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A recap of St. Louis Cardinals-related news from the period of March 20-26, 2017.

Last week’s St. Louis Cardinals news includes a 5-1 record in spring training games, injury updates, contract and role posturing, roster decisions and more.

Spring Training game recaps

Monday, March 20 - Cardinals 12 at Astros 6

In a rare evening spring contest, the Cardinals routed the Astros at West Palm Beach. Mike Leake pitched five innings, giving up four runs on five hits.  Trevor Rosenthal threw three clean innings of relief, allowing only two hits, striking out five and walking one.  Miguel Socolovich closed the game, surrendering two runs on two hits.

The Redbirds didn’t get on the board until the fourth, when Jose Martinez cut the Astros’ four-run lead in half with a two-run long ball to left center field.  In the sixth, Randal Grichuk plated two on a ground ball single to center to tie the game.  The Cardinals took a two-run lead in the seventh with an RBI single off the bat of Albert Rosario and a wild pitch score.  In the eighth, Greg Garcia hit a two-run shot to increase the lead.  The Redbirds scored four additional runs in the ninth, with an RBI single by Martinez, followed by a Tommy Pham triple that plated two.  A Garcia RBI single to bring Pham home ended the Redbirds scoring.

Tuesday, March 21 - Off day

Wednesday, March 22 - Cardinals 6, Nationals 1

After an off day, the Cardinals took on the Nationals in Jupiter.  The Redbirds scored in the first on a Matt Carpenter sac fly.  The score remained 1-0 until the fifth, when a Dexter Fowler single, a Greg Garcia double and a Carpenter single plated three more runs. Carpenter added to his RBI total with a two-run triple in the seventh.

http://www.scout.com/player/144067-carlos-martinez?s=321

Carlos Martinez returned to the mound post World Baseball Classic with a five inning scoreless performance.  Martinez allowed three hits, while fanning three and walking none.  Brett Cecil surrendered the lone Nationals run.  Jonathan Broxton, Dakota Hudson, and John Gant pitched the final three scoreless innings of relief.

Thursday, March 23 - Cardinals 5, Marlins 3

The Cardinals took on their Roger Dean partners as the home team on Thursday.  Adam Wainwright allowed three runs, one earned, on five hits in four innings of work.  Matt Bowman, Seung Hwan Oh, Arturo Reyes, and Kevin Siegrist provided a total of five innings of scoreless relief.

Wainwright helped his own cause with an RBI single in the second to plate the first Cardinals run.  Kolten Wong followed with a triple to score two.  In the sixth, Patrick Wisdom gave the Redbirds the lead with a single to left.  The final Redbirds run scored in the seventh on a stolen base and a throwing error.

Friday, March 24 - Cardinals 3 at Nationals 1

The Cardinals traveled again to West Palm Beach to take on the Nationals in what began as a pitching duel between Michael Wacha and Jeremy Guthrie.  Both pitchers kept their opponent off the board, with Wacha pitching five strong innings, allowing only two hits while fanning three and walking one.  Wacha was followed by two innings from Trevor Rosenthal, who surrendered the only Nats run, and Miguel Socolovich.

http://www.scout.com/player/158182-michael-wacha?s=321

The Cardinals finally got on the board in the sixth, on a Dexter Fowler triple. Jhonny Peralta contributed in that same inning with a sac fly to give the Cards a two-run lead.  Greg Garcia singled home a run in the seventh to give the Cardinals their final edge.

Saturday, March 25 - Cardinals 0 at Marlins 1

The Cardinals couldn’t scratch out a run against Marlins pitching, playing at home as the visitors, with the loss ending their five-game winning streak.  St. Louis managed five hits, with Wilfredo Tovar going 2-for-3 on the day.  Harrison Bader, Randal Grichuk, and Patrick Wisdom each contributed a single.

Lance Lynn pitched only one inning, before being removed for precautionary reasons with rib soreness.  John Gant (hamstring) was also injured after pitching only one inning.  Mike Mayers pitched two innings, giving up one run on two hits. Ryan Sherriff, Brett Cecil, Jonathan Broxton, and Kevin Siegrist each contributed a scoreless inning of relief.

Sunday, March 26 - Cardinals 3, Marlins 0

This contest was the final Grapefruit League game with the Marlins for this Spring Training.  Starter Mike Leake pitched six scoreless innings, giving up seven hits while fanning two and issuing one free pass.  Brett Cecil added a scoreless seventh before Matt Bowman pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth.

http://www.scout.com/player/132821-mike-leake?s=321

A Yadier Molina solo home run in the second inning got the scoring started.  In inning three, Dexter Fowler launched a solo home run of his own.  Matt Carpenter’s sac fly in the fifth plated the third Cardinals run.

The big picture

Overall on the spring, the Cardinals are 18-8-3. The team ERA of 3.44 is the best of all 30 clubs. Their runs scored total of 132 has dropped them to 21st of 30 in MLB, same ranking as the team .255 batting average and .412 slugging mark.

Opening Day roster set

With the final week of Spring Training at hand, the Cardinals have finalized the roster they plan to take north this weekend.

In addition to the veterans and regulars whose roster spots were never in doubt, the Cardinals have announced that OF Jose Martinez, IF Greg Garcia, C Eric Fryer, and RHPs Matt Bowman and Miguel Socolovich have made the opening day roster.

Fryer is expected to be the backup catcher to veteran Yadier Molina.   Garcia, who is out of options, will join Jedd Gyroko as a bench bat/utility infielder.  Bownan will pitch in the bullpen after spending last season on the roster due to his selection in the Rule 5 draft from the Mets organization.  Socolovich will join Bowman in the bullpen, and like Garcia, is out of options and would require clearing waivers before he could be sent down to the minor leagues.

Martinez has had a memorable spring, and as a result, was awarded the 4th outfielder spot over Tommy Pham, who was optioned to Memphis this past week.  Martinez was a September call up last season.  Pham debuted with the Cardinals in September of 2014, and has played with the big league club in 2015 and all of 2016.

Note: TCN’s March 15 St. Louis roster prediction article was a perfect 25-for-25.

In other personnel news, the manager Mike Matheny announced that pitcher Carlos Martinez will get the nod to start the Cardinals’ Opening Day game on April 2. Others to follow will be Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and Mike Leake. The latter two will also pitch in the Cardinals’ upcoming exhibitions in Memphis and Springfield this Thursday and Friday, respectively.

 

WBC concludes

The World Baseball Classic concluded this past week with the USA defeating Yadier Molina’s Puerto Rico squad to take home the WBC trophy.  It was the first WBC win for the USA.

 

No in-season contract talks for Molina

The veteran catcher returned to camp from the WBC and issued an ultimatum.  He informed the Cardinals that he wants a contract extension in place by Opening Day or he will explore free agency at the end of the season.

http://www.scout.com/player/67461-yadier-molina?s=321

The soon-to-be 35-year-old catcher is entering the final guaranteed year of his current deal, a five year extension signed in 2012 that will pay him $14 million dollars for his final season.  There is a mutual option for 2018, but it is an option Molina says he likely will not exercise.  Though the veteran catcher is in the twilight of his career, he has indicated a desire to be the highest paid catcher in the game.  That distinction is owned by Giants’ backstop Buster Posey, who is set to be paid $22 million this season.  Molina has not indicated how long he wants his contract to be, but three or four years is the length hinted at by his brother Bengie in a recent radio interview.

The ultimatum may have surprised many Cardinals fans, but is seems to not have fazed John Mozeliak. The general manager indicated the short deadline does not have him worried, and that something can get done in that timeframe if the parties are willing.

Stay tuned to learn if the parties are indeed willing.

 

Unneeded Wong drama

Late in a spring camp in which Kolten Wong is batting just .170 (8-for-47) with a .250 on-base percentage and .234 slugging mark, manager Mike Matheny told media members that the second baseman has become a platoon candidate. The off-season message from general manager John Mozeliak had been that the 26-year-old needs to play every day.

http://www.scout.com/player/156983-kolten-wong?s=321

A frustrated Wong, who had been banished to Triple-A last summer in an odd and quickly-aborted move to learn center field, reacted strongly. He asserted that he had been told nothing about his role by management and expressed a desire to be traded if he is not going to start. Later, he backed down from those comments, but one is left to wonder why this became a public spat in the first place.  

 

Trade and Acquisition Rumors

There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.

 

Transactions

The Cardinals continue to pare down the roster, optioning Luke Weaver, Rowan Wick, Anthony Garcia, Breyvic Valera, Sam Tuivailala, and Tommy Pham to the Memphis Redbirds this past week.

 

Injury Report

The weekend saw a rash of Cardinals injuries, all coming in one game on Saturday. Lance Lynn was removed after one inning with rib/upper back soreness, a move that the Cardinals are calling precautionary.

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Pitcher John Gant pitched one inning of relief of Lynn when he suffered a groin injury and also was removed from the game. Gant is expected to miss a week. The right-hander was penciled into our projected Memphis Redbirds starting rotation after a strong spring.

Cardinals’ infielder Jhonny Peralta fouled a pitch off his knee in Saturday’s game and was also removed from the game.  X-rays came back negative. Peralta will get a day off and will likely return to Grapefruit League play on Monday.

Tyler Lyons is pitching in minor league games, but the lefty is slated to open the season on the disabled list, along with Zach Duke and Alex Reyes, with the latter two 60-day disabled list candidates.

 

Looking Ahead

The final week of spring games begins on Monday with a game against the Astros in West Palm Beach in another evening spring contest.  Carlos Martinez is scheduled to make this start.  The Cardinals play the Mets in Port St. Lucie on Tuesday; Adam Wainwright will get that start. On Wednesday, the Cardinals are at home in Jupiter against the Nationals, with Michael Wacha on the mound.  Wednesday’s game is the final Grapefruit League appearance. 

On Thursday, the Cardinals will play an exhibition game against the Memphis Redbirds at Auto Zone Park in Memphis.  St. Louis will then travel to Springfield, MO for a Friday exhibition game against the Double-A Cardinals.  There is no game scheduled for Saturday.

The full Spring Training schedule can be found here.  The updated spring game broadcasting schedule can be found here, at the TCN blog.

Opening Day is scheduled for Sunday, April 2.  The Cardinals play the Cubs at 7:30 pm on Sunday night, a game that will be televised on ESPN.  The Opening Day ceremonies will be broadcast on Fox Sports Midwest.  The Cardinals’ regular season schedule can be found here.

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