Mets 8, Cardinals 6

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

A sloppy fourth and seventh innings, in particular, kept the Cardinals from snagging their first Grapefruit League win for manager Mike Matheny. The team is now 0-2, though who’s counting on March 6.

Some leftover news, notes and observations from the day:

Jake Westbrook followed Kyle Lohse’s lead by finishing two innings under his pitch count and not allowing a run. The start was much better than the one Westbrook had last spring, when he allowed two runs on five hits to the Mets in his Grapefruit League debut. Westbrook did walk two on Tuesday, but he also did not allow a hit with runners on base.

Westbrook’s sinker wasn’t its sharpest, but little is this early in March. He also implemented a tweaked delivery motion — which you can read more about in today’s notebook on cardinals.com — and was encouraged by the early results.

“I’m hoping that how good I feel and the things that I’ve done to have my body where it is right now, that it’s going to hopefully pay dividends throughout the year and allow me to feel good for a longer period of time,” said Westbrook, who dropped about 20 pounds this winter. “Now it’s just a matter of executing pitches so I can have that stamina and feel good and use how my body feels to stay out there a little longer. I think I’ve trained my body this year to be able to handle the long haul.”

Last spring, Westbrook labored through many of his 24 1/3 Grapefruit League innings. Efficiency can help Westbrook improve upon that this spring, and he started OK in that department. After throwing 16 pitches in the first inning, Westbrook needed 14 in the second. Half of his 30 pitches were strikes, though there were also a few borderline pitches that went against him.

***

Scott Linebrink drew an unenviable first assignment, summoned to come in with the bases loaded and two out in the third. He didn’t get out of it, either, allowing all three runners Maikel Cleto put on base to score on an Andres Torres triple.

Linebrink rebounded for an easy 1-2-3 fifth.

Cleto labored his entire time on the mound. As hard as he might be able to throw that fastball, the righty needs to complement it with command before he gets a strong look for a Major League roster spot.

***

Matheny was unable to get Fernando Salas in for his inning of work despite his scripted intentions. Once the Cardinals took a lead in the seventh, Matheny lined his relievers up so that Kyle McClellan could pitch the eighth and Salas could go in the ninth. Adam Reifer’s troublesome time in the bottom of the seventh threw a wrench in those plans and there ultimately was no bottom of the ninth to pitch.

It’s interesting that Matheny is going to look for situational opportunities for his relievers. Many managers put their more established pitchers into spring games early so that they can face more Major League hitters. Saving your in-season closer for the ninth inning of a Grapefruit League game often means he will face all Minor Leaguers. Matheny, though, believes that situations carry some weight, and he wants to get his relievers ready to come in when they would during the regular season.

***

New York’s Jordany Valdespin was the first baserunner to test Yadier Molina’s arm this spring. The decision was not a wise one. From his knees, Molina threw out Valdespin with a perfect, on-target throw to second.

“It’s a luxury,” Westbrook said afterward, speaking, obviously, of his catcher.

***

While the Cardinals endured windy conditions at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie, one thing should be clear: Matt Adams’ grand slam was not wind-aided. The first baseman crushed an elevated fastball to left-center field in the seventh. It was the second hit in as many days for Adams.

“The swing felt really good,” Adams said. “Coming in off the bench late, I just wanted to jump on the pitch early. I saw it good out of [Jeurys Familia’s] hands and put a good swing on it.”

***

Highly-touted Minor League outfielder Oscar Taveras made his Grapefruit League debut late in Tuesday’s loss. Taveras, who is ranked by MLB.com as the organization’s third-best prospect, grounded out in his only at-bat.

***

The Cardinals will not be taking their most tenured position players north to Viera on Wednesday to play the Nationals. The story is a little different on the pitching side, though. Following stud prospect Shelby Miller will be relievers Jason Motte, Marc Rzepczynski and Lance Lynn (in some order).

Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal are set to make their spring debuts on Thursday.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

1 Comment

Do any of the prospect pitchers and pitching rookies making any progress? Sounds like other than the roster of pitchers remaining from last year, we lack some promising arms with command, true or false?

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