Cardinals Minor League Report: March 13, 2008

Brian Walton's first hand observations from the back fields of St. Louis Cardinals minor league camp in Jupiter, Florida.

As I mentioned on my edition yesterday, posted on our message board, this is in addition to the actual game highlights and is not intended to provide definitive information about any player. Instead, here I am offering some of what I happened to see while trying to simultaneously watch four games at once on Thursday afternoon.

Risking severe sunburn, I spent almost all afternoon on the back fields watching the minor leaguers. I also shot dozens of photos that will mostly have to wait until the airplane trip home to get formatted. I did offer one of the player mentioned next.

Saw the Korean invitee Jai Chul Chung pitch for the first time. He has an odd motion in that as his head turns toward first base as part of his follow through. Also, oddly the Cards equipment managers have his entire, full name across the back of his jersey. I think he is the only Chung in camp!

Turns out there is a ready-made translator in camp. Eddie Degerman's Mom is Korean, so Chung's agent-translator could return home to California. I asked Farm Director Jeff Luhnow if there is a chance Chung could be signed. He laughed, saying, "Definitely… as long as he's ready to pitch wherever Degerman is assigned." (They were pitching in separate games on this day.)

Mark McCormick received a lot of attention starting for Springfield. As opposed to erroneous reports on other sites about Fernando Salas hitting 96 MPH on Tuesday, McCormick did touch 96 and was working consistently at 92. (The other reports may have been based on the ball coming off the bat.) More important than velocity, McCormick's control seemed decent, which for him would be marvelous if consistently executed.

Speaking of… I got my first extended look at catcher DeLaCruz. He is not big, but packs a wallop. I saw him blast a home run to left center with authority. His defense is well-respected in the organization. I could fully get on the bandwagon with some more exposure.

Daniel Descalso hasn't been permanently moved to shortstop – yet. But he has the arm, so the open question is his range. The organization would be delighted if he ends up there.

On the message board, I noted Josh Phelps in the Memphis lineup in the outfield. Obviously, if he can prove himself there, it will help his chances of returning to the majors – at least with this team.

Another position change, sort of. Tony Cruz, who spent more time at third base than anywhere else last season, is getting a full trial behind the plate. Both Cruz and Tommy Pham homered for Palm Beach, one batter apart. Pham's was a bomb to left center that coaches were still talking about several innings later.

When Pham was up later in the game, Daryl Jones (remember him?) stole second base quite handily. Now, we need repeatability…

I am planning to look in on Extended Spring Training first-hand in mid-April. Luhnow told me a Congresswoman from Maine spearheaded the exemption that no longer limits clubs as to the number of visas for their foreign ballplayers. Good news for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals already have a dozen international players in camp and are expecting 38 more of the 44 in total invited to Extended Spring Training, which begins April 1 in Jupiter.

To answer three reader questions. Yes, 49th round pick in 2007, Ronald Russell, better known as Zach, I am told, is part of the six EST non-international invitees. And yes, I will get the full list of EST invitees and publish them before camp opens. Finally, that list does include Jose Arredondo, so no, he won't make a full-season club out of spring training..

QC #1's leadoff man Justin Roberson homered, but was hit on the hand by a pitch next time up. He seemed ok. Let's hope so.

I must have taken a dozen photos trying to fully capture Degerman's "pie-throwing motion". He seemed to have as much trouble with his control on Thursday as I did trying to digitally capture his release point.

I said the same about poor control to an onlooker about new signee Cardoza Tucker after he walked a batter on four pitches. Tucker showed me. The next man went down quickly, striking out on four sharp offerings.

Lefty Hector Cardenas had a rocky outing in relief for QC #1, yielding a two-run jack by the Marlins.

I missed out on the undrafted free agent from Purdue, Carlos Pupo, and I am pissed. While we knew the first baseman signed late last summer and worked out at Palm Beach, we didn't catch that he played winter ball in Colombia on the same team as Dan Nelson. Luhnow pointed it out to me.

For the record, Pupo led his Toros club with six home runs (in 162 at-bats). His line: .247/.337/.438. 18 of his 40 hits were for extra bases. Pupo is a nice specimen, physically. We'll have to keep an eye on his results.

I learned a new way to probe when players might be cut from the MLB club - when their alloted meal money runs out! That is how one player figured when his time was going to be up. Apparently everyone is paid through the weekend, but look for more cuts following the day off Tuesday.

Had a nice chat with Adam Ottavino. Only problem was that despite the top prospect having his warmup jacket on, thereby obscuring his name, the autograph jackals were soon all over him. As quickly as one discovered him, the others were tipped off and queued up. Each had the player sign a dozen to two dozen cards. They'll be on eBay tomorrow.

Ending on a positive note, it was great to meet several readers from this site as well as renew acquaintances with Springfield's Mr. Everything, Mike Lindskog. Continuing Springfield's top-notch reputation, they hosted a player dinner Thursday night. Ottavino was among the many planning to attend along with Cardinals brass, including Minor League Operations Director John Vuch.



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

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