The St. Louis Cardinals are entering their 115th season of play in the National League and are in the National League and are in the midst of their ninth spring training in Jupiter. Today, they played the first of six Grapefruit League games against the cross-stadium rival Florida Marlins. The Cardinals won four of seven games vs. the Marlins last season and were 4-1 in spring games.
Today's game, the Cardinals were the "road" team and as often what happens to road teams, is that they took the loss at the hands of a 9-0 beating from the Florida Marlins. It is the first of six meetings between the two teams this spring followed by another one tomorrow.
Tony La Russa - I talked with Cardinals' skipper today and he indicated that Aaron Miles, despite his lack of experience playing time at short and third, is expected to get some playing there. Fans should not think of Miles as just a second baseman.
As to Scott Spiezio, he's being thrown into the mix at second base. We tend to think of him as a corner infielder, but he'll see playing time at first, second, third and don't be surprise to see him play some in left.
#5 STARTER - Anyone?
The two guys competing for the fifth starters job did little today improve their chances in getting the ball every fifth day. Ponson gave up three runs in two innings on three hits with four strikeouts, no walks and a hit batsman. The veteran tossed 37 pitches, 28 for strikes. Anthony Reyes gave up five runs in 2 1/3 innings, throwing 45 pitches.
I spent a couple of minutes with Benes this morning before the team workouts. I was wondering if he had adjusted his arm slot and motion to compensate for past injuries to include a strained oblique and arm surgery that may have had some impact on his effectiveness.
"No, at least not intentionally" Benes responded "I think I in the course of overcoming those injuries, I may not be pitching exactly like I did a few years ago, but it's not a major change."
I asked Alan, "A couple of seasons ago, Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan both said you had the best stuff in camp. How do you feel right now?"
"I'm fine and I should be able to pitch just as good now as I did then."
Talking with Tony La Russa before Saturday's game, he said that he hasn't made a decision as to the fate of the Cardinals Top Prospect, if Sidney Ponson earns the job the Cardinals #5 starter.
I asked if thought it would be better to send Reyes to AAA Memphis and let him start or to keep him with the Cardinals and bring him in out of the bullpen. Tony said it was too early and that there were too many variables to make any comments or decisions at this time.
The 27 year pitcher recently cut by the Reds is in camp with the Cardinals. He reportedly arrived in camp for Cincinnati, 17 pounds overweight, which led to his release.
Today he was working in a bullpen session under the watch eye of pitching coach Dave Duncan.
Hancock still looks a few pounds overweight, but I didn't see any signs that he was dealing with any signs of a groin injury.
He missed most of last season because of a groin injury and minor elbow problems.
From where I was standing, I couldn't judge his command and control (although nothing went over the backstop) but he looked ok and he appeared to have plenty on his pitches.
The Cardinals 2005 Minor League Player of the year, Travis Hanson is getting a lot of attention in spring training. It seems like every time I check out the tube or pick up a paper, there is something there about Hanson.
He's playing mostly at third base this spring in anticipation of playing third base for AAA Memphis. At this time that is where I'm projecting he will start the season. He could possibly start at AA Springfield.
Hanson also took some infield practice at first base this morning working with pitchers and infield drills.
There is perhaps no other young player that impresses the Cardinal Manager more than John Gall. Tony remarked this morning, that Gall never takes an at bat for granted. You can sense Tony likes this young player. He did keep Gall on the post season roster last season, a moved that surprised many of us.
He's improved his defensive play and "That's one of the things you're taught early on, even as a player and definitely when you start coaching," said manager Tony La Russa. "Defense is a skill that you can improve with a lot of hard work and being determined to concentrate. He's done the work, so he's gotten better."
La Russa indicated that Gall may have to go to AAA to start the season and continue to work to improve his game.
I asked Tony "Are your referring to his defense, because is there some question in my mind can he improve upon hitting major league pitching, if he isn't facing major league pitchers?"
Tony smiled, "You can improve on all aspects of your game playing at the AAA level, including hitting."
Molina started for the Cardinals in today's game. He'll be leaving this evening to join the Puerto Rico team in the World Baseball Classic.
La Russa wouldn't commit to number, when I asked him if he was going to carry three left-handers on the roster when the season begins.
The Redbirds play the second of consecutive games against the Marlins tomorrow at Roger Dean Stadium and then travel to Ft. Lauderdale Monday to play the Orioles and return home on Tuesday for a 1:05 game vs. the Dodgers.
Jason Marquis is expected to start Monday, March 6th vs. the Orioles.
Jeff Suppan will be on the mound Tuesday, March 7th to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
SCOTT ROLEN was taking infield this morning and he looked pretty good to me. His throws to first were accurate and he played better than I had anticipated.
RICK ANKIEL was in uniform today and is nursing a strained patella tendon. He should be ready to play in 10 days. He did participate in light workouts today.
RANDY FLORES is coming back after off season arm surgery and appears to be nearly 100%. My take on Flores is, before it's all over he'll be the main left-hander coming out of the bullpen for the Cardinals.
JIM EDMONDS is nursing a bruised foot and isn't ready to play yet. He is looking at being out of the lineup until next weekend when the Cardinals will be on a three-game road trip.
In a report filed today by Matthew Leach of MLB.com, Edmonds made the following comment;
"I'm going to stay off it the best I can for the next week, I guess," said Edmonds, who has been swinging in batting practice. "I don't know how many days."
Watching him today, I would be surprised if he wasn't playing by the end of next week.