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April 5: Cardinals (2-2) @ Pirates (3-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-0405141557.jpgAfter dropping the first game of this three-game series, things aren’t getting any easier for the Cardinals on Saturday. They’ll be facing Francisco Liriano, who is 9-1 with a 1.45 ERA in 14 career starts at PNC Park. Against the Cardinals, he’s even better. St. Louis faced him three times during the regular season in 2013 and lost all three games while being held to two earned runs in 24 innings.

In the NL Division Series, Liriano gave up two runs in six innings while leading the Pirates to a Game 3 win. His opponent on the mound that night? Joe Kelly, who will also be his opponent tonight.

Kelly will be making his season debut Saturday after winning the job as the team’s fifth starter in spring.

Click here to read the full game preview.

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April 4: Cardinals (2-1) @ Pirates (2-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-0404141546a.jpgThe Cardinals are back in Pittsburgh, where the tarp is on the field but the forecast is nevertheless promising for this evening. That’s welcome news for everyone after sitting through six hours and 22 minutes of rain delays over the past two days.

You never want to overplay the significance of a three-game series in April, but this is certainly an intriguing one. The Pirates were the final team the Cardinals had to hold off to win the NL Central last season, and they then met them again in what turned out to be a tremendous five-game NL Division Series. Manager Mike Matheny later called the Cardinals’ October games in Pittsburgh as some of the best baseball atmospheres he has ever experienced.

Only early bragging rights are on the line this weekend. Both clubs won their opening series, with the Pirates beating the Cubs on walk-off hits both times. The Cardinals won two games by a one-run margin, too.

You can read the full game preview here; it also includes comments from tonight’s starter Shelby Miller about his readiness for a fresh start against the Pirates. He went winless in four outings against Pittsburgh last season.

UPDATE (5:35 pm CT): The game will not start on time, as rain is expected to hit Pittsburgh around the time of the scheduled first pitch. The start will likely be delayed by about an hour.

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April 3: Cardinals (1-1) @ Reds (1-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-0403141021.jpgThe Reds have already announced that today’s game will not start as scheduled at 12:35 pm ET. The city has been soaked by rain all morning — and even though the rain has temporarily subsided, more storms are headed this way. We have been told to expect another update around 12:30. The gates to Great American Ball Park have opened, an indication that the Reds think there is at least a chance this game will be played.

The Cardinals are headed to Pittsburgh after today’s game, but manager Mike Matheny said he doesn’t have any issue waiting out a lengthy delay if it means getting the game in. “We’re not baseball weary,” he said, noting that the team has played just twice over the last week.

If the game is played, Jon Jay will make his season debut. With right-hander Homer Bailey on the mound, Kolten Wong moves back into the second spot in the order.

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April 2: Cardinals (1-0) @ Reds (0-1)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-0402141456.jpgThis is the fifth day that Cardinals have been in Cincinnati and the team is preparing for its second game. It’s been quite the change of pace for a group of players that had games almost daily for the last month. Add in the washed out exhibition game last Friday and the Cardinals have played just once since wrapping up Grapefruit League play on Thursday.

Weather permitting, that will soon change. Tonight kicks off a string of seven games in seven days for St. Louis. It’s also the first night game of 2014 for the Cardinals, the only Major League club not to play a night game during Spring Training.

Michael Wacha makes his 2014 season debut tonight amid questions about what his encore will be following a sensational close to 2013. He’ll be opposed by left-hander Tony Cingrani, who beat the Cardinals twice last season.

The Cardinals’ lineup has changed as a result of facing a lefty. Jhonny Peralta moves into the No. 2 hole, and Kolten Wong drops to bat eighth. Manager Mike Matheny has split up his left-handed hitters in the bottom half of the lineup.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast this evening. The skies are ominous, and the tarp has already been rolled out to cover the Great American Ball Park infield. The forecasts for tomorrow are not favorable, either, so we’ll see if these two teams can find a way to sneak in some baseball amid thunderstorms.

UPDATE (5:40 pm CT): The Reds announced that tonight’s game is not expected to begin before 7:30 pm CT. That is, if it begins at all. Will keep you updated on any developments via my twitter account.

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Minor League rosters set

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Cardinals have set rosters for their top four Minor League affiliates, each of which begins its season on Thursday. Here are those rosters (players ranked as top 20 prospects by MLB.com are italicized):

TRIPLE-A MEMPHIS

  • Pitchers (13): David Aardsma, Jose Almarante, Angel Castro, Tim Cooney, Eric Fornataro, Sam Freeman, Nick Greenwood, Tyler Lyons, Scott McGregor, Jorge Rondon, Lee Stoppelman, Boone Whiting, Heath Wyatt
  • Catchers (2): Ed Easley, Audry Perez
  • Infielders (5): Jermaine Curtis, Greg Garcia, Luis Mateo, Scott Moore, Xavier Scruggs
  • Outfielders (5): Joey Butler, Randal Grichuk, Tommy Pham, Stephen Piscotty, Oscar Taveras

DOUBLE-A SPRINGFIELD

  • Pitchers (13): Logan Billbrough, Seth Blair, Jonathan Cornelius, Joey Donofrio, Anthony Ferrara, Sam Gaviglio, Kurt Heyer, Dean Kiekhefer, Danny Miranda, Zach Petrick, Ronnie Shaban, Ryan Sherriff, Justin Wright
  • Catchers (3): Jonathan Keener, Cody Stanley, Travis Tartamella
  • Infielders (6): Aledmys Diaz, Greg Miclat, Jonathan Rodriguez, Curt Smith, Matt Williams, Patrick Wisdom
  • Outfielders (4): Mike O’Neill, Rafael Ortega, David Popkins, James Ramsey

HIGH-A PALM BEACH

  • Pitchers (13): Corey Baker, Joe Cuda, Marco Gonzales, Kyle Hald, Kyle Helisek, Cory Jones, Thomas Lee, Dixon Llorens, Aidan Lucas, Michael Mayers, Iden Nazario, Robert Stock, Sam Tuivailala
  • Catchers (2): Jesus Montero, Casey Rasmus
  • Infielders (5): Alex Mejia, Breyvic Valera, Ildemaro Vargas, David Washington, Jacob Wilson
  • Outfielders (5): Anthony Garcia, Nick Martini, Steven Ramos, Starlin Rodriguez, Charlie Tilson
  • Disabled List (3): Tyrell Jenkins, Adam Ehrlich, Danny Stienstra

LOW-A PEORIA

  • Pitchers (13): Kyle Barraclough, Chase Brookshire, Silfredo Garcia, Kevin Herget, Zach Loraine, Blake McKnight, Chris Perry, Nick Petree, Jimmy Reed, Alex Reyes, Arturo Reyes, Joseph Scanio, Christopher Thomas
  • Catchers (3): Steven Bean, Carson Kelly, Gerwuins Velazco
  • Infielders (4): Juan Herrera, Mason Katz, Jake Stone, Cesar Valera
  • Outfielders (5): Jimmy Bosco, Ronald Castillo, C.J. McElroy, Kenneth Peoples-Walls, Matthew Young

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March 31: Cardinals (0-0) @ Reds (0-0)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-0331141125.jpgThe 95th Findlay Market Parade has begun on the streets of downtown Cincinnati, putting us less than four hours away from the first pitch of the Cardinals’ 2014 season.

It’s a beautiful day, too, with temperatures expected to peak around 67 degrees later this afternoon.

This is the 17th Opening Day meeting between the Cardinals and Reds, the first since 2010 when Chris Carpenter earned the win in a 11-6 victory. Both teams have won eight of the previous Opening Day meetings.

The Cardinals’ Opening Day lineup features no surprises. After hitting .375 during Spring Training, Kolten Wong opens the season hitting behind Matt Carpenter. That No. 2 spot will likely remain fluid, with manager Mike Matheny filling it based on matchups and who is hitting well at the time.

If you haven’t already read the game preview, you can do so by clicking here. And in case you missed the news yesterday, here is the Cardinals’ 25-man roster.

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Cardinals set 25-man roster

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Cardinals have set their Opening Day roster and it is as follows:

PITCHERS (12):

  • Adam Wainwright
  • Michael Wacha
  • Lance Lynn
  • Shelby Miller
  • Joe Kelly
  • Trevor Rosenthal
  • Carlos Martinez
  • Kevin Siegrist
  • Randy Choate
  • Pat Neshek
  • Seth Maness
  • Keith Butler

CATCHERS (2):

  • Yadier Molina
  • Tony Cruz

INFIELDERS (6):

  • Matt Adams
  • Kolten Wong
  • Jhonny Peralta
  • Matt Carpenter
  • Daniel Descalso
  • Pete Kozma

OUTFIELDERS (5):

  • Matt Holliday
  • Allen Craig
  • Peter Bourjos
  • Jon Jay
  • Shane Robinson

DISABLED LIST (3):

  • Mark Ellis (right knee tendonitis)
  • Jason Motte (right elbow surgery)
  • Jaime Garcia (left shoulder bursitis)

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Opening Day news and notes

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

First off, thank you for following along during my six-plus weeks in Florida. It was a relatively quiet stay for the Cardinals, who were fortunate to avoid serious injury and had very few decisions to make. The final one was made last night when Keith Butler was named to the Opening Day roster, thereby ending a four-man competition for one bullpen job.

But with all of this in the rearview mirror, let’s look forward to the coverage ahead in 2014 and the events leading up to Opening Day. To begin with, a few coverage notes…

  • The main landing point for Cardinals news, features, game stories, videos, etc. will continue to be at cardinals.com throughout the 2014 season. If you only have time for one click, make this it.
  • This blog will continue to serve as a supplement to that coverage. Lineups and pregame notes will be posted here, along with breaking news.
  • If you prefer to read news on your tablet, give Flipboard a try. I have a page set up — St. Louis Cardinals on MLB.com — and you’ll get all the news on your tablet by subscribing to it.
  • I started a Facebook page at the start of spring and have received a great response to it so far. If you want Cardinals news, videos and lineups to show up in your Facebook news feed, like my page — Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com.
  • And as has been the case for a while, Twitter (@LangoschMLB) and Instagram (LangoschMLB) are also great ways to follow me along the 162-game journey.

As for the next 48 hours, here are some details that will help those of you who are attending the opener in Cincinnati or watching from your home:

  • The Cardinals are holding a workout at 2:30 pm ET on Sunday at Great American Ball Park. It will not be open to the public.
  • If you’re going to be in Cincinnati, the Reds are hosting a block party outside the ballpark beginning at 11 am ET on Monday. Admission is free. An Opening Day parade will begin at noon. Gates will open at 2:10 pm, two hours before the scheduled first pitch.
  • Fox Sports Midwest is offering more than 16 hours of Cardinals coverage on Monday, beginning with its season preview airing at 6 am CT. The station will then replay three games from 2013 (Aug. 26, Sept. 24 and Sept. 4) before a 2 pm pregame show. This will be the debut of the new Fox Sports Midwest Studio in Ballpark Village.

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Motte throws in another simulated game

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

I’ll let Jason Motte tell you what he did today as part of his rehab program:

Motte plans to play catch on Sunday, long toss on Monday and throw to hitters again — possibly in an actual game — on Tuesday. He also intends to be in St. Louis for the home opener on April 7.

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Day 43: Marlins (17-11) @ Cardinals (11-12)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-0327140908.jpgIt’s Grapefruit League finale day, an exciting arrival for all down here. The Cardinals are a win away from leaving Florida with a .500 record (not that it really matters). The club is flying to/from Memphis on Friday with an exhibition game between the two flights. Joe Kelly has already been announced as the Cardinals’ starter for that game.

As for today, Michael Wacha makes his final spring start in preparation for his 2014 debut next Wednesday in the second game of the Cardinals’ season. He faced Houston in each of his previous two outings, so at least he’ll get a new opponent in this last spring test.

Replace Wacha with Adam Wainwright and Tony Cruz with Yadier Molina and this could be your Opening Day lineup. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Kolten Wong and Jhonny Peralta swap places given the strong spring that Wong has had.

While the club prepares to depart Florida, Jason Motte and Jaime Garcia are readying for the next steps in their respective rehab programs. Motte will play catch the next two days and then plans to pitch in a Minor League game on Saturday. It will be his first actual game appearance since March 23, 2013. Motte said he intends to return to St. Louis for the home opener (April 7) and perhaps could be ready to go out on a rehab assignment after that.

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