Game Happenings – Monday, March 20

In-game comments from Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida where the Cardinals fell to the Braves Monday by the score of 8-1.

Edgar goes deep

Edgar Renteria's third home run of the spring and second against the Cards went way out to left in the third inning off Cardinals starter Anthony Reyes. Renteria looks unusual in the number "11" Atlanta uniform, though its familiar baggy style remains.


Old school up the middle

On the other hand, the middle at the Cardinals defense at the start of the game looked like a throwback to the 1960's, with Anthony Reyes' stirrups in full view as were those of his second baseman and the new owner of Renteria's former number "3", Junior Spivey. I was impressed seeing Spivey in person for the first time, as he is stockily built.


Junior still causing a breeze at the plate

Unfortunately, in his first at-bat, Spivey didn't look like a hitter, as he fanned swinging against a John Smoltz offering. Of course, Spivey's not the first to do that, but he whiffed all three times up today, in fact. For those who are counting, that makes 17 K's in 45 at-bats. For the spring, Junior has just seven hits for an ugly .156 mark.


Smoltz up to no good

In fact, Smoltz has fanned exactly 2567 regular season hitters in his career, and that doesn't even include pre or post-seasons. Two hits allowed in five innings for Smoltz made for a tidy outing. Surprisingly over his career, the Cardinals are one of two teams who have beaten Smoltz more than he has beaten them. (The Giants are the other.) In the regular season, Smoltz is 9-11 against St. Louis in 27 starts. He also has six saves in 11 relief appearances in his past stint as a closer.


2005 rookie bests 2006 rookie

Despite coming in third in the 2005 National League Rookie of the Year voting in just half a year of play, Atlanta outfielder Jeff Francoeur's inaugural time in the majors is being written off by some as a fluke. Maybe Reyes was one of them. With a runner on base, his initial offering to Francoeur in the fourth inning was slammed over the centerfield fence, over 400 feet away. Three runs and three strikeouts in four innings for Reyes was hardly a dominant performance.


No news about Rolen is good news

It was an insignificant single past his opposite number, Chipper Jones, in the fourth inning for Scott Rolen. And, he was quickly erased in a double play. But, I cannot explain how gratifying it still was to see Rolen sting the ball and run the bases with what looked to be total normalcy. Asking Rolen how he is feeling is futile, as he is always guardedly positive, so I trained the binoculars on him at first base, hoping not to see any sign of distress. There was none.


More drills for Tyler needed?

Since he was scheduled to pitch, Tyler Johnson was not among the group who I saw taking extra batting and fielding practice Monday. Too bad, as he threw wildly toward first base during the eighth, giving former Cardinal Brian Jordan third base. Johnson also walked a batter and uncorked a wild pitch in his inning of work.


Infield versatility (or not)

In the ragged ninth with a less than-dominant Carmen Cali on the mound, at least three straight balls went to the side where men were stationed out of position. Second baseman Aaron Miles was playing shortstop and shortstop Deivi Cruz was playing third. All three were scored singles. On the third ball at least, there was a fielders' choice from Miles to Cruz, but a run scored in the process. Neither of the primary candidates to be the third bullpen lefty - Cali and Johnson - had a good day. Cali's four runs surrendered were all earned.


Star Search, Jupiter Style

Apparently, ESPN's national television broadcast brought out the stars. As I was walking down a hallway in the clubhouse, who did I see walking toward me but musician and Cardinals fan Bruce Hornsby. I had been trying to arrange an interview with him for two years, only to fail getting to him. However, today everything came together. Once Bruce heard of my past difficulties, he agreed to an interview on the spot, which we conducted in Traveling Secretary C.J. Cherre's office. That lasted about three minutes until Tony La Russa stuck his head in. I wisely decided it was time to let Bruce go. I will post the interview Tuesday (I hope).


Big guns in the elevator

During the seventh inning, as I took the elevator from the second level down to the first, I discovered my fellow inhabitants included Cardinals Chairman of the Board and General Partner Bill DeWitt, Jr. and former Commissioner of Major League Baseball Fay Vincent. I told Vincent that in our shared quest for improved umpiring, I had heard from MLB Vice President of Umpiring Mike Port, who initially had expressed a willingness to answer concerns, but since then has not responded. Vincent said he was not surprised. Here is the link to my interview with Vincent from this past off-season. He pulls no punches. "Fay Vincent on Postseason Umpiring".


Another Buzz

Best-selling author Buzz Bissinger, who penned both the critically acclaimed "Saturday Night Lights" and last year's tome about Tony La Russa, "Three Nights in August", was roaming the press box during the game.


Rooney good as advertised

I met new Cardinals radio voice John Rooney before the game and he was exactly as expected. Even though he was not on the air this day, he was here at work, on the job. Rooney proved to be both a genuinely nice person and very knowledgeable about sports in general. Though he had no reason to strike up a conversation with me, we spent ten or 15 minutes discussing everything from the Cardinals to the Final Four to NCAA football. The Cardinals seem to really have a keeper in Rooney.


Tuesday plans

No game is scheduled for the big club on Tuesday. When I post my Monday pre-game story (I know, that will be after my post-game story here, but that's the way it goes…), I will share the off-day plans of the Cardinals starting pitching staff. My Tuesday game reports will focus on the Memphis and Springfield contests to be held here at the Jupiter complex.


Minors updates soon

I will be posting summaries of minor league stats as soon as I can, as well as updated spring schedule information for all four clubs (Memphis, Springfield, Palm Beach and Quad Cities) plus a group of minor leaguers released this past weekend.


Also coming for subscribers

Upcoming articles will include an interview with Cardinals special instructor Willie McGee and for those who can handle rumors, a fresh set of trade rumblings along with the aforementioned Hornsby interview and Monday pre-game report as soon as I can type them up.


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Brian Walton can be reached via email at


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