Garcia earns role in starting rotation
Veteran Hill reassigned to Minor League camp
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A weeklong dance finally ended on Tuesday when the Cardinals confirmed that Jaime Garcia will in fact be their fifth starter to open the season.
One day after contender Kyle McClellan was returned to the bullpen, the Cards completed the last two steps in finalizing the move. They reassigned left-hander Rich Hill to Minor League camp and notified Garcia that he had won the job.
"He's made a heck of an impression," manager Tony La Russa said of Garcia. "That's definitely true. He's been impressive. He's been consistently good. And the way he goes about it is good."
Garcia entered camp as the third pitcher in a three-man race. The club preferred to send him to Triple-A Memphis in order for him to establish health and durability. However, he pitched so well as to force his way into a leading role. And a shortage of bullpen depth caused the Cardinals to return McClellan to his job of the past two years as a relief pitcher.
Hill, meanwhile, entered camp as, arguably, the front-runner for the job but was never especially sharp. He's still trying to regain the command and form that made him one of the National League's most promising young lefties as recently as 2007.
"What he should do is just go down there and pitch as part of the Memphis rotation, as good as he can, and let things fall into place," La Russa said. "He shouldn't think, 'I'm first [in line], I'm second, I'm third.' Just pitch, pitch, pitch. Don't look over your shoulder. Let things fall into place."
LaRue leaves game with hand injury
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The injuries still have not let up for the Cardinals.
On the day that starting catcher Yadier Molina took a step forward in his recuperation from a right oblique strain, backup catcher Jason LaRue suffered an apparent left hand injury on a play at the plate. LaRue left the Cards' game in the fifth inning, replaced by Matt Pagnozzi.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Jeff Francoeur hit a ball to third base. David Freese couldn't make the play, and the ball caromed into left field. Shortstop Brendan Ryan ran it down, and as Jason Bay headed for the plate, Ryan fired a strong throw home. LaRue couldn't get the tag on Bay in time, but more importantly, Bay's slide hit him on his glove arm.
LaRue quickly doubled over in pain, then walked out to the mound. He was quickly removed from the game after being examined by the training staff. He is the seventh member of the Cardinals' projected Opening Day roster to suffer an injury or miss time to recover from a physical issue so far this spring.
Pagnozzi is the only other catcher on the Cardinals' 40-man roster besides LaRue and Molina.
Molina begins baseball activities
PORT ST, LUCIE, Fla. -- Yadier Molina took a step forward in his rehabilitation from a strained right oblique muscle on Tuesday, beginning some baseball-related workouts with six days remaining before Opening Day.
Molina stayed back in Jupiter, Fla., at the Cardinals complex, rather than accompanying the team on its final Grapefruit League road trip. The Cardinals remain hopeful that their starting catcher can play in the April 5 opener against the Reds in Cincinnati.
"[He will] do a little running, a little throwing," manager Tony La Russa said. "Swing off the tee. Today is Tuesday. He's making progress. That's all you can ask for."
Jason LaRue and Matt Pagnozzi have shared the catching duties in Molina's absence, and all three catchers are expected to make the trip to Minneapolis for the Cardinals' exhibition games against the Twins on Friday and Saturday. Molina won't necessarily play in those games, though. La Russa has said that Molina would not need to appear in any more Spring Training or exhibition games in order to be activated for Opening Day.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.