Cardinals Spring Training Camp Notes: 03/10

Wednesday's St. Louis Cardinals major and minor league camp news from Jupiter, Florida.

It was with great pleasure I witnessed the St. Louis Cardinals minor league pitchers and catchers taking to the back fields of the Jupiter complex. The first group completed their physicals on Tuesday and manned four fields plus two sets of mounds on Wednesday morning.

Position players arrive Thursday and after their physicals, they will work out in the afternoon after the pitchers have finished for the day. The first full-squad workouts will occur on Friday.

That doesn't mean there wasn't plenty of action on Wednesday. Camp coordinator Mike Shildt's golf cart was busily buzzing around among four fields, two sets of bullpen mounds and other smaller groups of pitchers working on individual drills, like fielding comebackers and covering first base.

Six pitchers were firing bullets on each of the two sets of mounds. One group was under the watchful eyes of Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch and new Springfield pitching coach Dennis Martinez. Among those watching the other group was minor league pitching coordinator Dyar Miller and Quad Cities pitching coach Tim Leveque.

I asked Miller who stood out and he said without hesitation that Joe Kelly is looking really good. The Cardinals are definitely proceeding with plans to convert the college reliever to starting.

Miller noted a number of pitchers at the higher levels of the system will likely need to repeat levels this season since there are more pitchers than roster spots to put them.

Scott Bittle has returned to playing catch and has been progressing on the trainers' table, but of course, that is different than competing in game action.

In case we forget, even though games have started, the major leaguers continue to work out as well. Adam Wainwright and his mates were on Field 6, working on laying down bunts among other drills during the late morning.

I asked a coach what was behind Shane Robinson's working out at second base. The outfielder suggested it "on his own" and it is not an "organizational move." The 25-year-old came up with the modified Schumaker plan to try to increase his versatility. We will see if he is allowed to play the position in minor league games once he is sent down.

There is good news for and about Nick Derba. The catcher may have missed out on a chance to be an invite to major league camp due to an ankle fracture suffered late last season. But he is among the position players reporting on time, having been cleared by doctors prior to the initial projection of a late-March return.

The Cardinals have a new player in minor league camp. Andres Diaz is a catcher getting a look as a camp invitee. He is not under contract at the moment.

Diaz, still just 21 years of age, was taken by the Twins in the 43rd round in 2007, playing two years for their Gulf Coast League club before a move to first base and an eventual release following 2009 spring training.

Catcher Jesus Montero is another late addition to minor league spring training camp. The Venezuelan, still 18 years old, posted a .226/.352/.288 line in 146 at-bats between the DSL and VSL Cardinals last summer. He and Diaz swell the total of minor leaguers in camp to 159.

On the major league side, it was reunion day with the Washington Nationals in Jupiter. Manager Jim Riggleman, hitting coach Rick Eckstein, new first base coach Dan Radison and Wednesday's Nats designated hitter Chris Duncan were all in demand for handshakes and well wishes. I even noticed Chris shake the hand of GM John Mozeliak as the two briefly exchanged pleasantries.

I asked Tony La Russa what late-starting Allen Craig needed to do to make the team. The manager says he knows what Craig can do at first base and third and believes Craig could hit his way onto the opening day roster. Later, Craig homered against major leaguer Garrett Mock and slammed a ground-rule double off closer Matt Capps. Craig drove in three and scored twice. Not a bad spring debut.

Tony's reply to my question about when to expect the next cuts from major league camp: "Probably Sunday – after the Viera trip." Of course, that is a two-hour bus ride away with Nats rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg scheduled to start on the mound for Washington.

Former Cardinals pitcher and current FOX Sports Midwest personality Cal Eldred is in uniform with two sons. La Russa went to some length to rib Eldred with reporters Wednesday morning. Sure enough, the day's schedule included a "Cal Eldred - Special Hitting Drill" for Allen Craig, David Freese, Joe Mather, Colby Rasmus and Nick Stavinoha, where Eldred could offer up those "hanging breaking balls" he specialized in while a Cardinal, joked the manager.

As always it seems, Cardinals fans are out in force here in Jupiter. Another regular sign is the long pre-game line just to get into the team store. 6,056 was the official attendance.

Finally, I can confirm Bob Gibson is in camp (update: and I saw Lou Brock after the game, too) – great sights in any spring.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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