Cards extended spring camp report: 05/15/14

Thursday news from St. Louis Cardinals extended spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida. John Gast, Cory Jones, Dixon Llorens, Charlie Tilson and many more featured.

We will start with some miscellaneous news, primarily from Palm Beach, then show the pre-rain pitching plans for extended and follow with a report from the only game held in extended spring training camp on Wednesday and Thursday.

Jones out for a while

Palm Beach right-handed starter Cory Jones was injured on May 2 and placed on the seven-day disabled list the next day. The 22-year-old suffered a bicep injury that is expected to keep him out from four to six weeks.

Repeat for Llorens

Another member of the A-Advanced club's staff, right-handed reliever Dixon Llorens, went on to the DL two days after Jones, but should be back much sooner. The 21-year-old sidearmer had tried to enter Palm Beach's May 4 game, but left the contest without throwing an official pitch. Llorens suffered a recurrence of a triceps strain that sidelined him twice last season. He is not currently throwing, but is expected to re-start at the end of this week with a return in a couple of weeks if all goes well.

Tilson needs his wheels

During the first inning of Palm Beach's Wednesday night contest, centerfielder Charlie Tilson ran hard into third base. After a pop-up slide, Tilson was removed from the game immediately, replaced by Anthony Garcia.

After the game, Tilson was on the trainer's table getting treatment on his hamstring. Apparently he had been feeling a bit in recent days and had been trying to play through it. It is similar to an injury he sustained twice last year, but hopefully was caught early enough this time for him to avoid a stint on the disabled list. Though Tilson is listed among the available players on Thursday, he is not in the lineup.

One-day promotion

Due to Tilson being banged up and the short turnaround between Wednesday night's game and Thursday morning's contest, Palm Beach added Luis Perez for the day from extended spring training camp. The infielder offers an extra bat off the bench for this one game for Cards manager Dann Bilardello.

The roster spot is open because pitchers Marco Gonzales and Corey Baker are heading to Springfield and their replacements have not arrived from Peoria. That will change as Palm Beach heads out for a four-game weekend road trip to Tampa.

New Chiefs

Right-handers Brandon Lee and Michael Holback have been promoted from extended spring training camp to Peoria. They fill the spots of Silfredo Garcia and Chris Thomas, promoted to Palm Beach. Both Lee and Holback finished 2013 with short-season rookie level Johnson City.

Lee, 23, was a non-drafted free agent from South Carolina Upstate signed last June. He made a total of 15 relief appearances between the Gulf Coast League and the Appalachian League, with a 2.77 ERA and a strikeout to walk count of 21 to seven.

Holback, 21, was St. Louis' 25th round pick last June from Cal Poly. In 16 games with JC, including four starts, his ERA was 2.18. Holback fanned 44 against 17 free passes in 33 Appy League innings.

Kiekhefer up to Memphis

Springfield got its roster back to whole with the promotion of lefty Dean Kiekhefer to Memphis. The 24-year-old pitched in the Arizona Fall League in 2013 and seemed poised to make the Redbirds this spring, but roster space proved a challenge.

In his second partial year at Double-A, Kiekhefer has done some closing, with seven saves in 15 appearances. A four-run outing on April 29 skewed his ERA up to 4.30 and he has allowed a single run in each of his last two outings. Kiekhefer has struck out 10 and walked one in 13 1/3 Texas League innings.

Another EST standout

Robelys Reyes is another EST standout who continues to present an interesting challenge. The former Dominican Summer League batting champion was kept from competing in the US for several years due to a visa issue.

The infielder has supporters among the coaches. One insists Reyes, who had been playing mostly second base, has a better arm at shortstop than any of the more-highly decorated prospects in camp. The staffer suggests Reyes could "hold his own" in the Florida State League and drew comparisons to a young Rafael Furcal.

The challenge is youth, or lack of it. Now 23 years of age, time is against Reyes.

Pitching plans

Following are the original pitching plans for Wednesday and Thursday. A number of these players had to throw sides instead because of the rain disruptions. You will also notice Holback and Lee, since promoted to Peoria. Also very encouraging to see John Gast being extended out. I hope he will be pitching this afternoon. Innings and number of pitches planned are included when available.

  Wed 5/14     Thu 5/15  
Red Game  Sides   Game  Sides
  Gast 4/65-70 Farinaro   Anderson 4 J Perez
  D Perez 4 Martinez   B Lee 1 Silva 
  Baez 1 Holback   Lomascolo 1  
  B Lee b/up     Rauh 1  
        Escudero 1  
        Booden 1  
White Game  Sides   Game  Sides
  Jenkins 3/50-55 Perdomo   Santos 3 J Mateo
  J Rodriguez 3 Parra   Caballero 2  
  Barkley 1-2 McKinney   Hawkins 1  
  Brito 1     Salazar 1  
  Villegas 1-2        

Game notes

The original Thursday schedule had the Marlins playing Team Red with a camp day for the White roster. Wednesday's rain led to the addition of a sim game for the White players. More rain early Thursday morning caused the sim game to be dropped, but the Marlins-Team Red game is on at noon – weather permitting.

Pitcher velos and game notes will be added to this post later in the afternoon or early evening.

Afternoon update

Well, we have to remain flexible here in Florida. It turns out a sim game of sorts was held between some of the Red players starting about 11:00, while the White team took on the Marlins in a contest that started around 11:30. I took in the first hour of Palm Beach's outing, which began at 10:35 A.M. More shoe leather sacrificed in the name of baseball!

Gast on Thursday

I missed the sim game, which was shortened by rain, anyway. I did catch John Gast afterward. He had thrown two innings in the game, followed by another two in the pen (see photo) to get to his 60-65 pitch target. There is still a general feeling of cautiousness about Gast, with at least a month of work ahead before he could be ready to answer the bell every fifth day.

Tyrell Jenkins threw from flat ground only and may be in line to pitch in game action on Friday. As noted above, he is up to 50-55 pitches.

I caught the White team playing the Marlins – though the clubs did not get through the fourth inning before rain prematurely ended action. As a result, the only Cardinals pitcher who saw game action was Dewin Perez. The lefty threw almost exclusively fastballs in the 89-92 mph range and about one 81 mph curve per inning. Perez kept the Fish off the scoreboard. In one especially notable at-bat, he fanned a Marlin on the 12th or 13th pitch of the confrontation, a ball in the dirt. Overall, Perez' pitch count was a bit higher than some of the coaches preferred.

Ramon Santos and Jorge Rodriguez were also scheduled to throw innings five through seven and eight through 10, respectively, but never got the chance.

The Cardinals had their hitting shoes on, scoring three runs in the first and four more in the second. The outfielders were especially productive, with six of the seven RBI.

Here is the batting order. (EH is extra hitter, a second DH.)

Alvarez 5
Mercado 6
Sierra 8
Rivera 4
Godoy DH
Ray 7
Franco 9
Ustariz 3
E Rodriguez 2
Lacy EH

Left-handed hitting Magneuris Sierra's double into the left-field corner scored two. A Chris Rivera double brought Sierra home. Sierra is one of the dozen players over from the Dominican for the first time and while not as well-known as Edmundo Sosa, the outfielder looks like a pretty good ballplayer.

All four second-inning runs came via the long ball. Outfielder Bladimil Franco hit a majestic solo home run to left that went so far in the air that it landed in the outfield of an adjoining field. Later in the inning, with a pair of teammates on base, Devante Lacy launched a line-drive homer, also to left field. Yes, there was some wind, but especially the Franco shot would have left any major league ballpark. It was a no-doubt-abouter.

With the heavy rains beginning, that was the end of baseball for this day, and for me on this trip. Plenty of interviews will be following in the upcoming days.

Link to earlier reports
Cards extended spring camp report: 05/14/14
Cards extended spring camp report: 05/13/14

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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