Fowler leads offense, Weaver shows off new pitches in first spri -

Fowler leads offense, Weaver shows off new pitches in first spring training game

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JUPITER, Fl. ( -- The Cardinals opened spring play with an 8-7 loss to the Marlins Saturday, but got a firsthand look at what Dexter Fowler means for the offense.

The new center fielder opened the game by drawing a walk, then stealing second base. After he tagged on a fly ball to advance to third, he did the same to score one batter later.

Just like that, he created a run without a single hit.

He later walked and scored on Matt Carpenter’s home run, reiterating his value as a leadoff man even without using his bat.

“Not how I drew it up. Not how I drew it up,” he said through a smile. “You know it’s funny, I was going up to bat and the umpire looks at me and goes, like, ‘Swing the bat.’ I said, ‘Alright, I got you.’ And I didn’t swing. I got two swings today.”

Luke Weaver threw two innings and allowed one run, managing to quell his nerves after a rocky start.

A single and two walks left the bases loaded for Giancarlo Stanton, but the young pitcher managed to coax a double play and dodge major damage.

“You know who is up at the plate and what kind of damage he can do, especially if I’ve been struggling. The bases were loaded with zero outs so it can get out of hand pretty quick, but it’s about just staying in the right mindset and making sure you’re throwing quality pitches,” Weaver said.

His pitch repertoire expanded this spring, as the 23-year-old has endeavored to add both a slider and a sinker to his tool kit, with a curve ball to follow. After relying almost exclusively on changeups and four seam fastballs last year, Weaver committed to throwing sliders in his first outing of spring.

“I really liked it. I got a strikeout on it,” he said. “I saw some good action off of it. I see a lot of potential from it, so I’m going to continue to do it and get some feedback from Yadi and other guys catching and Waino and just see what they’re seeing.”

The sinker has also been getting steady work since he tried it out last season. After seeing the action Carlos Martinez gets on the pitch, Weaver has tried to tame the movement of his own so he can apply it strategically. When he needed a pitch for Stanton, he trusted his sinker enough to try it out.

“I wanted to make sure I was missing in because if I yanked it middle, that would have been bad news. So I think that was a point where I needed to trust that pitch and know the action of it was going to end up in a spot where I’m comfortable,” he said. “I know if it’s moving, it’s moving away from the plate. So if it’s moving in and it hits him, at least he didn’t hit it over the fence.”

Still, when the game action heats up, it can be tough to keep working on developing pitches. Competition doesn’t feel any less real in an exhibition game for most players, and they must find a balance between seeking success and seeking personal betterment, which are not always in the same place.

“They say spring training is practice, but there ain’t nothing practice about it. You’re out there and things start rolling and you become competitive and you’re just trying to get guys out,” Weaver said. “Having Yadi back there and these veteran guys, they understand the situation. So when they put down that sign, you’re kind of like, ‘Oh yeah, I do have that pitch. Let me throw it.’”

Seung Hwan Oh had a less successful outing, giving up three hits which included a pair of home runs. It was his first outing and his last for some time, as he headed to Korea to join the national team for the World Baseball Classic.

He was unconcerned about the mistakes Saturday, early appearances are more about timing at this point in his career.

Outfield prospect Harrison Bader launched a homer in the middle innings Saturday, temporarily pulling the Cardinals within one run. Bader rose fast through the system and will likely begin the season in Triple-A as an intriguing call-up possibility.

“The kid can hit. He’s not afraid of anything, just jumps in there and competes well. Obviously, we like home runs just fine. Didn’t mind seeing those at all,” Mike Matheny said.

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