Cardinals Camp News – Monday, March 23

News from St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida on Monday, March 23. Reliever Luke Gregerson is headed to San Diego while five minor leaguers have been released. P.J. Walters was sent down to the minors after Monday's game.

Joe Mather was scheduled to start at third base on Monday, but instead Brendan Ryan is in the lineup. Mather was working with the outfield group in drills today. Tony La Russa noted he wanted to separate his three left-handers in the lineup second, sixth and ninth.

Asked again if Mather is injured, La Russa says no. "I trust him and he's not getting treatment for something. He's a smart guy. It wouldn't be smart to hide that."

The manager isn't worried about Mather's defense at this point. "He got almost an exclusive look there earlier so he has gotten plenty of time there… I feel comfortable playing him at third now. What he needs to do is get his stroke going… He needs to hit. I don't think being concerned about his defense is why he isn't hitting. I just think he got in a funk," the manager said.

Update: While Mather saw time at first base and the outfield on Monday, it seems clear Freese is going to see the time at third base the rest of the way.

Chris Perez and Kyle McClellan threw at 10:30 a.m. under the watchful eye of Dave Duncan. Both are said to have been successful, but the question is whether or not there is time to Perez to seize the closer's role. His best hope may be to emerge from a committee. They were scheduled to be followed by the new arrival Dennys Reyes, but he was apparently late to arrive for his first day. His first game appearance is to be determined based on his readiness. La Russa spoke about the potential for having two effective veterans from the left side in Reyes and Trever Miller. "Haven't been common. Even in Oakland it wasn't common."

Troy Glaus was feeling good, but had "plateaued" recently. No setback, but he hasn't progressed either. "The chances of him playing in March may have been too far ahead. If he's there May 1, that would be great," La Russa said Glaus is not yet swinging a bat.

This news seems a surprise to some, but we've been suggesting it all along - don't count on Glaus until maybe June.

La Russa did not acknowledge feeling better about Ryan Ludwick the last few days. "I never felt down about him. What I said that he was a mess for awhile," stated the manager. He went on to say that given the kind of worker Ludwick is that he has never had any doubts about the outfielder, who was slumping for the first half of the spring.

La Russa was asked about Skip Schumaker batting against left-handed pitchers. Tony noted he did it last season, is doing it this spring and will do it in 2009 and then expanded his comments to the entire group. "All our lefthanders against left-handed pitchers last season were not indicative of what they are capable of… They all hang in there and don't give away anything at all," Tony said.

The manager is not yet ready to anoint Skip as his second baseman, but remains optimistic. "As things stand now, he's improving as a second baseman but there is still two weeks. Everything I've said all along still stands. Him playing second base is good for our club," La Russa remarked.

Paraphrasing La Russa on Brian Barden: He is sure handed and puts the bat on the ball. He will see several starts this week including Saturday. Has a very sure glove and accurate arm. Tony sees him as equally competent at second, third and shortstop.

Chris Carpenter is cleared to throw 15 or so more pitches than last time out, perhaps getting into the 80's in his count on Monday. "He sure has the wind working for him," La Russa cracked. There is about a 15-20 mph wind blowing in from right field.

If other news items worth adding during the day pop up, I will append them here. Thanks for subscribing and reading!

Minor league releases

Monday morning was bad for five minor league players who were released in the initial group of cuts from minor league camp. They include second baseman Isa Garcia, left-handed pitcher Joe Rogers, right-handed pitcher Miguel Flores, catcher Christian Rosa and third baseman Nick Vera.

PTBNL for Greene named

Reliever Luke Gregerson has been selected by the San Diego Padres as the player to be named later in the Khalil Greene trade. He joins now-injured reliever Mark Worrell as the two players joining San Diego in return for the Cardinals new shortstop.

Walters Impressive, but sent down to start

After he pitched a spotless three innings on Monday, the last remaining non-roster invitee pitcher on the St. Louis Cardinals major league roster, right-hander P.J. Walters, was reassigned to the organization's minor league camp following the game.

The Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2007 allowed just one hit and fanned one while issuing no walks on Monday. His major league spring ERA was an equally impressive and symmetric 1.00.

Walters is expected to be among what will be a very talented 2009 Memphis rotation and should be competitive with Mitchell Boggs and Blake Hawksworth if long/starter reinforcements are needed in St. Louis later. The latter two are on the 40-man roster. Walters would need to be added.

The move leaves 32 players in major league camp, including four NRIs – catcher Matt Pagnozzi, second baseman Joe Thurston, third baseman David Freese and outfielder Colby Rasmus.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at his blog, The Cardinal Nation.

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