The Redbird Report - 03/03

After missing all of last season with a knee injury suffered during an intrasquad game, pitcher-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel enjoyed better success in an intrasquad game this season. He homered off former pitching star Dennis Martinez, who is on the Cardinals' minor league staff.

Though Ankiel is in camp as a non-roster player, manager Tony La Russa said Ankiel will get "a lot of 1 o'clock experience.

"Now he's got to take advantage of it. He's got a lot of talent. But he needs to play."

With center fielder Jim Edmonds unlikely to play in any exhibitions until late March and with right fielder Juan Encarnacion being careful because of offseason wrist surgery, Ankiel indeed will get plenty of time this spring before he goes to the minors, probably Triple-A Memphis.

In the Cardinals' first exhibition game, Ankiel had two hits in two at-bats.

Outfielder Preston Wilson, on the other hand, is almost certain to be on the club, and he says he will be able to do much more this season because his balky knees feel better than they have in years. Wilson had eight homers and six steals in 33 games for the Cardinals late last season after having nine homers and six steals for Houston in 103 games.

Wilson did have 55 RBIs for the Astros before he was turned loose in late July, a move that still bothers him.

"I felt like I was on a team in Houston where I was there, but they didn't want me there," he said. "I was second on the team in RBI, and they did everything they could do to keep me off the field."


--2B Adam Kennedy, a free agent signee, didn't start the first three exhibition games as he rested a sore ribcage. Just as Kennedy was about ready to play, SS David Eckstein, who was out five weeks with an oblique strain last year, came down with ribcage soreness and figured to miss at least a couple of weeks this spring.

--RF Juan Encarnacion (wrist surgery) was hitting off a tee at the start of exhibition play, but he still was a week or so away from swinging at live pitching.

--The Cardinals signed all of their players without having to renew any contracts, although they remain interested in locking up C Yadier Molina to a long-term deal.

--Josh Kinney and Russ Springer figure to be the top right-handed setup men for RHP Jason Isringhausen, although LHPs Tyler Johnson, Randy Flores and Ricardo Rincon also could see eighth- or ninth-inning action if manager Tony La Russa chooses to "mix and match" his pitchers.

Rincon, pitching for the first time in nearly a year after elbow and shoulder surgeries, threw a perfect inning on March 2.

Kinney, on the other hand, was roughed up for three runs by the Mets on March 2 as he blew a save chance in the ninth inning.

--INF/OF Jolbert Cabrera, a free agent signee, has been impressive early in camp as he tries to leave his calling card as a right-handed batter off the bench.

--RHP Adam Wainwright pitched three hitless innings in his first start of the spring. The playoff hero spent all of last season, his rookie year, as a reliever.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- Number of years Cardinals have trained in Jupiter, Fla., after training the previous 52 seasons in St. Petersburg, Fla.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "With his background, I think he gets to do whatever he wants." -- Manager Tony La Russa on pro wrestler Kurt Angle's fling with batting practice and other drills in the Cardinals' camp.

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