Notes: Encarnacion headed for DL
Schumaker progressing well; Reyes works his sinker
JUPITER, Fla. -- Days after Juan Encarnacion acknowledged that he won't rush anything in order to be ready for Opening Day, his manager put it more forcefully. Encarnacion is likely to be on the disabled list when St. Louis starts the season on April 1.
"I don't expect him to be there Opening Day," skipper Tony La Russa said on Wednesday. "I'm not going to push him. He doesn't want to be pushed. I don't want to push him. So one and one definitely equals no push."
Encarnacion is making slow progress in his rehabilitation from offseason surgery on his left wrist. He's taking batting practice but still feels weakness and occasional pain in the wrist.
"It's like I've said," Encarnacion said Wednesday. "It's day by day. I cannot read the future. It's not in my hands. It's something that I've got to wait for the right time. I cannot tell you when, but I'm feeling pretty good."
With Jim Edmonds already looking like a long shot to make the Opening Day roster, the Cards will likely begin the year with two flycatchers on the DL. That would open up two roster spots, with Skip Schumaker and John Rodriguez the favorites to take advantage.
Schumaker is currently sidelined with a sprained ankle, but he's impressed La Russa and the staff with quality play in all facets of the game. Rodriguez is also having an excellent spring thus far, while So Taguchi and Preston Wilson have struggled.
All four, plus Chris Duncan, would almost certainly begin the season on the roster if Encarnacion and Edmonds are on the shelf. Scott Spiezio, primarily an infielder, would see more time in the outfield as well in that case. But the apportionment of at-bats would be more of an open question.
"Somebody's got to earn them," La Russa said. "So's not earning them. Preston's not earning them. Johnny's earning them. Skip was."
Wednesday's outfield featured Wilson in left field, Rick Ankiel in center and Rodriguez in right. Ankiel is ticketed for Triple-A Memphis.
Injury updates: Schumaker has progressed well, and could play in one of the Cardinals' games in Orlando on Friday or Saturday. He participated in workouts on Wednesday. Ryan Ludwick reported some discomfort but no real limitations as a result of a bruised knee he suffered on Tuesday.
"I think the latest [Schumaker] will be available is Tuesday after the off-day, and he said he's ready to go this weekend," La Russa said. "Therefore he has a lot of playing time the last two weeks."
Reyes rolling: Anthony Reyes' use of the two-seam sinking fastball is less of a story this spring than it's been at any point since Reyes began throwing the pitch. That means Reyes is incorporating the pitch more effectively and confidently than ever before.
Reyes used two fastballs, his curveball and changeup to breeze through 4 1/3 innings against the Nationals on Wednesday, allowing one hit and no walks and striking out two. It was the fifth straight game in which the Cardinals starter did not permit a run. Reyes' spring ERA is a tidy 0.90.
"I thought it went pretty well," he said. "I feel like I'm getting stronger and stronger every time out. They want the pitch count down and me to throw some innings. I feel comfortable throwing the two-seam now and I'm getting a lot of strikes on it."
A year ago, Reyes' unsuccessful attempts to become more of a sinkerballer dominated much of the talk in Spring Training. This time around, La Russa acknowledges that the young righty is turning into the kind of pitcher the club would like for him to be.
"He's showing flashes of it," the manager said.
Johnson's progress: Tyler Johnson's line on Tuesday was nearly as ugly as his last time out, but Johnson was much happier with how he threw the ball. The left-hander walked two and threw two wild pitches, but his slider had bite and Johnson saw improvement overall.
"My breaking ball felt really good," he said. "I felt like today was the best I've had with it all spring. So that was good. I was throwing it the way I wanted to. But I just need to work on my fastball a little bit. My mechanics are a little out of whack right now, but it's easily fixed."
Johnson said he's barely thrown his four-seam fastball this spring, which was his primary heater in previous years. He's been working, like Reyes, to incorporate a sinker -- perhaps to the detriment of his four-seamer.
"I'm going to keep the two-seamer, and mess around with it, because it's good when I'm on my game," he said. "But I need to really execute my four-seam fastball and try to hit spots."
Kinney surgery: Josh Kinney underwent reconstructive surgery on his right elbow on Tuesday, as planned. Cardinals team physician Dr. George Paletta performed the operation, commonly referred to as Tommy John surgery, in St. Louis.
Hello, Simo: The Cardinals saw Jason Simontacchi as an opponent for the first time on Wednesday when the right-hander pitched five innings for Washington. Discussions of Simontacchi led La Russa to reminisce over the Cardinals' singular 2002 season.
Long before acquiring Scott Rolen and Chuck Finley, before the Cardinals family lost two stalwarts with the deaths of Jack Buck and Darryl Kile, the club went through an army of starting pitchers. By the time Simontacchi made his big league debut, winning against the Braves on May 4, 2002, he was the 11th man to start for St. Louis in 30 games.
From that tumultuous start, through the deaths and the turnover, the Cards roared to a 97-65 record and a runaway National League Central championship. But they were stopped in the NL Championship Series by the Giants in five games.
"That's why it still remains that that League Championship Series is the most disappointment I've had," La Russa said. "Ever. World Series included. That club getting that far was just remarkable, and I thought we were going to pull it off. We went through a lot."
Weather report: Thursday could bring some rain in Jupiter. The forecast calls for a first-pitch temperature of 80 degrees, clouds, wind at 16 mph and a 30-percent chance of showers. It doesn't look like anything that should impede the ballgame, but fans in attendance might do well to bring a poncho.
Coming up: Thursday is a big day for the Cardinals, with two relievers set to make their Grapefruit League debuts. Jason Isringhausen will start the 12:05 p.m. CT game against the Dodgers at Roger Dean Stadium, making his first appearance as he rehabs from hip surgery.
Isringhausen will only pitch an inning, followed by Adam Wainwright in a starter-length outing. Russ Springer is also scheduled to pitch for the first time after sitting out with a strained oblique. Mark Hendrickson starts for Los Angeles.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.