Flexibility is an important word, especially in the spring, whether we are talking about a late-season snowfall in the Midwest or a time change in a minor league Spring Training contest.
The Cardinals arrived at work on Wednesday, expecting a set of four 1:00 P.M. games against the Florida Marlins minor leaguers. Turns out, there was a miscommunication. New Fish skipper Fredi Gonzalez apparently wanted to both see his Triple-A squad in action and manage his major league club at the same time.
That meant something had to give. The Marlins' request for a 10:00 A.M. start for the Triple-A contest was hastily and cheerfully agreed upon. With both clubs training at the Roger Dean Stadium complex, the game started on time, even if the umpires didn't arrive until about the fifth inning. However, fans arriving expecting to see just a workout were instead treated to a full-fledged game.
Offense was at a premium. With a fierce wind blowing in, the Redbirds prevailed by a 1-0 score. Among the pitchers who contributed to the shutout were Mikes Smith and Parisi plus Andy Cavazos and Mark Worrell.
Springfield 12, Carolina 9
I will admit that trying to watch three games at once while carrying on numerous conversations limits ones' effectiveness at reporting all the happenings, but here are a few highlights of the 1:00 P.M. games I witnessed. The results are as good as my interpretation of my notes!
You'll notice that a lot of players "played up" on Wednesday, meaning they appeared at games above their working roster level. Not surprisingly, three of the players who have been impressing and could be offered the chance to play up a level during the regular season are outfielders Jon Jay (.375) and Colby Rasmus (.364) and closer Chris Perez (three shutout innings with four strikeouts). As a rule, the organization is properly cautious about such matters and certainly nothing is decided at this point.
Left-handed power hitter Mike Ferris blasted an impressive triple down the right field line into a very strong wind. Outfielder Reid Gorecki homered. I saw Cody Rasmus swipe second base. Matt Trent pitched, but was touched up a bit. Chris Russ finished the game. He came in unscored upon in four innings.
Jason Motte has been impressive in camp with six strikeouts in three scoreless innings this spring, a year after converting to pitching. He fanned another in a couple of innings of work today. His fastball was in the 92-93 MPH range and he seemed to also offer a cutter.
Memphis shortstop Brendan Ryan showed up to watch his former teammates. In fact, he could have stopped at any of the three diamonds. Last season while recovering from a wrist problem, Ryan played at four levels in the system. Five, if you include the Arizona Fall League. That must be some kind of record.
Ryan told an amusing story from the previous day in Vero. As the Memphis game was first done, teammate Cody Haerther quietly signaled that Tommy Lasorda was sitting in a golf cart nearby. Both the players are Southern Californians, with Ryan too shy to introduce himself to the Dodger legend. Fortunately, Memphis hitting coach Rick Eckstein passed by at the right time and obliged. Ryan was in seventh heaven, especially when Tommy remembered him from high school in the LA area.
I spoke with Randy Roth after the game. When I asked him where he would be playing this season, he said "I don't know". When I replied by saying that I meant at what position, he still said the same thing!
Fact is that Roth expects to play first base primarily this season, but will also serve as third string/emergency catcher. He has already appeared in two spring games behind the plate. Roth's hope is to break camp with Springfield.
Palm Beach 6, Jupiter 3
Remember that flexibility point. The start of this game seemed odd, as the pitcher on the mound was missing the tall stirrup socks and was wearing the (ugly, in my opinion) new MLB workout jerseys, red with the blue accent under the armpits.
Turns out that both Kelvin Jimenez and Dennis Dove were sent over from the Major League camp to get in an inning of work and that they did. Upon completion, the two headed back together toward the main Roger Dean field.
Tyler Norrick followed, as he was apparently the originally-scheduled starter for the day. His offerings varied from 78 MPH breaking ball to 92-93 MPH fastballs. P.J. Walters was among the other pitchers and Danny Borne finished up. Allen Craig made a nice diving defensive play to throw out an opposing runner from his third base position.
Matt Wilkerson stroked a two-run double and Dan Nelson hit a ball off the batters eye screen in deepest center. Even with the wind favoring them, both balls were well-struck. Mark Hamilton hit a double to right-center and scored on a two-run home run by Craig.
Quad Cities 5, Greensboro 3
Perhaps the greatest stir was caused by a slender man in a black top and blue shorts, who looked fit enough to play. Former Cardinals and Pirates outfielder and current Detroit Tigers coach Andy Van Slyke was on hand to see his son A.J. play in the outfield for the QC club.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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