After handling Memphis by a final of 9-3 on Thursday night, the St. Louis Cardinals traveled to Springfield on Friday to conclude their spring training and exhibition play.
In the first annual Route 66 Rumble, the big-league Cardinals bested their Double-A affiliate by a 5-1 score thanks to some late offense and help from their competition.
"I think what it comes down is players know what it takes," Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez said, addressing the media before the game. "A lot of them did play in the big-league games during spring training, but this is more under the lights and more fun.
"It's just sitting and having a good time. The main thing here - both the Cardinals and us - is to get out of here healthy with no injuries."
For a lot of the big-league Cardinals, Hammons Field is a familiar place. Of the 25 players on the anticipated 25-man roster for Opening Day, 11 have played for the Springbirds.
In their 13-year history, Springfield has garnered one Texas League Championship and former cog at the keystone Kolten Wong played an integral role for that club back in 2012.
"Brings it all back to memory lane," Wong said. "Being down here when I was 21 and Triple-A. These were times that I'm always going to remember. I had a lot of good memories down here. Definitely good times here."
Musings from Mo
Before the game, St. Louis General Manager John Mozeliak spoke about a number of issues involving Springfield and St. Louis.
On playing in Memphis and Springfield:
"For us, it's really about being tied to this community. The relationship has been very positive. Clearly, when you think about the fanbase here in Springfield and what it means as they support us up there, it's great to have that fruitful relationship.
"Today, it's one of those you're glad that spring training ended officially and to be back in Missouri. It feels good while knowing we're about 48 hours away from getting it going is an excitement, anticipation, and I'm glad it's coming."
On Carson Kelly’s call-up related to Yadier Molina’s contract status:
"I'm not sure how to answer that. Yadi's on this club regardless of future contract status. In terms of where that puts Carson, he needs to continue to develop. He had a nice camp, and we're certainly pleased with his progression.
"In terms of what ‘18, ‘19, and ‘20 look like, we'll address that then."
On new 10-day disabled list affecting I-55 shuttle:
"Hopefully, it doesn't change dramatically. My biggest fear whenever you have a rule change like this is what are are the unintended consequences. We'll have to have a good understanding of how that rule works for that 10 days. I also want to pay attention to see how 29 other clubs are using it too."
On Springfield's star-studded rotation:
"Pretty robust starting rotation. When we look at this on paper and what we saw this spring, it is very exciting. I would say under my tenure; it is one of the strongest rotation's we have had in place. It is a diverse group in the sense that you have a lot of horsepower, but have somebody like an Austin Gomber, who just knows how to pitch.
“From that standpoint, they should be very successful. They still have to score runs, but they should be successful."
On Dakota Hudson and Sandy Alcantara:
"I think in Dakota's case he was someone that had a lot of success last year. We were very patient with him, but more importantly, when he showed up to camp you could see the strength, and he was ready to go. From what I mean by that, it is pitchability, which means throwing strikes in the zone. I think Double-A should be a challenge, but he should be fine here.
"Sandy is just one of those type of very special arms. High-octane. Still, has to get a grasp of the strike zone. Has to learn how to be a little more efficient when you think about attacking hitters.
“The talent is there for both those guys. It is a big step coming here, but we are excited to give them a chance."
On Adolis Garcia's offense or defense being closer to MLB quality:
"Based on what I saw from him, I think he just needs to get back into playing. A lot of times when these Cuban players miss a significant amount of baseball time. For him, I think that's something we have to be patient with.
"I like his offensive skill-set, especially as it relates to a center fielder. It's going to be fun to watch."
On what allowed Jack Flaherty to get the start against St. Louis:
"I think the big difference with Jack versus last year is just his physical maturity. You are always wondering if someone's going to get that boy-to-man look and he did. You couple that with his ability to understand how to pitch which is something that he is good at.
"In other words, he is not hard-throwing, but he has a good feel for his pitches. I thought his spring was outstanding and very encouraging."
Notes from Mike
Before the game, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny spoke about a number of issues involving Springfield as well.
On playing Memphis and Springfield:
"We love being able to connect with our fans, realizing that a lot aren't right in St. Louis. It stretches pretty far to be able to see some excitement because they have been following a lot of these players since they played here. We love this area, and we have a strong fanbase."
On Double-A players being in St. Louis’ camp:
"There's so much talent, and they're ready. Probably more so even than any other year, not just with that talent, but right there knocking on the door. We had a number of these kids that are on this team and were in camp with us, they mixed in very well, especially a couple of these young arms I'm going to steal from Johnny's team.
"Anxious to watch them continue to pitch. I love watching these kids develop and each year bringing a little bit more to their game. Springfield's got a good team this season."
On Adolis Garcia:
"We didn't have that much advertisement. We got him as soon as we heard about him. When we finally did get him on the field, he showed that he is a plus-plus runner and a very good defender. Terrific arm. Didn't really see him enough at the plate to draw any conclusions, but he looks like a solid player.
"A kid that loves to play the game all the way around. There's a lot of reason to be excited from what we've seen from him."
On Springfield standouts during spring:
"Obviously the arms. Jack had a good showing. Sandy (has) just terrific stuff. There's no doubt about it. Dakota had a short showing, but very impressive as well. All the way across the board. We probably saw Adolis more than anybody else as far as the rest of the group goes. We had some cameos from some of the younger players. Every kid we had came in and did a nice job.
"This is going to be a solid team as you look at a Blake Drake in the outfield. Watched Mejia a little bit make a heckuva play and ended up hitting a long home run off us last night. Solid players. These guys know how to play the game."
The S-Cards controlled the game through the first seven innings before the big-league Cardinals tied on a RBI groundout by Dickie Joe Thon and broke the tie on a two-run single by Greg Garcia.
An error allowed another run to come across in the eighth before Matt Adams delivered another RBI single, sealing the 5-2 victory for St. Louis over Springfield.
One game is a small sample, but there were some very notable things.
Jack Flaherty shined and was impressive for Springfield, throwing four shutout frames against a lineup full of big-league regulars. He struck out one, walked two, and gave up four hits on the night.
The S-Cards bevy of pitching arms were showcased with Austin Gomber following Flaherty despite taking the loss after giving up three runs over 2 2/3 innings.
Starters Sandy Alcantara and Dakota Hudson pitched the remainder of the game on the St. Louis side behind the efficient Mike Leake, who worked seven innings of one-run ball. Alcantara sat 96-97 mph on his fastball, recording all three of his strikes off his 87-90 mph changeup. Hudson gave up three hits and a run in the ninth.
Adolis Garcia, signed by the Cardinals for a reported bonus of $2.5 million, collected two hits and a walk for Springfield. He also came around to score on an RBI single by Eliezer Alvarez, turning a lead-off single into a one-out run with speed, the name of the offensive game for the Springbirds this year.
I will be back this season with my weekly notebooks from Hammons Field covering the Springfield Cardinals, exclusively for TCN members every Thursday morning all season long. I also plan to contribute interviews on occasion.
Also for members, my detailed analysis of the projected Opening Day Springfield roster.
Stay tuned to The Cardinal Nation for more full-season club roster information over the next week.
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