05/09/12 1:38 AM ET
Marte solidifying status as go-to guy in bullpen
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
And likewise, Marte views this early-season success as anything but sudden.
"It goes back to last year when I was a closer at Triple-A and then that I was able to do that [close] in the winter," Marte said via an interpreter, left-hander Jaime Garcia, on Monday, one day after he settled the Cardinals' bullpen with his 1 1/3-inning scoreless appearance, "It's a combination of that that has me feeling where I am right now."
Marte led the Pacific Coast League with 31 saves last year, a season in which he posted a 1.44 ERA. He followed that with a successful stint in the Dominican Winter League, where he saved another 14 games in 26 appearances.
He briefly began this season with Triple-A Memphis before taking Scott Linebrink's place in the bullpen during the second leg of the team's opening three-city trip. He has since solidified a spot, not just on the Major League roster but as one of Matheny's go-to relievers late.
"He's a player who can come in in the middle of an inning with guys on base and throw big pitches," Matheny said. "He's done that pretty consistently. He's got good stuff. I've just been impressed with how he's handled some adversity."
Though Marte's previous big league experience spanned only 30 games in 2009-10, he is among the club's older relievers. At 31, he has begun the year with a 2.84 ERA in 12 2/3 innings.
"The difference between last year and this year is I feel like I've been attacking the bottom of the strike zone more," Marte said. "I just get ready for whenever they need me to. If it's a tight situation, then I'm going to be ready."
X-rays show no break after Molina hit on wrist
PHOENIX -- Initial X-rays of Yadier Molina's left wrist showed no fracture, a diagnosis that had the Cardinals hopeful they dodged a disaster on a night in which they watched their starting catcher exit after being hit by a pitch behind the plate.
Molina suffered the injury in the final inning of the Cardinals' 6-1 over the D-backs as he set up on the outside part of the plate, anticipating a slider from reliever Mitchell Boggs. Instead, Boggs threw a 96 mph inside fastball.
Molina attempted to react, but as he reached to the left, the fastball struck his wrist, just above his glove. It hit the same bone that Molina fractured in 2007. That injury cost him nearly a month that summer.
Upon exiting the field, Molina was immediately ushered into a trainer's room, where he had X-rays taken. The D-backs' team physician read them first and did not find evidence of a break. The X-rays will be further examined to make sure that there really is no concern of a fracture.
"He's going to be tender for a while," manager Mike Matheny said. "We'll probably have to get a couple more looks at it."
Molina seemed unconcerned about the possibility of being sidelined long. As he walked around the Cardinals' clubhouse with his wrist wrapped, he was smiling, joking with teammates.
"I think everything is good," Molina said. "I don't have too much pain right now. After a couple minutes it was getting better and better and better. Hopefully tomorrow it can be good."
Molina likely won't play on Wednesday, even if for precautionary reasons. If his absence isn't expected to be for more than a few games, the Cardinals won't make a roster move. Tony Cruz can start in Molina's place, and the Cardinals have several position players -- including Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso and David Freese - who could serve as an emergency catcher.
"I'm glad everything is all right," Molina said. "Every time that happens to a catcher, it's scary. It's not fun."
After three-hit night, Furcal receives breather
PHOENIX -- Having started 28 of the team's first 29 games, Rafael Furcal was due a day off soon. Manager Mike Matheny chose Tuesday.
Making the start at short in Furcal's place was Daniel Descalso, who had not played the position yet this year. Jon Jay took Furcal's leadoff spot in the lineup.
Matheny has not been shy in finding opportunities to rest his veteran players, living by the belief that a day off now will increase the number of games played later. Perhaps more surprising is that Furcal hasn't had more nights off before this one.
He was one of several position players the Cardinals were prepared to rest regularly because of injury woes in recent years. Furcal's good health and quick start, however, altered some of those projections. He simply hasn't slowed -- physically or at the plate.
Furcal has already accrued 12 multi-hit games -- including a three-hit night on Monday -- and entered Tuesday with the National League's seventh-best batting average (.342). He leads the club with 40 hits, all from the leadoff position.
"I think you're seeing a different approach this year than you did last year," Matheny said of Furcal. "There was a point there where we did have some tough conversations about what we were going to need as we moved forward."
Those conversations, which happened during Furcal's rough Spring Training, included directives to cease swinging for the fences and revert back to the small-ball approach that Furcal had built his career on. Though he did line a 441-foot home run on Monday, Furcal has enjoyed this success while riding such an approach.
Romero's rocky outing doesn't bother Cards
PHOENIX -- A day after J.C. Romero was unable to retire any of the five batters he faced, the Cardinals maintained that the disastrous outing was nothing more than an isolated bad night.
"I think he's done a nice job overall," manager Mike Matheny said. "I thought he threw the ball really well in Houston. His stuff looked really crisp. Last night was just a tough night. You're going to have those."
In the span of 18 pitches, Romero allowed four hits -- one that traveled 452 feet -- and walked one. All five batters scored during Arizona's six-run frame. The Cardinals had not given up that many runs in an inning this year.
Romero, who has been used predominately in left-on-left matchups, opened the season with eight straight scoreless appearances. That ended in Houston, where Romero allowed two earned runs in 1 1/3 innings on Saturday. He then followed that effort with Monday's rough one.
While the performance had no bearing on the outcome of the game, it did mess with Matheny's bullpen plans.
When Lance Lynn left a seven-run lead in the hands of the bullpen, Matheny intended to have Romero throw the sixth and Kyle McClellan, who hasn't pitched on the road trip, follow him in the seventh. When that lead shrunk to one, Matheny scratched plans to pitch McClellan and instead went with a common late-inning string of Victor Marte, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Motte.
The margin of victory also put Motte in position to collect a save, his fifth of the year. Of Motte's five saves, four have come in games the Cardinals won by three runs.
On Tuesday, general manager John Mozeliak presented World Series rings to six players and four coaches currently with Triple-A Memphis. Adron Chambers, Mark Hamilton, Brandon Dickson, Pete Kozma, Maikel Cleto and Eduardo Sanchez all spent various lengths of time on the big league club in 2011. Chambers also appeared on the club's postseason roster.
Also receiving rings were staff members Ron "Pop" Warner, Blaise Ilsley, Mark Budaska and Sean Johnson.
Scott Linebrink (right shoulder capsulitis) continues to progress through a throwing program back in St. Louis. But he is still not near the point of being sent out on a Minor League rehab assignment, manager Mike Matheny said.
Double-A starter John Gast moved to 4-2 this season with seven scoreless innings in Springfield's win on Tuesday. Gast has thrown at least six innings and allowed no more than two earned runs in six of his seven starts this year. He has struck out 37 and walked 12 in 44 1/3 innings.
Coming into Tuesday's game, the Cardinals had scored five or more runs in 15 games this season. The only National League team to do so more often? Arizona, which has reached the five-run mark 16 times.
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.