Flame - wins: The Cardinals' 17 spring wins represent a tie for the team's most ever since moving to Jupiter in 1998 and also tied last spring's win mark.
Flame – attendance. While the final numbers haven't been tabulated, the Cardinals again drew over 94,000 fans in their 17 tilts at Jupiter's Roger Dean Stadium. In 2004, attendance was 94,853.
Flame – Albert Pujols. All the man did was lead the team in home runs, RBI and batting average. He not only hit .452, but did not strike out a single time in 75 spring plate appearances.
Flame – Mark Grudzielanek and David Eckstein. The new Cardinals keystone combination worked hard together on defense and proved they can play. On the offensive side, they exceeded everyone's expectations. Grudzielanek hit .410 and was awarded the #6 spot in the lineup due to his impressive contact hitting. The new leadoff man Eckstein was constantly on-base, flirting with an on-base percentage of .500 most of the spring.
Fizzle – John Gall. The 27-year-old outfielder is running out of time. Coming off a career-best 22 home run, 84 RBI campaign with Memphis (Triple-A) last season, Gall reported to big league camp with a good shot to earn a roster spot. While his outfield defense had improved to an acceptable level, he regressed with the bat, hitting just .206 with only one extra-base hit and was sent back to Memphis as a result.
Fizzle – Larry Walker. The 38-year-old outfielder is nearing the end of a fantastic career. He missed time in March due to a bad back, and as a result, hit just .158. However, as long as his back holds up, he'll be just fine when the bell rings.
Fizzle – Scott Rolen. Rolen insists his knee is fine and reminds us that he uses spring training at-bats to work on pitch recognition, not necessarily to get hits. So, don't be concerned about his .226 batting average and a team-high 13 strikeouts. Rolen also led the Cardinals with eight walks and was second to Pujols in RBI.
Fizzle – Hector Luna. Last year's Rule 5 pick again made the team after a rough start to his March. On the positive side, Luna hit .271 and drove in seven, often with timely hits. On the down side, he struck out one of every four at-bats. Luna's defensive concentration seems to lapse, as evidenced by his team-high six errors, double that of any other Cardinal.
Flame – Chris Carpenter. The team's reigning ace has put to bed concerns about the mysterious biceps ailment that prematurely ended his 2004 season by a strong spring showing. Carpenter struck out 25 in 24 innings, which is the best by a Cardinal in Grapefruit League action since 1997. His ERA was a tidy 3.38 and helped earn him the opening day start.
Flame – Al Reyes. The 34-year-old journeyman hurler cemented his bullpen spot with a 2.61 ERA, allowing opposing hitters just a .147 mark. Reyes fanned nine in 10-1/3 innings. Reyes' role should grow in 2005, as the Cardinals need a reliable replacement for the departed Kiko Calero.
Flame – Mark Mulder. The highest-profile addition to the Cardinals in the off-season was coming off a bewildering second-half 2004 collapse in Oakland. However, Mulder pitched especially well in the latter part of March, allowing just three runs in his final 16 Florida innings and looks ready to go.
Fizzle – Jason Marquis. Marquis, who may have been the unsung hero of the 2004 team, struggled mightily this spring. His eight home runs surrendered and eleven walks issued were both team-worsts. However, much of the damage was in two mid-month outings and since, Marquis has allowed just three runs in 12 innings of work.
Fizzle – Jason Isringhausen. The closer was pronounced fit after off-season hip surgery. However, Izzy first experimented with some new pitches, then had trouble finding his release point. As a result, opposing hitters are teeing off at a .360 rate against him and his ERA of 6.75 was the worst on the squad. Most concerning is the fact that the Orioles touched him for two runs in each of his last two outings, so Izzy is not coming into the season on a high note.
Flame and fizzle – Bill Pulsipher. Everyone knows the story by now. The 31-year-old lefty is reclaimed off baseball's scrap heap, in part based on the recommendation of his former Mets teammate Isringhausen. Pulsipher doesn't have outstanding stuff and keeps the ball up, yet he is the only Cardinals pitcher to go through all of spring without allowing a run. Yet, as soon as he appeared to make the team, Pulse took a ball off his toe and then injured his groin trying to compensate.
Hitter and pitcher
Fizzle – Rick Ankiel. How could any spring training report not mention Mr. Ankiel? In the second week of camp, Ankiel surprised everyone when he decided to end his promising, but tormented pitching career and move to the outfield. With no minor league options remaining and no time to learn a new position, it seems that Ankiel will be exposed to waivers. If so, the odds are that he'll be claimed by another team, hoping to rekindle Ankiel's interest in taking the mound.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.