03/29/06 7:12 PM ET
Notes: Cardinals trim roster by three
Cruz released, two sent down; Wainwright wins bullpen job
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
St. Louis released infielder Deivi Cruz on Wednesday and optioned outfielders John Gall and Chris Duncan to Triple-A Memphis. That leaves five players for four roster spots with three Grapefruit League games remaining. The players battling for jobs are outfielders Skip Schumaker and John Rodriguez and infielders Scott Spiezio, Aaron Miles and Hector Luna.
Things got a little clearer on the pitching side as well. Manager Tony La Russa announced that right-hander Adam Wainwright will be on the Opening Day roster, leaving three pitchers in the mix for one bullpen spot. Either Josh Hancock, Brian Falkenborg or Alan Benes will make the club.
"We've got to narrow it down at some point," La Russa said. "At some point you try to set the club for the beginning of the season, then you play and see how it works. If you need help, you look down there [to Memphis]."
Duncan had the most eye-opening spring of any Cardinal, thumping four home runs and at one point in mid-March ratcheting his batting average up into the .320s. When spring started, he was given almost no chance to crack the team, but his performance forced his name into the discussion.
"Up until a couple of days ago, I didn't think I had a chance," said Duncan, who will play outfield every day at Memphis. "It worked out good for me. I got a chance to play and that's all you can ask for."
Gall fared extremely well coming off the bench for St. Louis this spring, but didn't hit well in starting assignments. He showed improved defense and looked like a more complete player than in past years, but was still sent out. He'll be heading to Memphis for a fourth straight year.
"Every year is different," Gall said. "In the past, I thought I belonged in the big leagues even when I got sent down. This year I know it's where I belong, and I'm still going down to Memphis. It doesn't make me any happier to go, but I'm in the best shape of my life and I feel like I've got my swing in pretty good shape right now. I'm confident, whatever uniform I put on every day. That's not going to change."
In the case of Cruz, the Cardinals were not impressed enough with what they saw to guarantee his $800,000 salary. By releasing him before 1 p.m. ET, they only have to pay him 25 percent of that amount.
Wainwright turned in impressive performances from the start of camp, when he was competing for the fifth starter's job. When Sidney Ponson was declared the last man in the rotation, Wainwright headed to the bullpen, where he pitched even better.
Approached by reporters after La Russa's statement, he said the manager hadn't informed him of his new status.
"They still haven't told me that," Wainwright said. "It sounds good to hear, but it's going to sound even better when he says it.
"If I am on the team, they say anybody can get there, but staying there is the hard part. Getting there is an accomplishment, but that phase of my life is over with once I get there, and the next phase starts."
Ankiel is out: Previously believed to be close to appearing in a game, Rick Ankiel is sidelined once again. Ankiel, recovering from patellar tendinitis in his left knee, suffered a slight setback in a recent workout. He's expected to begin the season on the disabled list, and will stay back in Florida for extended spring training when the Cardinals break camp.
"He was going after some balls in the outfield, tracking them, and he took a step and felt a little strain or pull, pulling sensation," said head athletic trainer Barry Weinberg. "He just wasn't ready for that level yet."
Edmonds, Rodriguez sit: Jim Edmonds sat out a second straight day with a bruised right heel, while John Rodriguez was scratched from the starting lineup due to muscle spasms in his left shoulder. It's unclear when either will return, though both are considered day-to-day. Rodriguez was originally written in the Cardinals' lineup in left field on Wednesday, but was scratched in favor of Luna.
"He's got just a little muscle spasm in the back of his left shoulder," Weinberg said. "It was annoying him hitting and bothering him throwing. It will be strictly day-by-day and hope optimistically for tomorrow."
Edmonds' place in the lineup on Wednesday was taken by So Taguchi.
"I couldn't walk yesterday," Edmonds said Wednesday morning. "I got out of bed and I had to limp to get out of bed. I don't know if I stepped on a rock or something and aggravated it more and more."
Carp is ready: Chris Carpenter turned in a solid start on Wednesday, holding the Marlins to a run in six innings. He's anxious to head north and make his Opening Day start in Philadelphia.
"I think guys are ready to go," Carpenter said. "I think guys are ready to start the games that count, competing for real. We take the field here and we want to win, but making it worth something. I think guys are ready to go."
Bits and pieces: Bullpen catcher Jeff Murphy underwent right elbow surgery to remove bone chips and was wearing his arm in a sling on Wednesday. ... The Cardinals will not take the bus up to Port St. Lucie until late in the morning and will have only a brief pregame workout.
Quotable: "I don't buy or sell my stock. I just try to make it go up." -- Gall, explaining that he doesn't try to figure out where he stands with the team
Weather report: It's expected to crack 80 degrees at Port St. Lucie on Thursday. The forecast calls for a few clouds, no rain, and winds upwards of 15 mph.
Coming up: Ponson takes the mound for the Cardinals in his last Grapefruit League start. The Mets have yet to announce their starter for the game, which starts at 12:10 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.