For the first time this spring, Adam Wainwright took the mound Saturday. You couldn’t tell.
I mean, you could tell he pitched, obviously. It’s tough to overlook the tall righthander when he’s on the mound. No, you couldn’t tell that he hadn’t been out there working to opposing hitters. You couldn’t tell that he’d been sidelined with an abdominal injury. You couldn’t tell anything was going to be different this year. And you couldn’t tell that he listened to his manager, springing off the mound at balls when Mike Matheny is yelling at him to take it easy.
“As soon as he jumped off the mound I was yelling at him to stop. But that’s like harnessing the wind,” Matheny said. It’s true, we’ve often felt that Uncle Charlie was a force of nature. That also is an issue that the Cards have to deal with, because Wainwright might be all for slowing his roll this year, pitching fewer innings, not going as deep into games if he doesn’t have to, but once that game has started, Matheny may have to hold him down in the dugout to make sure he doesn’t race back out to the mound.
Anyway, it was good to have him back out there and it seems like there will be little reason to think he’ll miss that Opening Day start in Chicago (now just 13 days away!) With him and John Lackey back in the rotation, it becomes more difficult to find innings for those competing for the fifth starter spot. Carlos Martinez pitched in relief of Wainwright and threw three hitless innings, while Marco Gonzales backed up Lackey and threw two scoreless. Jaime Garcia will throw a simulated game against some minor leaguers on Tuesday, the last day off of the spring.
It would seem that there is an advantage to finalizing that spot soon. You could send out Gonzales to the minor league camp and let him get into the starting rotation over there, which would help alleviate the crunch. I’d kind of expect to see that soon, honestly. While Gonzales has definitely done enough in the spring to earn the fifth starter role, the other two have tiebreakers that he just can’t surpass. He could use some experience at Memphis and be ready for an opening.
That said, would he get the first opening? It would seem that, even if Garcia gets the spot like I expect he would, if he went down, they’d just shift Martinez into the rotation. I guess it depends on how long a replacement would be needed, as just one missed start wouldn’t be worth moving Martinez around. Still, there’s a path for Carlos to stay in the bullpen most of the year and that’s not necessarily a path the Cards probably want to go down. As Bernie Miklasz notes, not only is he a bit wasted as a reliever, his trade value would probably drop as well. Not that the Cards are looking to move him, but you’d like to keep that option if necessary.
Randal Grichuk hit his fourth home run of the spring yesterday, helping the Cardinals rally to take down the Orioles. I don’t know that usually four home runs in Florida would be particularly noteworthy, but when the rest of the team only has nine, it stands out. For a while there, it was a question about him or Tommy Pham, but Pham still hasn’t returned from that injury that was supposed to be just a day or two he incurred a week ago Friday. Even if he got back now (which, honestly, I’ve not heard any rumblings about), the starters are going to start seeing a lot more time over the next two weeks. He’d have little chance to make a case for going north.
Grichuk, however, seems to have solidified his standing as a power-hitting option off the bench. He and Peter Bourjos will likely be the backup outfielders and hopefully the infrequent use won’t deter him too much. You could argue that he should go to Memphis and keep developing, but he hit 23 doubles and 25 homers in AAA last year, so you wonder if there’s much left for him to learn down there. I’ve never thought the Cardinals expected a high ceiling from Grichuk or that he was going to be some sort of core player, so I don’t know if they are as worried about him developing when he can play a role right now helping the team win.
Let’s take another look at the Cardinal Approval Ratings, shall we? Today’s player is Matt Holliday. Holliday’s always enjoyed a fair measure of support among the fan base, consistently marking in the 80s or above. This year is no different, as he comes in with an 83.1% mark. That’s actually his lowest mark in six years, though probably skewed by those couple of negative-on-everyone folks and a smaller sample.
For our press guy, we look at FOX color guy (and occasional play-by-play) Ricky Horton. Horton seems like a wonderful person and would probably be an interesting guy to chat with one-on-one, but his television work has never been rated all that highly by this survey. This year, he checks in with a 65.8% tally, which is right in line with the last five years. It’s a tick up from last year and is actually his highest since 2011, but that’s pretty much all due to sample size.
We wrap today’s examination with owner Bill DeWitt. The complaints about ownership aren’t silent, but they are much more muffled than they were ten-to-fifteen years ago. This year, he gets an 84.6% mark, which is down from the 90% he got last year, but again, there doesn’t seem to be one thing to point to there for that drop other than the makeup of the voting pool. Perhaps some were aggravated the Cards didn’t bring in one of those big free-agent pitchers, but I think most fans knew it was smart to pass there.
Pepper continues today with the Philadelphia Phillies, so be sure to check that out!