Spring Training Notebook – Friday, March 31

Albert Pujols homered three times to lead the Cardinals over the New York Mets 9-6 on Friday, but they lost John Rodriguez to a shoulder injury.

45,000 extra Busch seats going on sale

Construction of Busch Stadium is ahead of plan, so five seating sections will open early. This provides the opportunity to purchase additional tickets in the left field loge sections and in other areas of the park for the 2006 home schedule – including Opening Day. Beginning at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 3, additional tickets for all 81 home games may be purchased at stlcardinals.com, by phone at 314/345-9000 or at the regular in-person outlets.

 

Vets on the call

Sean McDonough and former Mets General Manager Steve Phillips were at the mike for ESPN reporting from Tradition Field at Port St. Lucie, Florida. The match-up was Pedro Martinez versus Mark Mulder.

 

Pujols bringing up the rear

With all the consternation about the Cardinals hitters this spring, of Friday's eight position player starters, Albert Pujols' .250 average was lowest. Of course, that included Aaron Miles (.333) at second over Junior Spivey (.138) and John Rodriguez (.255) rather than So Taguchi (.250) in left.

 

Final roster moves today?

Tony La Russa said he wanted to make the final choices on the roster today, however, that was prior to the John Rodriguez injury.

 

Minor league cuts The Cardinals released four minor league players Friday. They are first baseman Jesse Hoorelbeke, infielder Milko Jaramillo and pitchers Talley Haines and Buddy Blair.

On to the game…

 

J-Rod injured, Mulder starts slowly

Shortstop Jose Reyes opened the Mets first with a double down the line in left. A Paul LoDuca single scored the first run and Carlos Beltran doubled into the corner again. Trying to get the ball, John Rodriguez stumbled and jammed his left shoulder as he braced himself against the wall. Rodriguez left the field under his own power, but was clearly in pain as Skip Schumaker replaced him. David Eckstein made a nice throw home to catch LoDuca trying to score. Two bloop singles to left scored another and loaded the bases before a 6-4-3 got Mulder out of the jam with only two runs scored.

 

Mulder over Reyes

Mulder walked Reyes in the second. As I noted yesterday, that is really difficult to do as Reyes only drew 27 walks all last season. After Mulder went 2-0 on the next hitter, Molina came out to the mound. The two apparently came up with a good Plan "B", as Mulder immediately fired over to first and Reyes was tagged out as he slid into second base.

 

Albert goes deep

With David Eckstein on base, Albert Pujols hit an off-speed pitch far, far over the left field wall to tie the game at two in the third. Then, the two paired up on a nice throw from deep in the hole that Albert stretched out to pull in.

 

Walk = run

After Yadier Molina walked, Mulder sacrificed him up and he scored on a scorching liner to left center by Eckstein in the fourth. That gave the Cards their first lead of the day and assured Pedro of not getting the win.

 

Pujols again

The second offering of the day from Victor Zambrano was launched by Pujols. It landed somewhere beyond the left-center field wall.

 

Mulder sharp to first

Mulder nailed veteran Cliff Floyd off first base during the sixth for his second pickoff of the game.

 

Make it three, Albert

Opening the seventh, Pujols slammed his third home run of the game. It was his third no-doubt-about-it shot. Edmonds followed with a ground rule double and pinch-runner So Taguchi scored on a Rolen single. Schumaker doubled to left-center, scoring Rolen from first. After Miles beat the throw on what looked like a double play, Molina walked and Hector Luna's double past third scored two. That made the score 9-2.

 

Wainwright and Hancock work smartly

Adam Wainwright came in for the seventh and promptly issued a free pass to – you guessed it – the new walk machine Reyes. Of course, Adam completed the scoreless, hitless frame with a strikeout. Same for Josh Hancock, who ended his 1-2-3 eighth with a whiff.

 

Second basemen at the bat

In the ninth, Aaron Miles doubled past third for his second hit of the game. Pinch-hitter Junior Spivey received a gift hit on a feeble nubber that the Mets defense flubbed. Hector Luna ended it with a routine infield grounder.

 

Back to Memphis, Alan

Alan Benes turned a seven-run cushion into a three-run lead as the Mets batted around in the ninth. He walked the leadoff hitter, that big offensive threat named Chris Basak. With two strikes, Benes then hit the next batter, Anderson Hernandez, on the elbow. After a strikeout, a hitter named Corey Ragsdale cleared the bases with a triple to right-center. After another strikeout, what looked to be the third out was fired a little wild by Benes to Pujols. Benes was charged with an error as another run scored. After defensive indifference moved the runner up, Julio Franco singled home another. Dave Duncan came out to visit. Benes then hit Chris Woodward with a pitch, which brought Tony La Russa out to make the pitching change. Jason Isringhausen was called on to get the final out with the tying run at the plate, which he did without incident.

 

Pujols' big day
In the regular season, Pujols hit three home runs once. On July 20, 2004, he helped the Cards defeat the Cubs by an 11-8 score at Wrigley. So Taguchi and Reggie Sanders also went deep that day.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

 

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