FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Cardinals' bench coach Dyar Miller found out that his older brother, Lowell, was killed in a logging accident on Wednesday night.
Lowell Miller, who was 71, died when a dead limb from a tree struck him in the back of the head near his home in Indiana. According to a report in The Republic of Columbus, Ind., Miller was helping pull a tree from a wooded area in Bartholomew County when the limb hit him. The chief deputy coroner of Bartholomew County said Miller, the owner of Hope Hardwoods was wearing all of the proper safety equipment. Miller and his two sons were attempting to move the tree so it could be logged.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Cards' bench coach made the trip to Fort Myers, throwing the first round of batting practice. He will likely leave the team soon to be with his family. Miller said he is one of eight children and made it clear to manager Mike Matheny that making the trip for the Red Sox's game is just what his brother would have wanted.
"I'm surprised he's out here," Matheny said. "I told him he needed to go home. The first thing he said was his brother would've been mad at him if he had taken off of work. I think he's going to leave in the next day or so. It was a tragic thing. We hurt for him."
Punto has fond memories of playing for Cards
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Nick Punto has turned the page, he really has. Punto is a member of the Red Sox now, and he's excited for the season to come, but Thursday's reunion with his former club at JetBlue Park clearly made him pause.
"This is the hard part," Punto admitted. "Seeing the guys brings back old memories. They're old, unbelievable memories I'll cherish forever. Baseball is, at times, a wicked game. I'm embracing where I am now and excited. When these guys leave, it's an out of sight, out of mind kind of deal."
Punto, of course, signed a two-year, $3 million deal with the Sox in the offseason. He was the club's starting shortstop on Thursday, though he most likely will fill a utility role once the season begins. When exploring options as a free agent -- there were three or four teams interested -- Punto always felt he had two choices: coming back to St. Louis or moving on to Boston.
"You get the taste of winning a World Series in your mouth, you want to find a team that has the chance," Punto said. "Obviously St. Louis, in my mind, is one of those teams, and you can't go wrong in Boston. The Cardinals were just going in a different direction.
"It's hard not to get emotions wrapped up in it, but it's part of the game, and it's a part of the game that stinks. But you have to turn the page. I'm happy where I am. I have to take those memories for what they were. We had an unbelievable year with an unbelievable group of guys."
If Punto goes on to have a successful 2012 season, the Red Sox may have to tip their cap to one of his former teammates. Completely healthy for the first time in a while, Punto hit the offseason conditioning program hard, thanks to Skip Schumaker.
"It was fun to train and go hard in the offseason without having anything bothering me," Punto said. "When you have Skip Schumaker as your workout partner, that's never a bad thing. It gave me a new respect for Skip Schumaker. I've never had a workout partner who's that intense. I feel like I'm in really good shape."
Komatsu opening eyes, could land roster spot
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- While Allen Craig made a good step in the right direction by taking batting practice on the field in Jupiter on Thursday morning, the odds of him being ready to go on Opening Day get slimmer with each passing day. Should Craig open the season on the disabled list, that would likely open the door for an extra outfielder to break camp on the 25-man roster.
So far, all those getting consideration have done well with the opportunities they've been given. Perhaps no one has stood out more than Rule 5 Draft pick Erik Komatsu, but that also might be because he came in as the biggest unknown.
"We had no expectation on what we were going to see from Erik Komatsu, and he's certainly impressed us with his outfield play, just his knowledge of the game, his jumps, his aggressiveness, his routes," manager Mike Matheny said. "Everything that he's been doing in the outfield has really stood out. He's been impressive."
The other candidates haven't been slouches. Shane Robinson and Adron Chambers have acquitted themselves well, and Matheny said the club will continue to look at all three. Prospect Matt Carpenter received another start in left field, his fourth outfield start. Carpenter hasn't played a single game in the outfield in his Minor League career, but his versatility and ability to play third and first base could have some value.
"They all swing the bat well, they've all been getting big hits," Matheny said. "We haven't had anything in the outfield that's stood out as a negative. We have time still, but they've all been making a strong case for themselves."
Craig's return might not necessitate a trip to the Minors for whoever gets the spot. If Skip Schumaker wins the second-base job, one of these candidates could stick as the No. 4 outfielder.
Matheny making sure Beltran gets his at-bats
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When the regular season opens for the Cardinals on April 4 in Miami, it's expected Carlos Beltran will be in the lineup as the right fielder.
Shoulder tightness, as well as missing time with the flu, has limited him to just one game in the outfield to date. Thursday's game against the Red Sox was supposed to be outfield outing No. 2, but the free-agent acquisition was once again the designated hitter.
There is no cause for alarm or concern, however. It was simply a managerial decision, with Mike Matheny switching things up. The plan is still very much in place to get Beltran ready for Opening Day against the Marlins.
"I changed it because I'm going to play him [Friday] in the outfield," Matheny explained. "I wanted to make sure he got his at-bats. We've kind of laid out the map. We're going to progressively [give him] more and more outfield time. He was ready to play the outfield, and I just took it out of his hands and played him as the DH."
Chris Carpenter, who was sidelined earlier this month because of neck stiffness, threw on flat ground for the second straight day. Carpenter will still have to do some throwing off the mound before he will be cleared to make his Grapefruit League debut. He reported no problems and felt better after throwing two days in a row.
Allen Craig took batting practice back at the Cardinals' spring complex in Jupiter, Fla., on Thursday morning. This was a first of the spring for Craig, who has been recovering from offseason right knee surgery. The report manager Mike Matheny got from assistant hitting coach John Mabry back in Jupiter was that it was "awesome." There is no real timetable for next steps for Craig, but it hasn't been ruled out that he could make a Grapefruit League appearance before the spring is over.
Reliever Fernando Salas was supposed to make the trip to Fort Myers on Thursday, but instead he headed back to his home in Mexico due to the birth of a child. He is expected back on Sunday and will be ready to pitch on Monday in Orlando against the Braves or Tuesday in Kissimmee against the Astros, depending on the team's need.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.