count limits.
Alcantara drew a lot of staff attention. Pitching mechanics coordinator Paul Davis was videoing him while coach Bill Villanueva was visually charting the location of every pitch on a sheet of paper.
In the bottom of the first, the Redbirds took a quick lead on a solo home run to left by leadoff man Thomas Spitz. Chris Chinea followed with a two-hopper off the fence in left-center, but he was stranded. Redbirds 1-0.
Alcantara yielded a single in the third, but received a lift from his defense via a very smooth 6-4-3 twin killing (Andrew Sohn, Jacob Wilson, Chinea). That could have saved a run as Alcantara walked a batter who stole second before he got out of the inning.
To start the home third, Michael Pritchard shot a one-hopper over the left field fence as the outfielder spun himself around. Two batters later, Wilson brought him home with a well-placed single between third and short. The Mets rolled the inning. Redbirds 2-0.
Trey Nielsen took over in the fourth and gave up a triple to left-center to his first batter. After a walk, the next batter lined a ball off Nielsen and that allowed the run to score. The inning ended with Magneuris Sierra making a very nice running catch with his back to the plate in deepest center. Redbirds 2-1.
In the home fourth, Chinea doubled to deep left and Sohn walked, but both were stranded.
Spitz singled to left, but was picked off in a caught stealing.
Thomas Lee followed Nielsen for the sixth and with two on, a screaming liner was hit to new third baseman Bruce Caldwell. He made my play of the day by stabbing the ball, racing to the bag for a force, then firing a bullet to first to beat the runner.
In a very solid at-bat, Alex Mejia just missed two extra base hits just foul in deep left before drawing a walk. Nick Martini also drew a free pass. Andrew Knizner’s infield single loaded the bases. Caldwell’s sac fly increased the lead. Orlando Olivera then blistered a two-run double to deep center (see photo). It looked like the ball was going out, but struck the bottom of the fence. That led the Mets to roll the inning. Redbirds 5-1.
Casey Grayson’s single scored Blake Drake. An alert Grayson took second on the throw home, but was stranded. Redbirds 6-1.
With Pedro Echemendia pitching, Nick Martini made a very nice stab of a sinking liner to left.
Ronnie Shaban pitched the ninth, with his signature Laredo slinging style. Though he showed what looked to me to be three pitches, several balls were hit hard. At first, Casey Grayson made a diving stop to his left to snare a screamer. But the next batter parked one over the right field fence. Redbirds 6-2.
The home ninth was played so the players could get work. Vaughn Bryan came home on a single by Grayson, making the final score Redbirds 7-2.
In the home second, Arozarena walked and scored on a hustle double on a rope shot by Plummer to left field (see photo). Cards 1-0.
Mets hitters were having trouble getting around on Flaherty’s fastball. One that was at least fouled back ended up impaled high on the chain link screen
Flaherty seemed to cruise until the third, when two singles and a walk loaded the bases. The Cardinals rolled the inning, ending his day.
Part of the sixth-inning replacements, Luke Dykstra, led off with single through short. After Danny Diekroeger reached on what I would have scored as an error on the second baseman, Elier Rodriguez launched a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Dykstra. Cards 2-0.
In the seventh, the Cards loaded the bases on a Bryce Denton single to left, a Chris Rivera single up the middle and a Tommy Edman walk before the inning was rolled.
To his first batter, Michael Heesch served up a triple to center field and an error on the throw that pasted third allowed the runner to score. He yielded a hard-hit single to center before the inning ended. Cards 2-1.
Velocity isn’t always the answer as a flat 93 mph offering from Steven De La Cruz was blasted over the left-field fence. He also allowed a double before escaping. However, the game was tied at 2-2. That is how it ended when the Cards could not answer in the home ninth.
On Sunday at 1:00 p.m. on the Kissell Quad, the Cardinals will welcome the Marlins for three games with a fourth contest being a scrimmage between the two Peoria clubs.
For more information
Much more news from Jupiter ahead in the upcoming week.
Remember to check The Cardinal Nation Blog each evening during spring training for the day's minor league stat highlights and notes and for 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 and more.
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