Spring Doesn’t Count, Spring Doesn’t Count….

The title of this post is true, of course.  Spring training games count for about as much as a politician’s promise, but even so, you’d like to see your team end it on a high note, looking ready to dive into the season.

The Cardinals’ last game in Jupiter was anything but a high note.

That’s probably a bit of an overstatement.  The Cards did get up 4-1 and Michael Wacha had a very nice day, striking out six and allowing just one run.  Many of the regular starters didn’t do much in their couple of at-bats, but Matt Adams and Allen Craig both singled, Adams against the pronounced shift that he’s going to see very often this season and versus a left-handed pitcher to boot.  And even though he’s not going to St. Louis, Stephen Piscotty helped out with a double and a sacrifice fly, continuing his strong spring.  So there were good things.

However, the problem the Cardinals are trying to solve is the unformed portion of the bullpen and yesterday provided absolutely no answers to that quandary.  You have four guys looking for that last spot: Jorge Rondon, Keith Butler, Scott McGregor and the newest challenger, David Aardsma.  Three of them pitched yesterday.  The winner was probably the guy that didn’t.

Butler did OK, striking out Giancarlo Stanton as the only batter he faced.  The problem is, the Cards aren’t quite looking for another specialist and Butler’s spring has been pretty rough overall.  I know Mike Matheny was playing this somewhat like a real game and brought in Randy Choate to face the lefties coming up, but you’d think if Butler was really making a strong bid to be a long man (well, longer than one out), he’d have stayed in there.  He didn’t, which is possibly telling.

Aardsma, of course, only has one inning under his belt in Cardinal camp and while that one was scoreless, he did put some runners on.  Yesterday, the first part of that sentence went out the window.  In 1/3 of an inning, he walked two and gave up a hit.  One of those runners scored while he was in the game.  That’s not exactly the outing you want to have when you have such a limited time to make a good impression.

McGregor was likely already ticketed to Memphis, but yesterday most likely punched it.  Not only did he allow Aardsma’s two runners to score, but he chipped in a couple of his own.  2/3rds of an inning, three hits, one walk, two earned runs.  Couple that with a few of his other rough outings and it seems clear he needs some time in AAA.

We’ve talked about all the ins and outs of that last spot before, especially the fact that whomever does wind up with it only has it until Jason Motte can get back to striking out batters like he tries to strike out cancer, which should be a limited time.  St. Louis does have a matchup against Memphis tonight and I expect Rondon will get out there sometime.  If he can get through it unscathed, he might not be left behind when the plane heads out to Cincinnati.

Assuming they can play the game tonight against the Redbirds, that is.  Currently the Weather Channel says there’s a 60% of thunderstorms at 6 PM and it doesn’t get any better until well after midnight.  Given what happened a couple of years ago in Springfield, where rain forced a cancellation and there was no makeup, fans with tickets tonight need to prepare for disappointment, or at least having to wait a year to use those tickets.

No matter what happens tonight, the Florida phase of spring training is over and likely the next time we get together for one of these morning chats, we’ll be talking Heroes and Goats (which have some competition this year!) and preparing for that opener in Cincinnati, which is going to be a blast.  The season is here, folks.  Buckle up and prepare for the long haul!

Before we get to that, though, we’ve got some loose ends to wrap up today.  In about half an hour, you’ll see the Final Four of the Favorite Living Cardinal Tourament, with two matchups that will make you wince when you have to pick one or the other.  Then, at 11, it’s the final portion of the UCB prediction project, where we talk about the postseason and some various awards.  Finally, this afternoon, we’ll have a nice wrapup post dealing with the Pepper series, in case you missed any.

Enjoy the day, enjoy the weekend.  Baseball–real, games-that-count baseball–will be here soon!

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