07/20/12 8:20 PM ET
Fuentes debuts in Cards' Minor League system
By Jenifer Langosch and Mike Still / MLB.com
The Cardinals signed Fuentes, 36, to a Minor League contract last Saturday with the intention of having him spend some time pitching in the Minors before joining the big league club. Fuentes reported to Jupiter, Fla., on Sunday to begin his throwing program under Cardinals supervision.
Fuentes pitched the first inning of Friday's GCL Cardinals' game. He allowed a leadoff single before inducing a double play and inning-ending groundout. Fuentes is scheduled to make at least one more appearance with the GCL team.
The Cardinals have the option to leave Fuentes in the Minors only until the end of the month. Fuentes' deal includes an opt-out clause that he can trigger if he is not added to the Major League roster by July 31.
Fuentes, a four-time All-Star, was released by Oakland earlier this month, following a string of seven appearances in which he gave up 13 runs. The Cardinals' pursuit of the veteran reliever was initiated by the need for some left-handed help in the bullpen.
Matheny drops Furcal, bats Schumaker leadoff
ST. LOUIS -- Keeping in mind the success Skip Schumaker has had against Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny penciled in Schumaker at the leadoff spot on Friday. Rafael Furcal, who hasn't hit nearly as well against Dempster in the past, will bat eighth.
Schumaker owns a .431 (22-for-51) career average against Dempster, while Furcal is batting .143 (6-for-42) against the Cubs right-hander.
"We want to get Raffy a little more comfortable at the plate, and this is an opportunity to take a little pressure off of him at the top of the lineup," Matheny said. "Skip has been swinging the bat well. We have to try and get something going at the top of the lineup."
Furcal set a scorching pace out of the gates in 2012, and was batting .333 at the end of May. He's progressively cooled off, however, and his average was last above .300 on June 10. Since then, Furcal has hit .212 in his 30 games to bring his average down to .274.
Schumaker leads the Cardinals with a .318 average over 129 at-bats this season. He's batting .478 (11-for-23) in his last 11 games.
"You just try to be consistent and not try to make huge adjustments because that's when you get on a roller-coaster type thing," Schumaker said before Friday's game. "You just try to get your work in when you're not playing every day, you just try to do everything you can each day to prepare."
Garcia works from mound, continues progress
ST. LOUIS -- Jaime Garcia moved his throwing program to the mound this week and is scheduled to throw a third bullpen session at Busch Stadium on Saturday.
Garcia threw 40 pitches -- all fastballs -- in side sessions on Monday and Wednesday. After he throws on Saturday, the Cardinals will reevaluate when and where the next step in his rehab program will take place. Garcia, who has been sidelined with a left shoulder impingement since June 6, would seem to be in line to begin throwing to batters next week.
"The shoulder, I can definitely feel a difference," Garcia said on Friday. "That's good. I'm excited. I'm confident that this is going to work. There's no discomfort, and it feels [looser] in there. It's kind of early for me to say too much about it, but so far what I've done feels good and I feel better."
Garcia is again expected to throw 40 pitches in Saturday's side session, though he will begin mixing in breaking pitches with his fastball.
The Cardinals anticipate that Garcia will be ready to return to the roster in mid-August. The left-hander will need several Minor League rehab appearances in order to get himself ready to start again. All indications are that the Cardinals are going to use Garcia as a starter, not a reliever, upon his return.
Jay sits while looking for answers at plate
ST. LOUIS -- Jon Jay was out of the Cardinals lineup against the Cubs on Friday. Jay has been struggling at the plate since returning to the lineup on June 22 after spending more than a month on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury.
"I'm not going to make any excuses for anything," Jay said. "I'm just playing bad right now, hitting bad right now. ... Baseball's about adjustments, and I just have to make a better adjustment right now."
Jay is batting .211 since returning from the DL. He had hit .343 in his first 27 games, and has brought his average down to .290. He said his shoulder is not a factor in his cold streak.
Jay also said his timing is not the main issue, but Matheny expressed concern with the mechanics in Jay's swing.
"He's got a swing that has a lot of moving parts to it," Matheny said. "He's also been a pretty streaky hitter, but when he's hot, he's as good as anybody. When it starts going in a bad direction, we need to spend a little extra time working hard in the cage and trying to figure out mechanically what he needs to get right again."
Left fielder Matt Holliday returned to the starting lineup on Friday, three days after being pulled from a game due to a left leg contusion. Holliday was limited to a pinch-hit appearance on Wednesday, but is no longer feeling any effects from being hit by a pitch on Tuesday.
Despite Lance Berkman's recent admission that he is still lacking adequate bat speed, manager Mike Matheny is not second-guessing the organization's decision not to send Berkman on a Minor League rehab assignment after the first baseman spent close to two months on the disabled list.
Berkman is 0-for-9 with three walks since returning from the DL without a stint in the Minors. He earned another start on Friday against Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, against whom Berkman is 19-for-65 in his career.
The Cardinals-Cubs game on Saturday is scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. CT, which is a time change from the initial schedule. The game will be shown on FOX Sports Midwest. It will not be featured as one of FOX's national telecasts.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.