The following is a recap of my day two in St. Louis Cardinals extended spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida. Despite heavy rains Tuesday evening that claimed the Palm Beach game, Wednesday was clear, but windy. Those familiar with Jupiter know the breezes that come from the east. They were pretty strong this day.
(To see roster details of the Red and White teams plus rehabbers, click here.)
Here are some player updates before we get to game news.
In the Palm Beach Notebook on Wednesday morning, TCN reporter Patrick Bernadeau noted that reliever Ross Vance had rejoined the Beach Birds from Springfield. The final cog of that series of transactions was the return of reliever Austin Sexton to Extended. As you will see below, he pitched on Wednesday.
The Palm Beach Notebook also mentioned that Luke Dykstra had been placed on the seven-day disabled list effective April 30. I learned the infielder was struck on the finger by an errant pitch the night before, but did not suffer any breaks. It is expected he will be ready for activation this coming Sunday, May 7.
Now I know the reason why I could not find second baseman Mason Katz on the EST roster. The former LSU star, St. Louis’ fourth-round pick in the 2013 Draft, has been released.
The 26-year-old also missed considerable time in 2016 with ongoing hamstring problems, having played in just one game with Springfield since last June. Katz finishes his Cardinals career of 277 games with a slash line of .251/.338/.407/.745.
Among the spectators for part of the Red game was rehabbing Mitch Harris. The Memphis right-handed reliever was riding shotgun on camp coordinator Mark DeJohn’s golf cart. Harris has progressed enough to throw an inning of live batting practice Wednesday morning on his way back from his second DL stint.
Update: I spoke with Harris on Thursday morning. The right-hander told me he had experienced soreness on the outside of his elbow last month. After consulting with Dr. Paletta, it was decided it was overwork of muscles and not part of the recovery from his ligament repair surgery. So Harris had to back off and is now rebuilding his workload. He expects he is about 10 days away.
I was told that David Oca has suffered an elbow injury, but that Tommy John surgery may not be required. The lefty had been among the White starters. In 2016, the 21-year-old made 10 starts for Johnson City, logging a 5.96 ERA, striking out 38 but walking 19 in 45 1/3 Appalachian League innings.
Just before the game, a scout walked up and asked some of the players in which game “Winston, the pitcher from the Dominican” would throw. They did not know, but I did, and directed the scout to the other field. After hearing a bit about Winston Nicacio’s mound stint, I could understand why.
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 Joe Kruzel, are the more experienced ones while the Red team, headed by Gulf Coast League manager Steve Turco, typically includes the younger players. Nothing is cast in ink as players move across rosters as necessary.
On Tuesday, the Red team took on visitors from the Nationals on Field 1, the closest to the clubhouse. The White team did the same on Field 2. While that sounds close, it was not. As a result, I had to try to divide my time between the two contests, starting and ending with the older Red players, but spent the middle innings with the White game. My feet are tired!
To make matters more confusing, both the Nats and Cards wore red tops and grey pants – except for Cardinals pitchers, who wore white pants. Of course!
Pitching plans and velocities
|Ciavarella||3||Fb 88-91||J Gonzalez||3||Fb 88-91|
|C-up 79||C-up 81-82|
|Sexton||1||Fb 86-88||Nicacio||3||Fb 90-93|
|C-up 79-80||Sl 80|
|Almonte||3||Fb 91-92||N Gonzalez||1||Fb 90-92|
|C-up 86-87||Sl 79-82|
|MaVorhis||2||87-89 T90||Blanco||1-2||Fb 92-93|
|Cb 76-79||Cb 79-80|
|C-up 81-82||C-up 86|
|Tilley||1||Fb 84-86||Gordon||1-2||Fb 88-89|
Game notes: Red 8, Nats 5
T1st (Anthony Ciavarella): I began the afternoon with this game and there was action from the start. After the leadoff man reached on a single to deep short, he was running on a full-count pitch as the Nats number two hitter smacked the ball over the left field fence (wind-aided?), Nats 2-0.
B1st: The Red team showed great resiliency, plating three to quickly take the lead. DeAndre Asbury-Heath reached on a failed backhand attempt by the Nats’ shortstop. It got worse for the visitors as the left fielder lost Danny Martin’s fly ball in the sun. Martin ended up at third as Asbury-Heath motored home. Juan Herrera singled to left to bring Martin in. Ricardo Bautista followed with his own blast over the left-field fence (wind-aided?), good for two more. Red 4-2.
T2nd/T3rd (Ciavarella): The visitors scored two more against Ciavarella, which I did not see. So much for the lead. Tie 4-4.
B4th: Leading off, Matt Fielder singled up the middle. With one down, Wadye Ynfante did the same, but the two were left stranded.
As a side point, both Ynfante and Delvin Perez wear helmets with the wrap-around face guards. So do Chris Chinea and Magneuris Sierra on Palm Beach.
B5th/B6th: The Red team re-captured the lead while I was watching the White game. Red 5-4.
B7th: With Luis Bandes and Ricardo Bautista on base, Julio Rodriguez blasted a three-run home run to left field (wind-aided?) as the Red expanded the lead. Red 8-4.
T8th (Levi MaVorhis): The lefty showed three pitches. MaVorhis not only fanned the side, but I think he may have achieved one strike three on each of his offerings.
B8th: The Nats must have run out of pitchers as just two Cardinals batted before the inning was ended. Ynfante singled to left and Asbury-Heath fanned.
T9th (MaVorhis): Apparently MaVorhis did not reach his pitch count, so took the mound for a second inning. The leadoff man hit a solo home run before the pitcher secured his three outs. Red 8-5.
Extended 9th (Leland Tilley): The Red team still had a pitcher who needed to get his work in, so the ninth was expanded to six outs. The defense remained on the field as the pitchers changed. Tilley yielded a ground rule double down the right-field line (wind-aided?) before securing the final three outs. The last out of the game and the sixth of the inning was a nifty diving catch in left by Matt Fiedler.
Game notes: White 7, Nats 1
T1st or T2nd (Junior Gonzalez): In one of Gonzalez' first two frames, the Nats touched him for a lone run. It would be the only run the visitors would get all afternoon. Nats 1-0.
B2nd: I arrived at Field 2 as Jonathan Rivera singled and moved up on a ground out. Third baseman Brady Whelan launched a two-run home run to right (wind-aided). Manager/third base coach Steve Turco joked with Whelan, reminding him who had thrown him batting practice that morning. This blow put the White team in the lead. White 2-1.
T3rd (Gonzalez): A Nats hitter doubled into the right-field corner and a single put runners at the corners, but the right-hander escaped damage.
T4th-T6th (Nicacio): I left for the Red game as Nicacio was warming up in the pen. Though his velocity was not exceptional, the right-hander still impressed, fanning three and allowing just one hit over his three frames. Both he and Gonzalez used 34 pitches to get nine outs.
B6th: Dennis Ortega singled to left-center and Bladimil Franco reached on an error by the second baseman. Rivera brought them both in on a double to right-center. After Rivera advanced, he scored on a passed ball. Leandro Cedeno was hit on the foot by a pitch and Luis Flores singled, but they were stranded when Andres Luna’s fly ball was pulled down on the warning track in center. White 5-1.
T7th (Noel Gonzalez): Gonzalez had a smooth 1-2-3 inning, showing an especially nice slider.
B7th: With one out, Edwin Figurera drew a walk. He came home on a two-run homer to left (NOT wind-aided) by Ortega. The bench exploded with loud cheers as the ball was very well hit. Coaching at third, Turco had to shoo his celebrating players back into the dugout. Rivera singled, but was left stranded. White 7-1.
T8th (Fabian Blanco): There was a bit of a buzz about the 19-year-old, who is among the recent arrivals from the Dominican academy. Showing three pitches, Blanco did allow a ground rule double and a walk before escaping.
B8th: A Brady Whalen leadoff walk, a force out and a fly ball led to Cedeno reaching third, but he did not score.
T9th: Robby Gordon threw a six-pitch inning to end the game.
In a day when there were at least six home runs, including all four Cardinals’ shots plating multiple runs, my Player of the Day had the one that I was sure was not helped by the wind. In addition to his two-run blast, Dennis Ortega singled and scored twice.
Though I did not see his outing, three innings of one-hit scoreless ball and at least one interested scout makes Wilson Nicacio my Pitcher of the Day.
Bonus Palm Beach coverage
The A-Advanced team played a pair of seven inning games on Wednesday.
In Game 1, Junior Fernandez was looking good, throwing 92-95 and topping at 97 with a slider at 85-86 and an 86 mph changeup. (These are actual gun readings, not stadium ones.) The right-hander carried a shutout into the sixth, when it all fell apart. It culminated in a grand slam that bounced off the top of the wall in center. Magneuris Sierra just missed a leaping catch.
Catcher Jeremy Martinez is one tough dude. Chasing a popup, the catcher ran full speed right down the dugout steps. He held onto the ball for the out despite a nasty fall and remained in the game.
The two-man umpiring crew reversed a call. Blake Drake was picked off first, but slid into second just behind the throw. However, the ball rolled away from the second baseman. The field ump originally called an out, but after manager Dann Bilardello protested, the home plate umpire got involved and the call was reversed. Drake ended up being caught in a double play off third as Edmundo Sosa’s liner was snared by the Florida third baseman on a good reaction play.
Zac Gallen started Game 2 and was touched for a sacrifice fly in the first. He was throwing his fastball in the 92-95 range, consistently at the high end, and flashed a 79 mph curve.
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