Most diehard baseball fans know little about Extended Spring Training. Camp picks up where regular spring training leaves off and runs for eight weeks – almost up to the start of the short-season campaign. For the Cardinals this spring, there are almost 90 players in Extendeds.
EST players come from one of three rough groups – players who did not make one of the four full-season clubs (Memphis, Springfield, Palm Beach and Quad Cities), rehabbing players from any level of the system (from Chris Carpenter on down) and Latin American players, many of them imported for their first-ever taste of baseball in the USA.
Just like in spring training, the Cardinals EST squads, three this year, regularly take on their counterparts from the nearby organizations, whether the Mets, Dodgers or Marlins. Such was the case on Saturday morning, when the Cardinals took their "White" and a combined "Blue/Red" squad to Port St. Lucie for a pair of matches.
To say that EST games are quiet is an understatement. I am not exaggerating when I say that I was the only person present that is not under the employ of one of the two organizations.
The White team, made up of some of the more advanced prospects, was scheduled to play a nine-inning game, while the second team was a combination of the other two Cardinals EST squads, the Red and Blue teams, planned to go seven frames. It didn't work out that way – as noted below.
Here are the two lineups:
Brendan Ryan SS
Carlos Pupo 1B
Jon Edwards RF
Brian Cartie DH
Edwin Gomez LF
Nick Vera 3B
Nick Peoples DH
David Medina LF
Juan Mosquera 2B
Zach (formerly known as Richard) Russell
Not sure now if it was Dylan or Reynier Gonzalez
Both teams were victorious this day. Mark DeJohn's Whites won 4-3, while the Red/Blues prevailed 3-1. As is often the case in this informal environment, things were a bit weird later on. The Red/Blues had only used three pitchers through seven innings and wanted to play on. However the Mets were out of arms.
As a result, they played on two more half-innings of five hitters each with the Cards in the field and the Mets hitting. That allowed the final three Red/Blue pitchers to get their work in.
Minor League Pitching Coordinator Brent Strom was bouncing between the two fields as I was. Strom is heading out to Quad Cities on Saturday night. His informal view of the arms in EST is that several of the top standouts are Latin players such as Eduardo Sanchez and Angel Tapia along with 2007 draftee Brett Zawacki.
Informally, I asked about the many
Cardinals players rehabbing. There is genuine excitement about Mark Mulder, who
is pitching for
My Whites Player of the Day is Carlos Pupo. On the first pitch the muscular first baseman saw in the first inning, he blasted it over the left field fence. It bounced on the asphalt parking lot and rolled under some parked cars.
Reds Player of the Day is Francisco Rivera. The first baseman went 3-for-4 and made a stellar defensive play, diving in foul territory and flipping the ball to the pitcher covering to make a key out. This kid can flat out hit.
Honorable mentions include Red/Blues leadoff man Frederick Parejo, who was 2-for-4 and stole at least one base. Nick Peoples had a single and a double and Juan Mosquera tripled. For the Whites, I caught Cartie stroking an RBI single.
My Pitcher of the Day was the lefty Hector Cardenas (pictured), who went four innings. He consistently hit 88-90 on the gun and had a sharp curveball that an excited Strom labeled a "plus".
Defensive Play of the
Day: A Mets
hitter blistered a
Honorable mention defensive play: Parejo came in hard and made a nice diving catch in short centerfield on the dead run for Red/Blues to save a run.
Red/Blues on the gun: Russell 89-91, showed a decent curve, but had some balls hit hard against him, Mayes 88-89 with a 78 MPH curve, Gonzalez 87-88 with 75 MPH changeup, Pichardo 90 with a changeup at 77, though several balls were well-hit against him.
Whites on the gun: Garner mid-80s,
It was a good thing Castillos held on as the three Whites whiffed in order in the visitor's ninth. Pupo and Edwards each took called third strikes and Morales went down swinging.
After the game, there was no bus. Players and coaches filed out to the lot where Pupo's blast had landed where there were coolers of wrapped sandwiches and cold drinks waiting. As the players mingled to discuss their day on the field, it felt a bit like tailgating.
I took seven dozen photos today and will do my best to get them formatted and loaded in the upcoming days.
Also coming up: Interviews with Brendan Ryan, Extended Spring Training Camp Coordinator Mike Shildt and Palm Beach Pitching Coach Dennis Martinez.
Miscellaneous notes from
As I type this, I am sitting in the Jupiter pressbox, in which I am the only person present. Again, it is an amazing contrast from the hustle and bustle here just one month ago.
Tommy Pham admits he has no idea why he was so hot in the spring and is so cold now. The outfielder is "just trying to get my stroke back". Defensively, he says he is "very comfortable" in the outfield, where it is "way easier and less stressful" to play than shortstop.
I caught Manager Gaylen Pitts as he was watching pitching coach Dennis Martinez take reliever Gary Daley, Jr. through some work on the side as they try to tame Daley's wildness.
Pitts is going to continue to mix and match his lineup, pointing out that he is and will be using Oliver Marmol, Daniel Descalso and Donovan Solano at second, short and third. "It is valuable. That is how I stayed around so long (as a player)," Pitts said.
Pitts reaffirmed the Tony Cruz at catcher experiment is also continuing. "In fact, he is catching tonight," the manager observed. So he was.
I asked Pitts if he was preaching selectivity at the plate as it has seemed to be his club has been taking a lot of walks. It clearly isn't occurring at the skipper's direction. "In my place, the only time to take is at Christmas," Pitts laughed.
The teaching never ends. Instructor Tom Spencer was in camp, tutoring the youngsters on situational baserunning following batting practice.
Saturday starter Mark McCormick was in trouble in the first, allowing a double off the wall in center with one out and a two out double down the right field line scoring the first run for the opposing Brevard County Manatees. McCormick fanned the final batters of the first and second innings swinging but in-between allowed a pair of two-out singles in the second.
Still, scouts in the stands were impressed. While his fastball was 94-95 and curve at 79, McCormick getting his 83-85 MPH breaking ball over on fastball counts (1-0, 2-0, etc.) is what drew raves.
the second inning, number nine hitter Oliver Marmol laced a bases-loaded,
bases-clearing double off the left field wall for a 5-2
After McCormick held the Manatees in check for the third and fourth, Brad Furnish took over. The lefty has a herky-jerky motion and yielded a bomb to left to the first hitter he faced in the fifth. It was on a 3-1 count. He also allowed a bloop double.
Two scouts and I discussed Furnish's motion. He starts on the third base side of the rubber, but thrusts his hands toward the first base side on his leg kick. As a result, it comes out almost as if he started on the 1B side. Yet, he hides the ball well and pitches downhill. The scouts wouldn't change his motion unless he has consistency problems.
Furnish's fastball comes in at 85-86 max with a 72-73 curve and a 76 MPH changeup. The consensus is that he is going to need good control and be able to spot his secondary pitches to reach the back of an MLB rotation eventually.
If anything else notable occurs during the game Saturday night, I will append it here. Thanks for reading!
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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