JUPITER, Fl. (KMOV.com) -- The Cardinals took their first spring win Sunday, winning a rematch with the Marlins 7-4 at Roger Dean Stadium.
Mike Mayers got the start, throwing two no-hit innings. Mayers suffered an ignominious major league debut in 2016, allowing eight hits and nine runs and managing to get just four outs in his start against the Dodgers on July 24.
It was a nightmarish realization of a lifelong dream, but it also provided valuable education for the 25-year-old. Back in major league spring camp, he’s been given the gift of perspective.
“I think the big thing is just you know what to expect. You know how things are done day-to-day. You’ve now faced big-league hitters, so you know how your stuff matches up and what you need to work on to be able to compete at the highest level,” he said. “It was definitely not the way I envisioned it going last year, but I was able to learn a lot. I definitely think those experiences and those struggles will help me out this year and going forward.”
Jonathan Broxton followed Mayers with another hitless frame and Brett Cecil entered in the fourth for his Cardinal debut.
While he surrendered two hits, he was more focused on reacquainting himself with an old friend.
“I told [catcher Eric] Fryer that that’s the most the I’ve thrown my changeup in one inning, even in a spring training game, in a long time,” Cecil said.
The lefty threw his changeup much more frequently as a starter, nearly 15 percent of the time. Once he moved to the pen that usage was cut in half. In the AL East, batters viewed Cecil as a fastball/curveball threat, and he hopes to force scouting reports to be rewritten this season.
“It’s always a pitch that’s always stayed with me. I never axed it totally out of my repertoire, but it can be a really good pitch for me when it’s good,” he said. “If I can mix that in there as a first pitch and throw it for strikes and throw good ones for swings and misses it’s good for me for sure.”
It certainly caught the manager’s eye Sunday. Mike Matheny is still learning what each of Cecil’s pitches look like from the dugout, but he remarked on how much downward action all of them have saying, “pitches were dropping out of the sky.” The changeup in particular excited Matheny, especially since it’s added value for the recently signed reliever.
“I didn’t expect to see that from him, even watching his sides (bullpen sessions). He threw it a little bit, but it had some good action on it [today],” Matheny said.
Sandy Alcantara made his debut for Cardinal fans, although the box score isn’t as pretty as he’d like. The 21-year-old righty showcased his elite fastball, clocking 98 miles per hour multiple times. More importantly, he threw plenty of secondary pitches, which were a weak spot last summer.
Alcantara’s changeup hovered around 90 miles per hour and his breaking ball dropped down to the low 80s. The breaking pitch is still in development, but the young pitcher said it was a point of emphasis in the offseason.
“I’ve been working on it at home with my brother in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic,” he told reporters through a translator.
He finished with four runs allowed on five hits, but saw some bad luck in the field behind him that could have erased some of the damage.
The offense was led by a pair of catchers Sunday. Yadier Molina, hitting out of the DH spot, went 2-for-2 with a walk and drove in two runs. Eric Fryer started behind the plate and drove in two runs of his own. He also notched a triple, a prized stat sheet possession for catchers.
Matt Bowman closed down the action, striking out the side in the ninth inning in his first appearance of spring. During camp so far, Bowman has impressed with his strength and timing, looking ready to go if the season started tomorrow.
“He worked this winter very intentional about getting a little stronger, putting on weight to be able to maybe hold it through the season. I like everything he’s doing right now. He’s in a good place,” Matheny said.
Bowman’s slider looks season ready in February and he’s leveraging his odd delivery’s ability to deceive hitters.
“It kind of jumps at them a little bit. He’s not a comfortable at-bat,” Matheny said, going on to praise Bowman’s sinker. “Whenever we see a sinker like that a guy’s timing looks right and they’re still swinging and missing, that’s something to take notice of. That’s what you saw today.”
The team is split between Fort Myers and Jupiter Monday. Michael Wacha will make the start on the road and Lance Lynn will start at home. Mike Leake will debut on the road Tuesday against the Braves, with Carlos Martinez scheduled to start Wednesday against the Mets in Jupiter. Adam Wainwright is penciled in for Thursday when Atlanta comes to Roger Dean.