Bright start for three young Cardinals

Bright start for three young Cardinals

JUPITER, Fla. • The loudest statement, by far, was St. Louisan Scott Van Slyle’s two-homer, five RBI performance for the Miami Marlins, who beat the Cardinals 6-4 in the baseball exhibition opener Friday. But there were some intriguing talking points created by several young players from the Cardinals’ side.

It isn’t likely that many, or any, of the players will be with the club on opening day, but very likely that two or all will be in St. Louis before the year is over. The players in question are Jack Flaherty, Oscar Mercado and Jordan Hicks.

Flaherty, 22, is the closest to wearing a St. Louis uniform — and, in fact, already has, working six games last season. His two scoreless innings as a starter were spotless Friday, but it isn’t as if the Cardinals’ big-league staff hadn’t seen him excel before.

With 23-year-old outfielder Oscar Mercado, a converted shortstop, and 21-year-old righthanded fireballer Jordan Hicks, the impressions made were their first ones. And eye-opening ones.

Mercado had been brought over from minor league camp a few times before but never had started an exhibition for the Cardinals. A standout at Class AA Springfield last year, the Tampa, Fla., native singled twice, walked once, scored a run and made a strong, over-the-shoulder, running catch as he fought the wind in right field. This is a position he said he had played only once before in professional ball at the end of last season when manager John Rodriguez “knew I couldn’t mess anything up,” said Mercado, laughing.

On his third-inning play against Marlins lefthanded slugger Justin Bour, “Roger Dean (Stadium) held that ball in pretty well,” said Mercado. “The wind brought it back in a lot. Off the bat, you think you’re going to have to run for days.”

Hicks, 21, fanned two, allowing one single, in an overpowering eighth inning as he returned to the field where he pitched in Class A last year.

Mercado, who hit .287 with 14 homers (he had had only eight in his first three-plus seasons) and had 38 steals at Springfield, played the whole game.

“Great defensive play. Good at-bats,” said manager Mike Matheny.

“He’s been very highly talked about by the staff through our development system. He goes back and makes a play like that, with only a year under his belt in the outfield. It looked like he knew what he was doing at the plate.”

Flaherty, who started his season at Springfield last year, had pitched in front of Mercado and center fielder Adolis Garcia, who also made a good play Friday, and Magneuris Sierra, who started for Miami in right field.

“You know that if a ball is put in play, there’s a real good chance that the play is going to be made,” said Flaherty, who also commended the rest of his defense Friday, notably catcher Yadier Molina.

Matheny, who had summoned Mercado mostly as a pinch runner, backup outfielder or even an extra shortstop on spring training trips in other years, said the first-day start was “a big deal. It’s a big deal to get out there for the first time and then make the most of it. He handled himself really well.”

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Mercado said he hadn’t been particularly nervous. “I tried to look around at the other guys and see how they’re acting and they seemed very loose. So that allowed me to feel the same way,” he said.

Mercado tried to steal once on an 0-2 count — the ball was fouled off — and Matheny asked him about it. “He’s a smart kid,” Matheny said. “The (pitcher) was really quick to the plate, but (Mercado) knew a little bit about him. He had a pretty good jump. It would be interesting to see if he could have outrun the ball. We’re going to continue to tell him to stay aggressive. It was the right train of thought.”

The Cardinals have a slew of young outfielders who can run and play center field, including Harrison Bader and Randy Arozarena, in addition to Garcia and Mercado.

Outfield coach Willie McGee, who worked with Mercado among others in the minors, said, “I had an angle on it and Mercado took a perfect, straight route to that ball. That’s a tough play, with the wind holding it in. He ran a long way and he did everything right.

“It’s a credit to him. He was an infielder two years ago. He’s become an outstanding outfielder. And he’s getting better.

“All these guys are pretty good. Garcia’s going to be a good player. Bader, you know already. Arozarena is a little bit behind but he can play. All of them are real versatile and you can put them anywhere.”

Mercado said he is enjoying outfield more than shortstop.

“When you’ve had success, you like it a lot better than if you’ve had failures,” said Mercado, a 6-foot-2, 180-pounder. “If they want me to (move back), I will, but I think I’m doing an OK job out there.”

As for Hicks, who finished up as a reliever at Palm Beach after starting at Peoria last year, he said, “I feel very comfortable pitching here on that mound.”

The Cardinals have Hicks on their radar as a late-inning pitcher, perhaps as early as even this year and he said, “As long I make it to the big leagues, I’ll do anything. I’d like to be a closer one day.”

But Hicks said he tries to block out speculation by media and others. “I’ve heard about guys getting to Triple-A and hearing coaches telling them they were ‘this close,’ and mentally messing themselves up. I just try to take it day by day,” he said.

So does his manager. But it isn’t easy.

“Did he pitch today?” said Matheny, grinning.. “I’m trying to temper everybody’s excitement. But there’s nothing you can’t like about what he’s doing. He’s got above average stuff. He’s got a high ceiling.”

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Van Slyke shows off shortened swing with long homers against Cardinals

Van Slyke shows off shortened swing with long homers against Cardinals

JUPITER, Fla. • When Scott Van Slyke stepped into the cage in St. Louis this winter, the swing his father had suggested, the swing he needed to retool, the swing he needed to return to the majors found him without a search.

“Failure is a very good catalyst for change,” he said.

After a year that didn’t end in the majors and a few years searching to reclaim a regular role, Van Slyke, the 31-year-old Chesterfield native, accepted a shift his All-Star father Andy had “been suggesting for quite some time.”

The long swing he had as a kid working in the cage with Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and hitting coach John Mabry, the one he had when he surged to prominence with the Dodgers, had to change. He had to do with his swing what he couldn’t do for his 6-foot-5 frame – shorten it.

As quick as the solution came this winter, it produced this spring.

Van Slyke, a non-roster player for Miami, launched two home runs, including a grand slam, on Friday. He led the Marlins to a 6-4 victory against Cardinals in their exhibition opener at Roger Dean Stadium. Van Slyke hit a home run off righthanded prospect Conner Greene, and then drilled the grand slam off lefty Jordan Schafer for five RBIs. Both homers came with Francisco Pena behind the plate for the Cardinals — the son of Tony Pena, for whom Scott’s dad was traded in April 1987.

“He can hit. He can hit,” said Matheny, who got tips from Andy when their playing careers overlapped and later worked with both of Andy’s professional-baseball sons. “When he gets hot, he’s streaky. Not that he can’t find that consistency, too. Looked like a different swing to me. He generates enough power without being very long. If you lengthen those levers, lengthen out his swing, it’s going to create some serious torque and serious power. It can also create some serious holes.”

Also dealing with a wrist injury, Van Slyke recognized that in his stats as his average slipped from .297 with a .386 on-base percentage for LA in 2014 to .225 in 2016 to .122 this past year and a trade. After a trade to Cincinnati, he accepted an assignment to Class AAA. As a bench player he found it “difficult to come in and face guys that slide-stepped and quick-pitched. It wasn’t working.” That’s the role he’ll have with Miami if he can turn Don Mattingly’s familiarity and his versatility into a spot on the thinned roster.

His new swing could find him there.

“You can’t look at it just because he’s been around the block. You’ve got to be able to do some things,” Mattingly said Friday. “I think that’s one of the things you want to make sure — his body is still good, he’s moving good in the outfield. Part of the value is he can play all three and first base. You want to know that he’s healthy. … His power is right there.”

OZUNA PROLONGS DEBUT

Although the Cardinals have pledged to ease everyday players like Marcell Ozuna into spring games, the newcomer lobbied to extend his Cardinals debut Friday. Ozuna appeared at designated hitter and spent most of the game applauded by fans on both sides of the game — for his former team, the Marlins, and his new team. He lobbied for a third plate appearance, especially when it was a chance to drive in a run.

He did with a sacrifice fly.

“I was shutting him down after two,” Matheny said. “He said he wanted one more. It was a great at-bat. We had a fast-moving game at that point, and he didn’t want to get out. There were some fans up there yelling for him.”

FLAHERTY SHARP

Not all was the same for rookie Jack Flaherty as he started the spring where he finished last year. The Cardinals’ righthander, who started the final game of 2017, opened Grapefruit League play with two scoreless innings, two strikeouts and a little more movement on his fastball than he expected.

“Which is a plus,” he said. “There were some that ran away from me a little bit, but that’s what this time is right now, to kind of figure out where everything is. For things to feel the way they were, first start, feels good — but there is still stuff to improve on.”

Flaherty is slated to start Wednesday as the Cardinals visit Baltimore in Sarasota, Fla.. Adam Wainwright will not appear in this turn through the rotation, appearing at the earliest late next week. Miles Mikolas will start Sunday, followed by Luke Weaver and Michael Wacha before Flaherty scores his second start of spring.

Matheny called Wainwright’s schedule “nothing to be concerned about” and part of an annual approach to conserve innings.

  • for webDEJONG, PHAM SPRING SHIFTS

For the first time in their careers, Cardinals regulars Paul DeJong and Tommy Pham aren’t playing for their careers this spring. Instead of auditioning, they are preparing, and that means a different schedule for both players. DeJong, who is set to start Saturday, and Pham, who won’t appear until Sunday, could get several consecutive days off in the opening week. Pham may not go on the road trip to the Gulf Coast – a nod to his status and work he can do in Jupiter.

They don’t want him leading the team in at-bats, or DeJong tops in games.

“Having that very blunt conversation: This is different,” Matheny said. “All of a sudden they’re not making a trip or they’re being left back to get some work. How that plays out is something they’re going to have to walk their way through. (Be) very clear about what our goals are to get us ready for opening day and have them clicking at the same time.”

EXTRA BASES

Matheny confirmed before Friday’s opener that baseball has ditched the plan to start the 10th inning of spring games with a runner at second base. “That would be a lot to throw at us right out of the gate,” he said. Teams had been preparing for that curious and experimental rule, but the Cardinals manager said they were notified the 10th inning would be played, if necessary, by the same rules as the previous nine. … Carlos Martinez will make his spring debut Saturday against the Mets at Port St. Lucie, Fla. The schedule allows for Martinez to make six spring starts while also keeping him on turn for opening day, March 29, against the Mets. … Late addition to the roster Bud Norris will follow Martinez into the game and get some piggyback starts in the early weeks. Power prospect Ryan Helsley is scheduled to appear in relief.

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Three young Cardinals stand out against Marlins

Three young Cardinals stand out against Marlins

JUPITER, Fla. • The loudest statement, by far, was St. Louisan Scott Van Slyle’s two-homer, five RBI performance for the Miami Marlins, who beat the Cardinals 6-4 in the baseball exhibition opener Friday. But there were some intriguing talking points created by several young players from the Cardinals’ side.

It isn’t likely that many, or any, of the players will be with the club on opening day, but very likely that two or all will be in St. Louis before the year is over. The players in question are Jack Flaherty, Oscar Mercado and Jordan Hicks.

Flaherty, 22, is the closest to wearing a St. Louis uniform — and, in fact, already has, working six games last season. His two scoreless innings as a starter were spotless Friday, but it isn’t as if the Cardinals’ big-league staff hadn’t seen him excel before.

With 23-year-old outfielder Oscar Mercado, a converted shortstop, and 21-year-old righthanded fireballer Jordan Hicks, the impressions made were their first ones. And eye-opening ones.

Mercado had been brought over from minor league camp a few times before but never had started an exhibition for the Cardinals. A standout at Class AA Springfield last year, the Tampa, Fla., native singled twice, walked once, scored a run and made a strong, over-the-shoulder, running catch as he fought the wind in right field. This is a position he said he had played only once before in professional ball at the end of last season when manager John Rodriguez “knew I couldn’t mess anything up,” said Mercado, laughing.

On his third-inning play against Marlins lefthanded slugger Justin Bour, “Roger Dean (Stadium) held that ball in pretty well,” said Mercado. “The wind brought it back in a lot. Off the bat, you think you’re going to have to run for days.”

Hicks, 21, fanned two, allowing one single, in an overpowering eighth inning as he returned to the field where he pitched in Class A last year.

Mercado, who hit .287 with 14 homers (he had had only eight in his first three-plus seasons) and had 38 steals at Springfield, played the whole game.

“Great defensive play. Good at-bats,” said manager Mike Matheny.

“He’s been very highly talked about by the staff through our development system. He goes back and makes a play like that, with only a year under his belt in the outfield. It looked like he knew what he was doing at the plate.”

Flaherty, who started his season at Springfield last year, had pitched in front of Mercado and center fielder Adolis Garcia, who also made a good play Friday, and Magneuris Sierra, who started for Miami in right field.

“You know that if a ball is put in play, there’s a real good chance that the play is going to be made,” said Flaherty, who also commended the rest of his defense Friday, notably catcher Yadier Molina.

Matheny, who had summoned Mercado mostly as a pinch runner, backup outfielder or even an extra shortstop on spring training trips in other years, said the first-day start was “a big deal. It’s a big deal to get out there for the first time and then make the most of it. He handled himself really well.”

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Mercado said he hadn’t been particularly nervous. “I tried to look around at the other guys and see how they’re acting and they seemed very loose. So that allowed me to feel the same way,” he said.

Mercado tried to steal once on an 0-2 count — the ball was fouled off — and Matheny asked him about it. “He’s a smart kid,” Matheny said. “The (pitcher) was really quick to the plate, but (Mercado) knew a little bit about him. He had a pretty good jump. It would be interesting to see if he could have outrun the ball. We’re going to continue to tell him to stay aggressive. It was the right train of thought.”

The Cardinals have a slew of young outfielders who can run and play center field, including Harrison Bader and Randy Arozarena, in addition to Garcia and Mercado.

Outfield coach Willie McGee, who worked with Mercado among others in the minors, said, “I had an angle on it and Mercado took a perfect, straight route to that ball. That’s a tough play, with the wind holding it in. He ran a long way and he did everything right.

“It’s a credit to him. He was an infielder two years ago. He’s become an outstanding outfielder. And he’s getting better.

“All these guys are pretty good. Garcia’s going to be a good player. Bader, you know already. Arozarena is a little bit behind but he can play. All of them are real versatile and you can put them anywhere.”

Mercado said he is enjoying outfield more than shortstop.

“When you’ve had success, you like it a lot better than if you’ve had failures,” said Mercado, a 6-foot-2, 180-pounder. “If they want me to (move back), I will, but I think I’m doing an OK job out there.”

As for Hicks, who finished up as a reliever at Palm Beach after starting at Peoria last year, he said, “I feel very comfortable pitching here on that mound.”

The Cardinals have Hicks on their radar as a late-inning pitcher, perhaps as early as even this year and he said, “As long I make it to the big leagues, I’ll do anything. I’d like to be a closer one day.”

But Hicks said he tries to block out speculation by media and others. “I’ve heard about guys getting to Triple-A and hearing coaches telling them they were ‘this close,’ and mentally messing themselves up. I just try to take it day by day,” he said.

So does his manager. But it isn’t easy.

“Did he pitch today?” said Matheny, grinning.. “I’m trying to temper everybody’s excitement. But there’s nothing you can’t like about what he’s doing. He’s got above average stuff. He’s got a high ceiling.”

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Old Friends and New Faces: Marlins 6, Cardinals 4

Old Friends and New Faces: Marlins 6, Cardinals 4

Some thoughts from Miami’s first spring training game. Ok, it’s every thought I had during the game. Sue me. I missed baseball too. Here’s the box score.

  • Van Slyke was a nice surprise. As a non-roster invitee, the odds are long in every case. This guy, however, is going to try to make it impossible for the Marlins to ignore him.
  • Peters was shaky, but mostly good, and he did keep the Redbirds off the board.
  • Brinson got to show off two of his five tools, with a double and a good catch.
  • Diaz was nearly nonchalant in his effort to field the easy ninth-inning looper, taking his eye off the ball at exactly the wrong moment.
  • Yes, Wong stole third off of Realmuto, but J.T. had the throw right on the money and looks to have that arm already in mid-season form. He also went 1-for-2 from the dish.
  • Marlins’ pitching combined for 11 strikeouts, a 2.00 ERA, and a 1.667 WHIP. They also collected three double plays, to none for St. Louis.
  • Like Van Slyke, Shuck also went 2-for-2 in relief, and that outfield assist was eye-opening.
  • Miami’s starting nine were just 3-for-18 (.167) at the plate, while their replacements were 7-for-15 (.467).
  • Hernandez gave up all of Miami’s earned runs in the fifth, but he settled down to pitch a pretty good sixth inning.

What follows is an in-depth recount of each inning, which is why I started with these bullets (in case it’s tl;dr for you). If brevity is your enemy, then by all means, read on. If not, then check out the highlights and we’ll see you in tomorrow’s game thread.

Top 1

Kolten Wong drilled the first Dillon Peters offering to deep left field, over Derek Dietrich’s head for a standup double. Not a promising start to the start. Harrison Bader then worked Peters to a 2-2 count before swinging at strike three for the first out of the game. Yadier Molina, a career .284 hitter and eight-time all star still catching in his 15th big league season, distracted Peters long enough for Wong to steal third base on the ninth pitch of the at bat, then struck out swinging on a full count for out number two. That’s when St. Louis’ brand new #23 strolled up to the plate. Marcell Ozuna proceeded to then hit a harmless one-hop grounder directly at new Marlins’ second baseman Starlin Castro, who flipped it over to first bagger Eric Campbell to keep the Cards off the board.

Bottom 1

Marlins’ fans got an early first-look at new Marlin (and recent St. Louis Cardinal) Magneuris Sierra, who led off the bottom of the frame for Miami. He took a ball then skied it to shortstop Greg Garcia for out number one. J.T. Realmuto, still hanging around the Marlins for some reason, batted second opposite Cards right-handed starter John Flaherty, then struck out swinging at a 2-2 pitch out of the zone. Castro followed that by grounding to Patrick Wisdom at third base, who tossed it easily to Luke Voit, starting at first for St. Louis to keep Miami scoreless.

Top 2

Voit, a native of St. Louis, led off the second inning for the Cardinals by calmly barking a 1-2 curveball to right field for a base hit. St. Louis left fielder Tyler O’Neill, who whiffed 151 times in triple-A ball last season, waved over a tricky looking slider on a 2-2 pitch for the first out, and Peters’ second whiff. Garcia lined a 3-1 offering over Castro’s head into right center field for the Cards’ third hit of the ballgame. The single moved Voit over to third base, and there were runners on the corners and one out for Peters. Wisdom then grounded into a Castro-to-Miguel Rojas-to-Campbell double play to end the threat. It would be the last of Peters, who ended the night with a scoreless line and three strikeouts over two innings.

Bottom 2

Justin Bour led off the second inning for the Marlins by getting caught flatfooted on a 2-2 fastball from Flaherty. Campbell grounded to Garcia at short on the very next pitch for out #2, and Dietrich grounded out to Wong at second base for a very quick 1-2-3 inning. Flaherty retired at that point with a perfect line for the game, along with two strikeouts.

Top 3

Odrisamer Despagne took the hill to start the third inning for the fish against center fielder Oscar Mercado, then free-passed him on five pitches to give the Cardinals their third leadoff man in a row first base. Wong’s second trip to the plate would see him slap a 2-1 pitch to first baseman Campbell, who slung it over to Rojas covering second for the force-play. Bader struck out on a check-swing at Despagne’s 1-2 pitch, then Molina smacked a hard grounder to the left side, where hot corner Brian Anderson fielded it cleanly and tossed it to Campbell for the third out.

Bottom 3

John Gant, who has a career 4.81 ERA in 67 major league innings between the Braves and the Cards, drew Lewis Brinson, who was making his first plate appearance for the Marlins. Brinson hit an 0-1 pitch to Bader for the first out. Anderson then got a look, and chopped a 2-2 pitch to Wong for another easy out. Rojas struck out check-swinging at a pitch out of the zone to end the third, and the Cardinals were still tossing a combined perfect game. Fortunately, that wouldn’t last forever.

Top 4

Ozuna led off the fourth inning, not for the Marlins, and struck out swinging on Despagne’s 1-2 offering, then Voit drew a five-pitch walk. O’Neill sharply rapped the next pitch into left field, where the ball one-hopped before getting to Dietrich. The Cardinals again had a pair of baserunners and only one out. Realmuto missed a pitch for a passed ball on a 2-2 count, to Garcia, which allowed Voit and O’Neill to each advance a base. Then Garcia knocked in Voit on a grounder to Campbell, who stepped on the bag for the second out. Wisdom drilled the next pitch into center, and we got to see Brinson lay out for a shoestring catch to retire the side. Despagne closed the game with an unearned run to his credit, but was on the hook for the decision if the game ended at 1-0. It did not.

Bottom 4

Sierra’s second at bat of the night would see him work the count full before waving at a low fastball for the Cardinals’ 10th consecutive outs to start the contest. Realmuto put a stop to all that with an 0-1 single to right-center. Castro followed by slicing an 0-1 pitch to right field to put runners on first and second with one out, and was replaced on the basepaths by Isan Diaz. Bour crushed the ball to right, but right fielder Mercado (who along with left fielder O’Neill were the only players to remain in the game for all nine innings) tracked it down on the warning track for the second out. Realmuto moved to third on the play. Campbell hit the next pitch to Wilfredo Tovar, who was in at second for Wong. Tovar flipped it easily to Garcia for out number 3.

Top 5

Elieser Hernandez, a rule 5 pick from the Houston Astros, started the fifth inning for Miami amongst other wholesale changes in the field. Scott Van Slyke moved into right, Bryan Holaday took over behind the plate, Diaz remained to replace Castro, and Jonathan Rodriguez assumed first base. Hernandez first faced Mercado, who hit a looping base hit to short right-center field. Tovar then came up, and moved Mercado to second with a base-hit to right field. Then, Bader, who had struck out in two prior at bats, struck out a third time, staring flatfooted at a Hernandez changeup over the outside corner. Francisco Pena, son of the famous Tony and a Cardinals catcher like his dad, drilled it up the middle for an apparent RBI base-hit off of a diving Rojas’ glove. Ozuna followed up with a long sacrifice fly RBI to left field to make it 3-0, bad guys, then Voit hit his second single of the night to move to move Pena to second. O’Neill’s third plate appearance resulted in a pop-fly-out to Rojas to close the inning. The damage however, as they say, was done. St. Louis led by a 3-0 count going into the bottom of the fifth.

Bottom 5

Dietrich led off the fifth against right-hander Josh Lucas, and struck out swinging at a third strike that popped out of Pena’s glove, but was easily thrown out trying to reach first. Brinson followed that with his first hit of the spring, a double off the left field wall. Anderson’s final plate appearance of the game would result in Brinson moving to third on a 4-3 groundout to Tovar. Rojas closed out Lucas’ appearance with a weak fly ball to center field.

Top 6

Hernandez remained in the contest to pitch the sixth inning for the Marlins, and was joined by defensive replacements J.B. Shuck in left, Isaac Galloway in center, Cristhian Adames at third, and Yadiel Rivera at shortstop. Garcia promptly flew out to Galloway in center field to open things, followed by a Wisdom full count strikeout. Mercado smacked a full count line drive near Rivera, but the shortstop couldn’t come up with it. With the runner at first, Tovar ended the inning by striking out swinging at a 1-2 pitch low in the zone.

Bottom 6

22-year-old right-hander Conner Greene came on to pitch the sixth for the Redbirds, and was welcomed by Pirates legacy and late of the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Scott Van Slyke. The heavily bearded Van Slyke drove a 2-2 Greene pitch well over the wall in left field to finally get the Marlins on the board, though down by two. Holaday followed him by whiffing on a 1-2 fastball, then Diaz went down in a nearly identical at bat. The Marlins’ Johnny Giavotella pinch hit for Bour, and grounded out sharply to second, where Tovar tossed over to new first baseman Rangel Ravelo. Giavotella remained in the lineup at the DH position.

Top 7

Alex Wimmers took to the mound to pitch for Miami in the seventh, and walked Adolis Garcia on six pitches to lead things off. Pena drilled a 1-2 grounder to third baseman Adames, who fielded it cleanly and pivoted nicely toward the second baseman, but threw the ball too low and everyone was safe. Andrew Knizner pinch hit for Ozuna, and Wimmers uncorked an 0-2 wild pitch, well outside, which advanced the runners to second and third, respectively. Knizner flew out to J.B. Shuck in deep left a batter later to bring Garcia home, but Shuck wisely threw the ball to Adames, who tagged out the slower Pena trying to advance. It scored as an RBI-sacrifice fly double play for Knizner, then Wimmers redeemed himself somewhat by striking out Ravelo on a 1-2 slider low.

Bottom 7

Left-hander Jordan Schafer opened the second by serving up an 0-1 ground-rule-double to Rodriguez, to left-center field. Shuck then hit a dribbler to the right side to Tovar to move Rodriguez to third, but Tovar couldn’t make the throw in time. With runners on the corners, Galloway lined out to shortstop Yairo Munoz on his first pitch for the first out, then Adames did his part to load the bases by drawing a four pitch walk. In the next at bat, in his only plate appearance of the ballgame, Rivera laced a 3-1 pitch up the middle to move everyone up a base and score Schafer. Mike Maddux took this opportunity to visit his pitcher, and in hindsight, they probably should have lifted him at that time. I’m glad they didn’t. Van Slyke tattooed his second moonshot of the game on a 3-2 count to give the Marlins four runs and a 6-4 lead all in one swing. Ryan Sherriff was brought in to complete the inning, and induced groundouts from Ravelo and Diaz to end the damage.

Top 8

Drew Rucinski started for the Marlins in the eighth and struck out O’Neill on three pitches. Munoz followed with a two-bag gapper between the center and right fielder on his first pitch of the at bat, then Alex Mejia, in at third base for Patrick Wisdom, struck out swinging at a high 2-2 fastball. Mercado chopped to Rivera to close the inning with no harm to the Marlins.

Bottom 8

Jordan Hicks pitched the eighth for the Birds, and began by inducing a 1-2 Giavotella groundout to shortstop Munoz, who tossed it to Ravelo for the first out. In his second plate appearance, Rodriguez whiffed on a low Hicks fastball. Shuck singled on a curveball on the outer half of the plate to keep the inning alive with two out, but Galloway (the longest tenured player in Miami’s organization) struck out on four pitches.

Top 9

Javy Guerra came on for the Marlins to try and nail down a three-out save in the ninth. Tovar hit a 2-2 blooper over the right side of the infield, where new addition Diaz took his eye off the ball and allowed the leadoff runner on. Guerra got Garcia to hit a 1-2 comebacker for an easy 1-3 groundout, moving Tovar to second. Breyvic Valera pinch hit for catcher Pena, and drew a walk to put the go-ahead run at the plate, then Knizner drew another one to load the bases. Guerra induced Ravelo into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play, redeeming Diaz’ earlier error.

Tomorrow, the Marlins get another 1:05 PM showtime, hosting the Washington Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium.

Back tightness delays Carpenter's spring debut for Cards

Back tightness delays Carpenter's spring debut for Cards

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Cardinals manager Mike Matheny isn’t sure when first baseman Matt Carpenter will make his Grapefruit League debut.

Carpenter is battling back tightness. For the time being, he is in the hands of the Cardinals’ medical staff, who will determine when Carpenter can return to the field.

“When they are in their hands, we’re following their lead,” Matheny said. “They’ll tell us.”

A three-time All-Star, the 32-year-old Carpenter missed much of last spring with back and oblique soreness.

Matheny believes Carpenter’s recent preseason injury issues can be attributed to his tenacious spring regimen.

“This is like Disney World for a baseball rat — spring training,” Matheny said, “You come down, you can work all you want, the sun is shining, you use these beautiful facilities, you’ve got every single coach and every trainer at your disposal.”

The injury will at least force Carpenter to get some rest that Matheny said might help stave off fatigue later in the season.

“This could be one of those blessings in disguise,” Matheny said.

A career .277 hitter, Carpenter experienced a dip last year when he hit .241 with 23 homers and 69 RBIs. He is expected to bat third in St. Louis’ lineup.

At the moment, he isn’t participating in baseball activities such as swinging a bat or fielding ground balls.

“We want to get him right,” Matheny said. “We want to get him healthy, then we can figure out how to get his timing right.”

Jose Martinez, who hit .309 with 14 homers in 2017, would likely man first should Carpenter’s injury linger longer than expected.

Luke Voit started at first base for the Cardinals in their 6-4 Grapefruit League opening day loss against Miami on Friday.

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Cards' loss in exhibition opener has St. Louis flavor to it

Cards' loss in exhibition opener has St. Louis flavor to it

JUPITER, Fla. • Outfielder Oscar Mercado, in his first start wearing a Cardinals uniform, singled twice, scored a run and made a strong, over-the-shoulder catch in right field Friday. But the Cardinals lost their exhibition baseball opener to the Miami Marlins 6-4.

The Marlins’ win had a decided St. Louis flavor as John Burroughs product Scott Van Slyke, son of Cardinals and Pittsburgh outfielder Andy Van Slyke, smacked two home runs, including a grand slam, and drove in five runs. Van Slyke, a non-roster player, hit his four-run homer off lefthander Jordan Schafer in a five-run Marlins seventh.

• BOX SCORE: Marlins 6, Cardinals 4

The 23-year-old Mercado, a former shortstop who is in his first big-league spring training camp, reached base three times, also drawing a walk. His first single sparked a two-run fifth inning. Last year, the Tampa, Fla., native hit .287 with 14 homers and 38 steals at Class AA Springfield.

“Great defensive play. Good at-bats,” said manager Mike Matheny.

“We’ve heard a lot about him. He’s been very highly talked about by the staff through the development system.  He goes back and makes a play like that, with only a year under his belt in the outfield.

“It looked like he knew what he was doing at the plate. A good day.”

Righthander Jack Flaherty, 22, impressively set down the Marlins in order for his two innings, striking out two of the Marlins’ few veterans, J.T. Realmuto and Justin Bour, needing only 21 pitches for six outs.

As opposed to last year, Matheny thought Flaherty, 22, had more movement on his fastball than in 2017

“I thought the stuff he brought was better than we saw last year,” said Matheny.  “Great location. Good rhythm. I don’t remember (the fastball) moving that much either.”

Flaherty said, “It kind of popped up in the off-season. Maybe (putting) a little more pressure on a finger.”

Former Marlin Marcell Ozuna had three plate appearances for the Cardinals, driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Carlos Martinez will face the New York Mets on Saturday in Port St. Lucie, Fla.


Our earlier story: 

JUPITER, Fla. • Former Miami Marlins star Marcell Ozuna is playing, sort of, against his former teammates as the Cardinals open their exhibition baseball season Friday here against the Marlins.

Ozuna, the centerpiece of a December trade, will serve as the designated hitter, hit fourth and probably get no more than two at-bats in the game.

Young outfielder Magneuris Sierra, traded to the Marlins by the Cardinals, will lead off and play right field for Miami.

Jack Flaherty will start for the Cardinals against a lineup that has only two players who were regulars for the gutted Marlins from last year — catcher J.T. Realmuto and Justin Bour, who will be the designated hitter.

The Cardinals will feature regulars Kolten Wong and Yadier Molina, who like Ozuna, may get only two at-bats, manager Mike Matheny said. The Cardinals will have a young starting outfield in Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Oscar Mercado, from left to right.

“These guys are going to get a lot of at-bats,” Matheny said.

Righthander John Gant will follow Flaherty, who was winless in two decisions last year after going a combined 14-4 at Class AA Springfield and AAA Memphis.

“(Flaherty) has got a maturity to him,” said Matheny. “He’s shown everything we need, stuff-wise and the way he goes about his business, he’s a little bit more mature than his years (Flaherty is 22).”

Hard-throwing prospect Jordan Hicks, 21 figures to pitch in the late innings for the Cardinals.

Watch here for a collection of our Spring Training videos each day.

The Cardinals and Marlins wore Stoneman Douglas High hats to honor the Parkland, Fla., school where 17 students and faculty were shot to death last week. 

HOMETOWNER MIKOLAS PITCHES SUNDAY

Jupiter native Miles Mikolas will pitch in his hometown on Sunday when he faces the World Series champion Houston Astros in the Cardinals’ first home exhibition game. They are the visitors on Friday against Miami.

Mikolas, who went to high school and still lives here, has returned from Japan after going 31-13 in three seasons, signing a $15.5 million, two-year contract with the Cardinals. Matheny said that Luke Weaver and Michael Wacha would pitch in Fort Myers Monday and Tuesday in the first two games of a three-game trip to Florida’s West Coast.

Matheny said veteran Adam Wainwright’s first start of the spring won’t be for a week or so. “He’s getting his work here like everybody else. There’s nothing to be concerned about, except making sure the timing’s right,” Matheny said.

“The pitching coach (Mike Maddux) is doing a great job of putting together a plan and giving the reasons ‘why’ to the guys.”

CARPENTER, CECIL STILL OUT

First baseman Matt Carpenter and lefthander Brett Cecil still aren’t taking part in drills. Carpenter is spending much of his time in the training room tending to a balky back and Cecil, who missed 2 ½ weeks of off-season training because of a family illness matter, is a few days away from his first throwing session on the side.

Matheny noted that Carpenter, who was in camp well ahead of most of the position players, probably “overdid” his regimen. “This is like Disneyworld for a baseball rat,” said Matheny.

“You come down and work all you want. The sunshine, you have these beautiful facilities, you have every single coach and every trainer at your disposal. He comes down here and he’s usually overloading, doing too much.”

CARDINALS LINEUP

1. Kolten Wong 2b

2. Harrison Bader cf

3. Yadier Molina c

4. Marcell Ozuna DH

5. Luke Voit 1b

6. Tyler O’Neill lf

7. Greg Garcia ss

8. Patrick Wisdom 3b

9. Oscar Mercado rf

RHP Jack Flaherty p

MIAMI LINEUP

1. Magneuris Sierra rf

2. J.T. Realmuto c

3. Starlin Castro 2b

4. Justin Bour dh

5. Eric Campbell 1b

6. Derek Dietrich lf

7. Lewis Brinson cf

8. Brian Anderson 3b

9. Miguel Rojas ss

LHP Dillon Peters p

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