Marlins 8, Cardinals 3
The Cardinals dropped the first game of a Grapefruit League season in which results are basically inconsequential. The bigger deal is that there was actually a baseball game played, making that the latest sign that the regular season is in the not-too-distant future.
Michael Wacha, with his 21-pitch (19-strike) two-inning appearance, upstaged Trevor Rosenthal on this day. I highlighted the outings of both pitchers in today’s cardinals.com notebook, so go there for the analysis. I’m not going to rehash it here.
I will, however, use this opportunity to remind everyone to look at Spring Training results with the understanding that they are often not a great reflection of how a player is poised to fare during the regular season. I don’t mention this to minimize Rosenthal’s tough outing — he did struggle with his tempo and tried to over-throw at times — but rather to keep anyone from assuming that Rosenthal pitched himself into third position in the race for a rotation spot after one outing.
David Freese had a pair of Cardinals’ firsts this spring. He delivered the team’s first homer, a wind-aided blast to left field in the second. An inning later, he was charged with the team’s first fielding error. It led to an unearned run.
Pete Kozma (SS) and Matt Adams (1B) were the only two players in the starting lineup to play a full game. With Allen Craig nursing an achy right shoulder, Adams earned a start and went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Kozma should see a decent amount of playing time at short with Rafael Furcal unable to play defense indefinitely.
Both Kozma and Adams seem to be on the outside looking in given the Cardinals’ current roster composition, though injuries can obviously change that in an instant.
Marc Rzepczynski took plenty of ribbing from his teammates after his ungraceful fall while fielding a ball from the back of mound in the sixth inning. The episode happened on Rzepczynski’s first pitch of spring, to which he later joked, ‘Only me.’
After his knee buckled, Rzepczynski was checked on by manager Mike Matheny and a trainer. He threw one practice pitch, reaffirmed that he was OK and finished off the inning.
“It looks scary,” Matheny said after the game. “Any time you jam your knee, there are a whole lot of things that can be affected by it.”
The Marlins weren’t so lucky on the injury front, losing catcher Jeff Mathis for six weeks due to a fractured collarbone that Mathis sustained on a foul tip. He left the game in the bottom of the third inning after going 1-for-2 with an RBI.
“That’s a shame,” said Matheny, plenty familiar with the risks of the position. “It looked like it got him good, but it’s hard to believe a broken collarbone on a foul ball. Everybody thinks catchers are back there suited in armor. It’s protects your heart and protects your face, but there’s not that much to it.”
On the relief side, Eduardo Sanchez had an efficient and clean first appearance. Randy Choate allowed a home run — but to a right-handed hitter. Keep in mind that it will be especially misleading reading Choate’s stats this spring. The Cardinals intend to use him as a left-on-left specialist during the regular season, but the need to get him work during spring doesn’t necessarily allow for the Cardinals to ensure that his Grapefruit League appearances come against left-handed hitters.
On Saturday, Choate faced two lefties. He retired one on a groundout and walked the other.
The Cardinals have their first home game on Sunday, and the following pitchers are scheduled to make an appearance: John Gast, Tyler Lyons, Edward Mujica, Fernando Salas, Sam Freeman, Michael Blazek and Eric Fornataro.
Matheny hinted that Ty Wigginton will get the start at first base. Furcal may get an at-bat against Red Sox’ lefty starter Jon Lester, against whom Furcal would swing from the right side. He is currently not taking swings from left-handed due to elbow pain.
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