Carpenter's return uncertain as Cards move into exhibition games -

Carpenter's return uncertain as Cards move into exhibition games

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JUPITER, Fl. ( -- Cardinal fans looking to see Matt Carpenter this spring will have to be patient.

The three time All-Star, sidelined with back tightness, has no clear timetable for a return to baseball activities. Instead, it will be up to the medical team to determine when the 32-year-old first basemen can resume swinging and fielding.

“We’re following they’re lead,” manager Mike Matheny said. “They’ll tell us.”

While there’s uncertainty surrounding Carpenter’s schedule, the team appears confident he’ll be able to accumulate enough spring work to be ready for the season. In fact, Matheny posited the early rest may be a blessing in disguise for Carpenter, whose famously-intense work ethic has led to heavy exertion in the past.

“This is like Disney World for a baseball rat,” the manager said of spring training. “You come down, you can work all you want, you’ve got every single coach and every trainer at your disposal.”

Sometimes players like Carpenter, those whose relentless work ethic pushes them to constantly be working, can overindulge. For the foreseeable future, he’ll remain absent from drills and games and instead rest his back to avoid further exacerbating any lingering discomfort.

In his stead, both Jose Martinez and Luke Voit will get extended work at first base, along with versatile infield prospect Patrick Wisdom.

Pitching plans

Carlos Martinez was previous announced as Saturday’s starter against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, and Friday Matheny announced his schedule for the next few games. Miles Mikolas will throw Sunday in Jupiter against the Astros, then Michael Wacha and Luke Weaver will start the following two games, though their order is TBD.

Jack Flaherty, Friday’s starter, will throw again Wednesday, and Adam Wainwright will throw when the team returns to Jupiter Thursday.

Mercado shines

The Cardinals have a handful of intriguing outfield prospects in camp, and perhaps the most interesting of the bunch is 23-year-old Oscar Mercado. The Tampa native was a second round pick in 2013, and was being developed as a shortstop and outfielder.

Friday, he started the game in right field, the second such occasion of his professional career, and played the full game.

Primarily playing center field, Mercado starred for Double-A Springfield last season. He found power for the first time in his career, hitting 14 homers to go with a .287 average and 38 stolen bases.

Known for his speed, Mercado showed off his wheels Friday while racing down a hard shot to the right field gap. The play drew a roar from the crowd and smiles from the dugout.

“Thankfully Roger Dean held that ball in the park,” Mercado said with a grin. “The wind brought it back a lot. Off the bat you think you’re going to have to run for days.”

Mercado capped his debut with 2-for-3 day at the plate, scoring once and drawing a walk.

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