Spring Training Notebook - with Ray Mileur

The Cardinals improve to 7-6 this spring with a win over the New York Yankees on Tuesday. Slowly but surely the Cardinals' plans are coming together and I love it when a plan comes together.

Sidney Ponson made the most of an opportunity yesterday facing the New York Yankees on the road at Legends Field in Tampa Bay, Florida.

You had to be intrigued by the starting pitching match up, Ponson vs. Randy Johnson, when it was over, Ponson and the St. Louis Cardinals came out on top with a 4-3 victory.

Ponson, vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, allowed just one run and two hits in four innings. After he was done, he threw 14 or 15 more pitches in the bullpen to push his pitch count up over 60.

For the record, Ponson is putting his time in the gym getting in shape and I don't have any doubt he is going to do everything he can to make the most out of this opportunity with St. Louis.

"I'm pretty happy with the way I threw," Ponson said. "In Baltimore, I pushed the envelope a little more because I was a veteran. Over here, I'm fighting for a spot."

His competition for that fifth spot includes, the Cardinals' Top Prospect, Anthony Reyes who continues to struggle. Reyes, with an ERA of 8.68, allowed two runs and five hits in four innings, but picked up the win in relief, improving his spring training record to 1-1.

After the game, Reyes had this to say; "I feel like I'm definitely improving," Reyes said. "I felt more confident today, each time I've gone out there I think I've improved."

I concur Reyes is improving, but I find it hard to believe, he will actually be the Cardinals #5 starter, at least to start the season.

The two seam fastball that the Cardinals have him working on, I agree will help him in the long term in his career, I just don't think it will help him win a job this spring.

Adam Wainwright, considered by most as the Cardinals #2 pitching prospect in the organization, is also in the hunt to earn a job as a member of the Cardinals rotation.

My take after talking with Wainwright is, I'd try to keep him in St. Louis as oppose to sending him to Triple-A Memphis. I don't see him going down and setting the world on fire in the minors, but I do see him so hungry to stay in the majors, he'll work his tail off and doing anything asked of him.

No matter what, Tony La Russa is going to have a tough time making some decisions concerning his pitching staff.

RIGHT FIELD

Apparently competition is good for the Cardinals as long as it doesn't include the right field position.

Minor leaguer, Chris Duncan is smoking in spring training. He's hitting .325 with four home runs and six RBIs. Eight of Duncan's 13 hits have been for extra bases and he leads the club by a big margin with 29 total bases, followed by Scott Spiezio with 19 total bases.

You look at Duncan's numbers this spring and take a glance at Juan Encarnacion and what he's doing at the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic team and you wonder how the Cardinals are going to let Encarnacion just come back and move into right field?

Here is a look at their numbers;

Name G AB R H 2B HR RBI TB OBP SLG AVG
Chris Duncan - STL 12 40 10 13 4 4 6 29 .400 .725 .325
Juan Encarnacion - WBC 6 20 2 3 1 0 0 4 .227 .200 .150

To me it is hard to send Duncan down after the spring training he is having, each of his last four hits have gone for extra bases and he has homered in consecutive games. Duncan's 29 total bases rank 3rd in the Grapefruit League and his 10 runs scored rank T-1st and his 4 HRs rank T-3rd in the league and 13 hits T-5th.

Here is an idea, move Encarnacion to left and insert Duncan in right. Something to think about.

For sure Duncan can't be considered an option in left field.

TODAY's GAME

The Cardinals play the fourth of six spring games vs. the Florida Marlins today. The Cards just finished their Central Florida road trip with a 2-1 mark after defeating the Yankees 4-3 yesterday at Tampa.

The Redbirds have won five of their last seven games and are above .500 for the 1st time.

PITCHING IS COMING AROUND

Like I told you after the first week of spring training games, the pitching is coming around this week. Cardinals pitchers have posted a 2.38 ERA (72.0 IP / 19 ER) over their last eight games, lowering its spring ERA to a camp-low 4.62, and have two shutouts in the last four games.

Our pitching will be there as well as our bullpen when the season starts.

TODAY'S PITCHERS

Randy Flores, Alan Benes, Tyler Johnson, and Brian Falkenborg are available to pitch after starter Mark Mulder today.

Keep an eye on Flores, he's coming back from surgery from last season. Brian Falkenborg has been very impressive early on and there are a lot of people pulling for Alan Benes to make the club this spring.

WBC

It's clear I have major heartburn about the WBC. Yadier Molina has just five at bats so far for the Puerto Rico team. Five at bats, I hope it was worth it, because I would rather have had him in camp working with the Cardinals staff and the new young pitchers.


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