Notes: Roster shakes out as planned
No major surprises for Cardinals this spring
JUPITER, Fla. -- Camp is over, and very few Cardinals are finding it hard to say good-bye. The end of Spring Training is a welcome moment for the Redbirds, who are ready to get to the business of defending their National League pennant.
The season doesn't start just yet, of course. First come stops in Oklahoma City for two games and Springfield, Mo., for two games, but even those will feel a little more like the season than Spring Training.
"We've been doing the same thing day in and day out, staying on the same schedule," said John Mabry. "It's nice to break that up and go somewhere different, do something different. And it's night games instead of day games."
Most of what the Cardinals hoped to accomplish in Spring Training, they managed to do. Everyone who was healthy coming into camp is also leaving healthy. Players with injury questions, including Matt Morris, Chris Carpenter and Jason Isringhausen, have progressed well enough to alleviate most fears. Abraham Nunez emerged as the clear choice as a utility infielder, and Hector Luna impressed enough to win a spot.
"Sometimes you get disappointments, and there were hardly any disappointments," said manager Tony La Russa. "A guy like Luna, that we need, has done a good job. Nunez we brought in, he has looked good. The catching, all these pieces that we're talking about.
"It's been a good camp, but that's what camp is, it's just a camp. It's not the season. We've done about as much as you can do. But we need the last five days. I would not want to start the season tomorrow."
The only situation that didn't emphatically sort itself out was the bullpen, where Bill Pulsipher and Randy Flores locked up the final two spots on Wednesday. It's still conceivable that St. Louis could bring in a pitcher in the coming days, but general manager Walt Jocketty said that possibility is quite unlikely.
"We felt all along that we liked the guys we had," said Jocketty. "But if there was a chance to upgrade and make the club better, [we would have done it]. But there wasn't. So we go with what we have."
Suppan will stay: Jeff Suppan will not join his teammates in Oklahoma City or Springfield. Instead, he'll stay behind in Florida to throw in a minor league game on Monday.
After that, he'll fly to Houston to meet up with the team. Suppan's turn in the rotation falls on Monday, which is an off day for St. Louis. His first regular-season game will be Saturday at home against the Phillies.
Suppan and the Cards felt that it made more sense for him to pitch in a minor league game rather than in a simulated game against his teammates.
On Wednesday, his final official start of the spring, the right-hander permitted three runs, two earned, on five hits over five innings. He struck out three and walked one.
"I felt like my stamina was there," Suppan said. "My cutter today was better than my curveball, so I stayed away from my curveball a little bit. Just basic stuff -- you've got to pitch with what you've got out there."
How about that arm? So that's why the Cards chose right field for Rick Ankiel. The former pitcher unleashed a perfect strike from right field on Wednesday for his first outfield assist in a Major League game.
Ankiel threw out Larry Bigbie as Bigbie tried to go from first to third on a Geronimo Gil single. Chris Gomez scored on the play, but Ankiel's laser beam to third on the fly was dazzling nonetheless.
Afterward, however, Ankiel was stewing about a missed offensive opportunity. In the bottom of the ninth, he was unable to drive in Abraham Nunez from third base in a tie game.
"A big hit would have been more fun," he said.
Ankiel, who the club hopes will clear waivers this week so that he can be assigned to the minor leagues, will not join the Cardinals on the trip to Oklahoma and Springfield. The Cards are remaining mum as to where Ankiel may start the season, though low Class A Quad Cities would appear to be the most likely destination.
Every vote counts: David Eckstein was disappointed to learn Tuesday night that his father, Whitey, had lost in his bid to become mayor of Sanford, Fla.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the elder Eckstein's margin of defeat against Linda Kuhn was a mere 153 votes, 1,826 to 1,673. Whitey Eckstein is a member of the board for the Sanford-Orlando airport.
'Blue-collar' guest: Comedian Larry the Cable Guy, widely known for the catch phrase "Git-R-Done" and his appearances on "Blue Collar TV," will visit the Cardinals in Oklahoma City. A special "Larry" jersey has been made up for him with the No. 15 on it.
Nice numbers: Wednesday's attendance of 6,581 at Roger Dean Stadium brought the Cards' final Florida total for the year to 94,543 in 15 games.
The Redbirds had one rainout. The total fell 310 short of last year's attendance, and about 5,000 shy of the spring record at Roger Dean.
Coming up: It's good-bye to the warm weather for a while for the Redbirds. They play at 7:05 p.m. CT each of the next two nights against the Orioles in Oklahoma City. Chris Carpenter pitches on Thursday, with Jason Marquis getting the ball on Friday.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.