08/10/2003 7:04 PM ET
Cards notes: Party for the fans
Marrero plays in field at Triple-A Memphis
ST. LOUIS -- The schedule showed a night game for the Cardinals against the Braves on Sunday, but that doesn't mean Redbirds players had the afternoon off. The team hosted a special thank-you session for approximately 10,000 season-ticket holders before the ESPN contest, with current and former players and coaches available for autographs and pictures.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Manager Tony La Russa held a meeting early in the week to emphasize the importance of the function to his players, and they turned out in force -- as did the fans.
"This is the first time we've done this," La Russa said, "and I would say whichever one of our people who came up with it deserves a pat on the back. Because the fans that I was around really appreciated it."
Jason Simontacchi joked that he got a cramp from signing, but said that he enjoys being reminded of what the Cardinals mean to their fans.
"The fan base here for the Cardinals is obviously second to none," Simontacchi said. "It's loyal. New York has a big fan base, but when they're bad, it's bad. Here it's not that way. And that's why I think they have such a big fan base.
"It's amazing to see the kids out there that are wearing the hats that have like 20 different autographs on them. That's where it starts. Their parents were probably doing the same thing years ago."
In addition to autographs and photos, the season-ticket holders were also treated to discounts on concessions and memorabilia. But mostly it was about access to the ballplayers -- especially fan-favorite Bo Hart and stars such as Albert Pujols and Matt Morris.
"I couldn't imagine what Bo went through," Simontacchi said.
Former Cardinals stars Bob Forsch, Ken Reitz and Rick Horton attended the event.
Morris no-throw: Matt Morris was initially expected to throw a light bullpen session Sunday, but instead he played long toss. A smiling Morris reported he felt fine, and he is still expected to throw a simulated game Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Morris hasn't pitched since July 21 because of a fracture in his right hand.
Springer goes: Russ Springer did throw off a mound again Sunday. The right-hander is coming back from surgery on his right elbow. Springer should also throw to Cardinals hitters Tuesday, and he could go out on a rehabilitation assignment by the end of the week. The team is still hesitant to announce an expected return date for Springer, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since April 30.
Marrero in the field: Eli Marrero took another step forward Saturday in his recuperation from a severely sprained right ankle. Marrero played in the field for the first time since suffering the injury in late May, starting in right field for Triple-A Memphis in its game against Omaha. He went 1-for-2 with a double and scored a run. Marrero, who plays outfield and catcher for the Cards, has yet to don the tools of ignorance in his rehab assignment. He DH'd and went 0-for-2 on Sunday.
Stat corner: Since the All-Star break, Cardinals starters sport a composite 4.14 ERA. With the exception of Morris' injury-shortened start in San Diego, they're averaging 6.17 innings per start in that span entering Sunday's game.
Baby 'Birds: Memphis fell 7-3 to Omaha on Saturday. John Gall hit his 13th homer and Dee Haynes went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI. ... Shaun Boyd doubled and was hit by a pitch, but Double-A Tennessee couldn't manage much else offensively in a 9-0 loss to Mobile. ... Single-A Palm Beach was rained out. ... Single-A Peoria got a fine start from Erik Drown (5 2/3 innings, four strikeouts, two walks, a run on three hits) but lost, 1-0, to West Michigan. ... Short-season New Jersey gave up a pair of late runs in a 4-3 loss to Tri-City. ... Miguel Aguero struck out seven in seven innings for rookie-level Johnson City in an 8-5 win over Bristol.
The player of the day was New Jersey's Omar Pena. The infielder, who is the younger brother of Tigers first baseman Carlos Pena, went 4-for-5 with a double. He was the Cards' 16th-round draft pick this year out of Northeastern University in Boston. He has split time between second base and shortstop as a professional.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.