Games offer Cards relief from practice
Roster battles to begin in earnest with first Grapefruit action
JUPITER, Fla. -- After two weeks of practice and a matchup with a college team, the Cardinals are more than ready to start playing Grapefruit League games. They'll finally get the chance Thursday afternoon when they host the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium.
"You get tired of practicing at some point," manager Tony La Russa said. "You want to be able to go against somebody and have a score, just like toward the end [of Spring Training] you get tired of playing games that are practice. You want to have real games."
The first pitch is set for 12:05 p.m. CT, and the Redbirds will send Anthony Reyes to the mound as Reyes begins his push for a spot in the St. Louis rotation. He's expected to pitch two innings. John Maine will toe the rubber for the visitors.
Following Reyes on the mound will be a string of Minor League right-handers. Hugo Castellanos, Mark Worrell, Kelvin Jimenez and Jason Motte are all scheduled to pitch in the game.
For the younger players on the Cardinals, it will be the second exhibition contest of the spring, but for veterans it's the first. Most Redbirds veterans were excused from even attending Wednesday's game against St. Louis University.
That means that many of the intriguing position battles will finally begin in earnest in the game against New York. Four outfielders -- Colby Rasmus, Brian Barton, Juan Gonzalez and Skip Schumaker -- are likely battling for two spots on the roster.
Derbies also exist for playing time and roster spots in the bullpen and middle infield. Reyes is competing with Brad Thompson and Todd Wellemeyer for the last two slots in the season-opening starting rotation.
The Cards and Mets will also meet Friday, but in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Aces Adam Wainwright and Johan Santana will be the starting pitchers in that game.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.