Notes: Starting five are finalized
Wainwright unsatisfied with outing; Encarnacion optimistic
JUPITER, Fla. -- Brad Thompson and Ryan Franklin can read the signs as well as anyone. They both know that they're runners-up in the competition for spots in the Cardinals' starting rotation. They can tell by their assignments.
Thompson and Franklin, both of whom had been pitching multiple innings at a time, were cut back to one-inning stints in their last times out. Thompson pitched a single frame against the Dodgers on Tuesday, Franklin one against the Orioles on Wednesday.
For the time being, they're both relievers. The Cardinals' starting five is set, with Chris Carpenter, Kip Wells, Anthony Reyes, Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper winning jobs.
"I figured it was going to happen at some point," said Thompson. "I'm glad they did it now, instead of later, so I can get into pitching every other day."
Though the official word before camp started was that at least five pitchers were in an open competition for at least three spots, the reality turned out a bit different. Neither Thompson nor Franklin got a start this spring. Those assignments were all given to the five pitchers identified as "priority" candidates.
For Thompson or Franklin -- or Chris Narveson, or Randy Keisler, or anyone else -- to crack the rotation, it would have required a sequence of events. Thompson pitched as well as could possibly have been asked, but he needed to do that and have one of the top five falter.
The latter never came to pass. All five favorites held their own.
"That's the way [pitching coach Dave Duncan] set it up," said manager Tony La Russa. "Brad can start, but he's also suited for relief."
So Thompson instead heads for the bullpen, where there's a good chance he could become the primary setup man.
"Coming into Spring Training, all I wanted to do was compete for a job," he said. "And I feel like I did that. If I break camp, I'll be a happy guy. I just want to break camp with the team, and hopefully fit into that role. That would be great. I would love it."
For Franklin, who joined the Cardinals as a free agent, the realization was more of a letdown. He signed with St. Louis in part because of the opportunity to win a starting job -- then he never got a start in the spring.
"I don't want to make it sound like I'm disappointed in a really bad way," Franklin said. "I'm disappointed I didn't get to start any games, but it looked like when I came in here that they pretty much had their five starters.
"I think Dunc can still improve my skills. You never know, I might finish my career as a reliever, which is fine, too. As long as I'm out there on the mound at the big-league level, I'm good."
Still, he said the chance to pitch in the postseason trumps any and all individual considerations.
"It's all right," he said. "I'm happy to be a part of this winning organization. I haven't been part of a winning type atmosphere in about three years. I'm not the type of guy anyway who's going to disrupt the morale of the team. I've been a part of that too, where guys have been like that, and it's not good. I know what we're trying to do here -- to get back in October."
Wainwright unsatisfied: One of the winners of that competition, Wainwright, continues to hold himself to an extremely high standard. He allowed one run on three hits in five innings on Wednesday, but said he's still looking for more.
"It was OK," he said. "It was good at times and bad at times. ... I felt like when I was out there I was making adjustments, and then the last inning I didn't feel like I was dictating the game as much as I could have been. I didn't feel like I was attacking hitters, and I didn't feel like I was in tip-top control like I should have been."
Wainwright retired the first 10 batters in order, but had trouble in his last two innings. He walked two batters and struck out three.
"I made good pitches a lot of the time, but the run they scored, I threw a bad pitch," he said. "I threw a terrible pitch there. There are always things you can look at during the course of a game and go, 'Geez, what was I doing?'"
Encarnacion update: Juan Encarnacion professed some increased optimism about his sore wrist on Wednesday, but he remains unsure about when he'll increase the intensity of his workouts. Encarnacion is hitting on the field in batting practice but has yet to be cleared for anything more aggressive.
"I know what you guys know," Encarnacion told reporters prior to Wednesday's game.
Taguchi time: So Taguchi picked up a pair of base hits and was hit by a pitch on Wednesday, bringing his spring batting average up to .186 and his on-base percentage to .239. It's still not where the veteran outfielder wants to be, but La Russa said Wednesday that Taguchi's place on the roster is safe.
"He doesn't have to show more to be on the team," La Russa said. "He has too many ways to help us. But he has to show more to get more at-bats."
Taguchi's defense remains an asset, and the manager and staff appreciate his on-field intelligence and effort.
Springer breezes: Right-hander Russ Springer enjoyed an easy 1-2-3 inning on Wednesday, an encouraging turn. Springer had allowed a run in each of his first two appearances, though he was pleased with how he was coming along. Facing the top of the Orioles' order on Wednesday, Springer got a strikeout, a popup and a 4-3 grounder.
Quotable: "[Chris] Carpenter is making sure everybody knows how we do it here, and Duncan takes care of the rest. It's a great situation for a young pitcher. Can't be better, in fact." -- La Russa
Weather report: Thursday could be a bit of a dicey day at the ballpark. First-pitch temperature at Roger Dean Stadium is expected to be 77 degrees, but it's forecast to be a cloudy, windy day with a 30 percent chance of scattered showers.
Coming up: With 10 days remaining before Opening Day, the Cardinals and Marlins will send out their starters for the opener on Thursday. Carpenter will take the ball for St. Louis against Florida's Dontrelle Willis in an enticing matchup at 12:05 p.m. CT.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.