St. Louis Cardinals head trainer Barry Weinberg said Thursday that outfielder Juan Gonzalez has a minor abdominal strain on his left side. The 38-year-old was removed from the lineup recently by the trainer as a precautionary measure after the outfielder told Weinberg "it bothered him a bit when running".
Weinberg noted it is "hard to differentiate strain from soreness" but wanted to "err on the side of precaution". He expects the oft-injured player could return to the lineup as early as Friday.
Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa noted he used Gonzalez in the designated hitter role early in camp to allow him to "build up his legs", but now the veteran "has to show durability for the role he has".
Gonzalez will need to catch up as his outfield competition of Brian Barton and Joe Mather are both impressing coaches in camp. Otherwise, Gonzalez, in camp on a minor league deal, could find himself starting the season with Triple-A Memphis.
Duncan: Back sprain better
La Russa said he plans to play left fielder Chris Duncan in four consecutive games, including Thursday at home against the Mets and Friday at Vero Beach vs. the Dodgers. Duncan is coming off a minor back sprain that sidelined him late last week and through the weekend.
Duncan is hitting just 1-for-17 (.059) on the spring with five strikeouts, though he has walked six times for a .304 on-base percentage. Duncan is batting in the number two spot on Wednesday only to get his at-bats in, said La Russa. "Don't want to push him too far," said the skipper.
Pineiro: Could play catch
In a camp where only two rotation members seem firm, news that one injured pitcher might be cleared to play catch is considered big news.
Weinberg noted that injured pitcher Joel Pineiro is making "good improvement" and is on a "good path". The medical staff will make a judgment on Friday as to whether Pineiro can begin to play catch. If cleared, he could start throwing the same day.
The veteran right-hander has been shut down twice after making just one spring training appearance.
Johnson: Continues to be "a week away"
Left-handed reliever Tyler Johnson was seen by a member of the Cardinals medical staff on Wednesday. According to Weinberg, Johnson is "not yet ready for a throwing program". Cardinals head physician Dr. George Paletta will examine the lefty in "one more week", said Weinberg.
La Russa called the news "significant", wondering out loud if Johnson threw harder than he should have in the early days of camp. Johnson apparently had been sick in January, causing him to miss training time, said his manager.
Johnson will not be ready to start the season, with his left-handed relief specialist role likely taken by non-roster invitee Ron Villone.
Clement: Facing live batters
Rehabbing right-handed pitcher Matt Clement threw to live batters for the first time this season on Thursday morning. To date, his return from 2006 shoulder surgery has been slower than expected, effectively killing his chances of appearing in the opening day rotation.
The able and the injured
In past articles, I have focused on those players cut from the roster. With no more moves expected until after Monday's off-day, here is the glass half-full view – the names of those still in camp.
There are 18 able pitchers competing for 12 spots, though six others are rehabbing injuries. There are also 18 position players in the scrum for 13 roster spots.
|Able (18)||Injured (6)|
|Hugo Castellanos||Chris Carpenter|
|Randy Flores||Matt Clement|
|Ryan Franklin||Tyler Johnson|
|Jason Isringhausen||Josh Kinney|
|Kelvin Jimenez||Mark Mulder|
|Braden Looper||Joel Pineiro|
|Able (18)||Injured (1)|
|Rick Ankiel||Juan Encarnacion*|
|Brian Barton||(*not in camp, but on roster)|
Non-roster players shown in italics.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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