JUPITER, Fla. -- Sunday's rain-shortened game against the Nationals forced Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to switch up some of his pitching plans for Monday's split-squad games.
Only Jake Westbrook and R.J. Swindle were able to get their work in on Sunday against the Nationals before rain halted play after four innings. That meant another five pitchers missed their scheduled day to take the mound.
As a result, Matheny announced he will take all the relievers who didn't get in on Sunday with him to Viera, Fla., to pitch in Monday's split-squad game against Washington. Those additions include Adam Ottavino, Eduardo Sanchez, Fernando Salas, Mitchell Boggs and Chuckie Fick. Shelby Miller and Sam Freeman, both of whom were on Monday's original travel roster, will still make the trip.
Though Matheny has been generous in not making several veteran position players make the longer Spring Training trips, he will be taking several to Viera. Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and David Freese are among those scheduled to play in that game.
Carlos Beltran will also play on Monday, though he will stay back in Jupiter to be the designated hitter in the other split-squad contest. Beltran's only spring appearance came last Monday. He was down with the flu for much of last week.
Craig likely won't be ready for Opening Day
JUPITER, Fla. -- Though Allen Craig continues to make steady progress back from right knee surgery, the outfielder did concede on Sunday that he almost certainly will not be ready to begin the regular season in St. Louis. That isn't surprising news, but it is a reality that Craig had been hesitant to admit during his recovery.
Always aiming to be ready by Opening Day, Craig has endured no setbacks since a November procedure to repair a fractured right kneecap. He is simply running out of time to get past all the benchmarks that remain on his rehab checklist with enough time to also play in Spring Training games.
Craig has resumed hitting in the batting cages and is slowly increasing how many swings he takes in each of those sessions. After starting with 20 total swings on the first day, Craig is now comfortably hitting 20 balls off a tee and another 20 off soft toss. He has not yet participated in batting practice, though Craig said he would anticipate doing so soon.
"I'm feeling good," he said. "I have been ramping it up in the cage, and there have been no problems hitting at all."
Craig continues to test his knee in agility drills and has stepped up that work, too. He has been running and playing catch for a few weeks now, though Craig has not participated in any other outfield drills.
"[I'm] just working things in slowly, but it's progressing," he said. "There are still a few things that are challenging for me, but for the most part I feel good. There are just little movements I have to work on with the strength. But it's nothing alarming."
The Cardinals had said all along that they expected Craig to be sidelined for the first month of the season. That timetable has not changed, and there is still a chance that Craig could be on the field with the big league club before May.
"[The medical staff] has been pushing him pretty hard," manager Mike Matheny said. "I know that he's getting closer, and closer is certainly better."
Cards runners seizing steal opportunities
JUPITER, Fla. -- Early in camp, manager Mike Matheny made it clear that he wanted to see his position players take chances on the basepaths this spring. The hope was that by running more now, players could improve their instincts. And so far, the group has been plenty receptive to that challenge.
The Cardinals entered Sunday's game with 10 stolen base attempts in the team's first six games. The 10 attempts were dispersed among seven different players, and the Cardinals have been successful in nine of those tries. Jon Jay also swiped a base on Sunday, though statistics from that game are irrelevant since it was canceled after four innings.
"It's exactly what we told you guys early on," Matheny said. "We're going to let them use their instincts when the situation applies and seeing if they know the situation when it doesn't."
This is not to say that the Cardinals are going to drastically alter their identity and start stealing bases with regularity this season. After finishing 29th in the Majors with 57 stolen bases last year, the Cardinals are still a team built much more for power than speed. Matheny's encouragement was directed more toward those players who do have speed in their skill set.
Tyler Greene, for instance, has made three stolen base attempts in his four spring games.
Manager Mike Matheny once again plugged left fielder Matt Holliday into the third spot in the lineup, and hinted that he is leaning toward making that Holliday's regular spot in the order this season. Obviously, it's been years since the Cardinals have had to choose a three-hole hitter, as that spot most recently belonged to Albert Pujols.
"That's the kind of hitter I see him as," Matheny said of Holliday. "I'd love to see him continue to be comfortable in any spot, but certainly if he keeps going about it the way he is, that could be a place where he could be for a long time. Nothing is written in stone."
Members of last year's Johnson City rookie team were presented with their Appalachian League Championship rings prior to Sunday's game.
Kyle Lohse is scheduled to start Thursday's game in Fort Myers, Fla. The Cardinals have not yet named a starter for Wednesday's home game.
Bench coach Mike Aldrete will manage the Cardinals' home game on Monday. Matheny will travel to Viera, Fla., to manage the other split-squad game.
As he did after Saturday's game, Matheny reiterated that he prefers not to see players diving into first base to try and beat out a throw. He will not, however, give an ultimatum to stop.
"I've just never been a big fan," he said. "I don't like them exposing their hand to spikes. I don't think it's faster. But if they do, I understand that. I think when you try to make guys to do something that's not natural, you're setting them up for injury more than anything else."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.