Weaver to start first spring game, Schafer continues to intrigue - KMOV.com

Weaver to start first spring game, Schafer continues to intrigue on the mound

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JUPITER, Fl. (KMOV.com) -- The pitching has begun in earnest at the Cardinals’ Florida complex as the first spring game draws near.

St. Louis opens exhibition play Saturday against the Marlins and Wednesday, Mike Matheny announced who will be on the mound in Cardinal red.

Luke Weaver, who ascended from Double-A to make eight starts for the Cardinals in 2016, will get the nod. Weaver started his run in the majors admirably, but seemed to run out of gas as the season reached September’s end. Still, he held opposing lineups to three earned runs or less in each of his first six outings, and the organization hopes a strong spring sets Weaver up as insurance for a rotation that just lost Alex Reyes and has two members coming off significant injuries.

Following Weaver will be John Gant, acquired as part of the Jaime Garcia trade with Atlanta, and high-end lefty prospect Austin Gomber.

Seung Hwan Oh is also penciled in for an appearance late, and will join the Korean national team afterward.

Doing it live

As the work for pitchers intensifies, hitters are getting extended looks at them. Wednesday, starters scheduled to throw worked for two “innings” against pairs of hitters. With the BP catchers calling balls and strikes and coaches determining whether balls in play were outs or hits, starters worked their repertoires out over six outs.

Relievers followed with a pitch count (somewhere around 20-25).

One of the more intriguing throwers Wednesday was 30-year-old Jordan Schafer. After spending his career as an outfielder, the lefty converted to a pitcher in 2016 while in the Dodgers organization.

When he showed up and threw in Jupiter, he surprised observers with the quality and reliability of his pitches. Wednesday he worked against Yadier Molina and Dexter Fowler (batting from the right side). For much of his session, his breaking ball was a thing of beauty. With hitters still warming up to full speed, Schafer caused a few knee buckles and a handful of hiccuped swings. He hopes to make the team as a two-way threat, perhaps as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen who provides outfield insurance to boot.

Paddle prowess

Wednesday’s work was shifted up one hour to avoid impending rain, which meant all scheduled activities wrapped up by 10:30. That left plenty of morning to kill, and John Gant used his free time to show off in another sport.

The newcomer showcased considerable skills on the ping pong table, unleashing Olympic-level serves and finishes on Sam Tuivailala. Tuivailala performed admirably, but there was little anyone could have done to combat Gant’s serves; launched from eight feet beyond the end of the table, slicing over the net at Mach 3 and with enough english to open a jar of spaghetti sauce. If your ping pong fantasy team has a spot available, he’s worth a waiver claim.

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