Spring Training Notebook - with Ray Mileur

Cardinal Fans are looking for some good news from Florida. Trust me, it isn't all bad.

Don't Get Excited Until You See Me Get Excited.

I know reading the box scores in your morning papers this spring has been painful.

But here is the bottom line, take those papers, wrap up the garbage, or line the bottom of your birdcage or if you're a Hoosier, use the box scores to wrap up a present for me.

Trust me, no one is going to remember who won the 2006 Spring Training Championship.

Cardinal fans can take a lot of comfort in, that the regular Cardinals haven't even started playing in spring training.

To make my point, let's take a look around the field;

Right field - Juan Encarnacion, isn't even in spring training, he's playing in the World Baseball Classic.

Center field - Jim Edmonds has been injured and just played in his first game this weekend.

Left field - Leading contenders, J-Rod Rodriguez and Larry Bigbie have both been injured and missed significant playing time early.

First base - Albert Pujols, you don't have to worry about him, no matter where is he at. He to, is playing in the WBC.

Second base - No one has stepped up and claimed this job to date. I would think it's Junior Spivey's job to lose and he is about to lose it. Aaron Miles has missed a week of playing time, with a sprained wrist, leaving the struggling Junior Spivey as the front runner, until Miles returns. Also in the mix is Hector Luna and Deivi Cruz, neither one setting the world on fire.

Third base - Scott Rolen is coming back off of surgery and his making significant progress, but he isn't ready to play everyday. He tells me he'll be ready when the season starts.

Catcher - Yadier Molina, yet another player at the WBC.

Then there is the pitching.

It is way too early to get to excited or to down on any one pitcher.

Early on Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder look like they are ready to start the season today.

Others have struggled at times.

Anthony Reyes is trying to learn a two-seam fastball and has to, to make the team. Of course our take here is, why now? I'm still trying to work up the nerve to ask Cardinal Manager, Tony La Russa, just that.

Jason Marquis is poised for a break out year and is putting a lot of time in working on his slider and cutter.

Sidney Ponson, if you are looking for him. Look in the gym. He's getting his work in and improving.

The non-roster pitching invitees have been impressive in terms of showing up in shape and ready to pitch.

For the most part by the end of this next week, we will be able to get a better handle on our pitching staff. Until they make that third or fourth appearance in game situation, it's too early to make an assessment of their pitching.

In the bullpen, Ricardo Rincon, expected to replace Ray King, he is playing in the WBC as well.

Brad Thompson and Randy Flores, both key members of the bullpen from last season, appear to be a lock to return in that role this season.

Also in the mix to win a job in the bullpen, former New York Yankee, Jeff Nelson; Josh Hancock from the Reds; Cardinal fan favorite, Alan Benes; and Brian Falkenborg who has been very impressive in his first four games.

Braden Looper, is having a rough time in Florida. After three games he is 0-1 with a 15.00 ERA. There is still plenty of time for him to get it together.

Today the Cardinals today optioned outfielder Reid Gorecki to minor league camp...in addition, outfielder Prentice Redman and catchers Brian Esposito and Iker Franco were reassigned to minor league camp.

Belleville native Brian Daubach, going into Sunday's game, was 5-for-7 (.714) in his first plate appearances of spring games thus far...he had a run-scoring double and two home runs in the first inning of each of his last three starts...overall, the Belleville, IL native is batting .400 (6-for-15) with two HRs and eight RBI.

Non-roster invitee Scott Spiezio is in the best shape of his career and it will be hard for the Cardinals not to keep him on the bench to start the season. Scott is hitting .304 with one home run and seven RBIs in his first nine games.

Perhaps one of the best hitters this spring is Chris Duncan, the son of pitching coach Dave Duncan. He leading the team in; at bats, hits, runs, total bases, and shares the lead in home runs, doubles, walks. He is hitting .283 with two home runs and three RBIs. Four of his nine hits have been for extra bases.

The Cardinals are 5-6 so far and I know that isn't comforting but trust me, the best is yet to come.

Don't get excited until you see me get excited.




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