The Cards crush the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium 9-0 for their 11th win of spring. They’re now 11-6-1 in Grapefruit League play. Here are the highlights from the game and the day overall:
Jaime Garcia was on fire. He struck out 9 batters in his 5 shutout innings and didn’t walk anyone. It was as impressive of a performance as I’ve seen from him in a long time. Now, it is worth noting that Garcia’s spring training last year was atrocious and he turned out to have a pretty good year. He also had a fantastic spring the year before that (in large part because he had to win a job) and carried that over to the regular season. He’s been pretty good again this year for the most part, except for one start, and it culminated in a terrific effort today. You just don’t see Garcia strike out nine guys like that very often. What does this mean for him? Well, like I said, it’s hard to tell. He is clearly very capable of flipping on a switch after spring training and becoming a different pitcher in the regular season. The key for Garcia this year, I believe, is how many innings he throws. He’s shown an ability to get outs. That’s not a problem at all. The thing with him is...going 5 or 6 innings and giving up 1 or 2 runs is nice. But that taxes the bullpen. Tony La Russa always said he’d rather have someone go 5 shutout innings than 8 frames giving up 5 runs or so. But if you consistently go 5 or 6 you’re putting a huge strain on the ‘pen. So while he’s already shown an ability to be a nice pitcher. The next step for him is to go 7 innings consistently while holding opponents to just a couple runs. That would make him elite.
Matt Carpenter, Shane Robinson and Tony Cruz combine for 8 hits today. That’s more than half of the Cardinals’ hits today (14 total). Carpenter went 3-3, Cruz 3-3 and Robinson 2-3. All 3 are squarely in contention for roster spots on this club. Especially with Skip Schumaker going down for a few weeks it opens up a spot. But then again Allen Craig (more on him in a moment) is on the way back. I like Cruz as the backup catcher because he offers you something you haven’t had in that position in a long time. Timely hitting. He could be a very good pinch hitter late in a game and help you win. Bryan Anderson is okay, so is Koyie Hill. But Cruz really showed an ability last year to take a tough at-bat. Plus, Cruz can also play 1st and 3rd base. As for Carpenter, the Cards are trying to find out how well he can play the corner outfield spots. He obviously is a good 3rd baseman. But is he versatile enough to man LF and RF in a pinch if they need him to. And Shane Robinson is right there as well. It’s going to be a very interesting last couple weeks here in Jupiter before the Cards break camp and go north.
The enigma of Tyler Greene continues. One minute he fails to cover 1st base on a bunt play where Tony Cruz charges and covers the ball. When Cruz turned to throw to 1st...no one was there. But a few innings later Greene hits an absolute bomb to left field that may have cleared the Marlins clubhouse. It’s the same thing with him every year. He makes a bonehead play followed by a superman play. And it creates just enough intrigue for the club to keep him around because it hopes it can get that greatness out of him consistently. All we know is that Greene has been a tremendous player in AAA but that just has not translated into success in St. Louis. 2012 just might be Greene’s last chance with the Cardinals. He’s out of options and can’t go back to the minors unless clearing waivers first. There’s no Tony La Russa to blame for being nervous. It’s now or never for the former first round pick out of Georgia Tech.
Allen Craig had a big day as far as his rehab goes in getting back to the team. He played in a minor league game and hit a home run while also doing some outfield drills on the side. I talked to Craig afterwards and he said it felt good to get out there but won’t know how it went really until he sees how his knee responds tomorrow. That can be a big test for him. Mike Matheny did say this morning that he’s more optimistic about Craig playing Opening Day than he was before. That doesn’t mean he’ll be ready...they’re just more hopeful now.
Another injury note: No news on Chris Carpenter. He went through his 3rd day of tests today and they’re still waiting to see what’s going on in his neck. Mike Matheny said he hopes they have more information tomorrow.