3/9/2013 5:55 P.M. ET
Cards could have unexpected 'pen opening for opener
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals' plan to carry two left-handed relievers - Randy Choate and Marc Rzepczynski - in the Opening Day bullpen is now in flux after Rzepczynski suffered a left eye injury while golfing on Friday.
The club does not yet know how long the injury will keep Rzepczynski off the field, though he won't return to the team's spring complex until at least Monday. Having already missed a week due to left biceps tightness, Rzepczynski is in jeopardy of not having sufficient time to prepare for the start of the regular season.
If Rzepczynski is not ready by April 1, that would give the Cardinals an unanticipated bullpen opening. It's not a certainty, either, that the hole would be filled by a left-hander.
"I've never been that guy who says we have to have so many left-handers or right-handers in our bullpen," manager Mike Matheny. "We just need guys who can get people out."
The Cardinals are short on other lefty relief candidates. Sam Freeman, who made his Major League debut last season, has not pitched since Feb. 24 because of shoulder inflammation. He is not expected to return to the mound soon.
The other left-handed pitchers in camp -- Kevin Siegrist, Tyler Lyons, Barret Browning and John Gast -- were all projected to begin the year in the Minors. Of those four, only Siegrist is on the team's 40-man roster.
Rzepczynski sidelined after hurting eye on golf course
JUPITER, Fla. -- Marc Rzepczynski remains away from the Cardinals and on bed rest until at least Monday as he recovers from a freak left eye injury that he suffered during a golf outing with teammates on Friday.
The incident happened at the Admiral's Cove golf course, just after Rzepczynski, Randy Choate, Seth Maness and Lance Lynn teed off on the first hole. As Rzepczynski attempted to hit his second shot out of the rough, a piece of debris is believed to have caromed up and hit him in his left eye.
Lynn said he saw Rzepczynski rub at his eye immediately before falling to his knees.
"At first, he was swiping like he had something that had gone in his eye," Lynn said. "Then I saw some blood above his eye. I don't think it was the ball that hit him. I think it was mulch or an acorn or something like that. I wasn't close enough to see what it was or what happened, but I'm pretty positive that it wasn't the ball."
Choate said he didn't see Rzepczynski take the swing, but grew concerned when he went up to the left-hander and saw blood.
"He was just saying that it was kind of stinging and burning," Choate said. "He asked me how bad it was. It was just really red. The inner half was just really red."
Choate immediately drove Rzepczynski to the Cardinals' Spring Training complex so a trainer could evaluate him. Rzepczynski was then sent to a local eye doctor, who is scheduled to have a followup visit with Rzepczynski on Monday.
"It was serious enough that you knew he had to get him in here," Choate said. "The whole way up here he kept saying, 'Only me. This only happens to me. Only to Rzep. Only to Rzep.'"
Choate said he spoke with Rzepczynski later in the day and was told that there was no damage to the retina. Rzepczynski described his eye as "bruised" during that conversation and said that his vision was returning.
Manager Mike Matheny said he had no additional information to provide regarding Rzepczynski's current status on Saturday, aside from the expectation that "he's going to be laid up for a while." The Cardinals hope to learn more about Rzepczynski's prognosis after Monday's checkup.
Rzepczynski last pitched on Thursday, following a week-long layoff he had due to left biceps soreness. He was scheduled to return to the mound Saturday. Now that Rzepczynski is sidelined indefinitely, the Cardinals have to consider the possibility that the lefty won't be ready at the start of the season.
"We're just still at a point right now where we're hoping that everything clears up and that it checks out OK," Matheny said. "You can't get work [in] if he's in bed, so, yeah, that's definitely not helping him get ready for the season."
Longer stride suits Waino in dominant start
JUPITER, Fla. -- For Adam Wainwright, the moment of clarity came disguised in an autograph request.
Asked by an autograph seeker to sign a photo of himself as he left the Cardinals' complex earlier this week, Wainwright was struck by what he saw on the image. The stride captured in the shot, which Wainwright believed was taken several years ago, was clearly longer than the one he had been incorporating into his delivery this spring. And so, after providing his signature to the man, he drove off with a plan to make the change.
Wainwright featured the longer stride on Saturday and shut out the Marlins over 4 2/3 innings. Wainwright struck out six, limited Miami to three hits and threw 44 of his 68 pitches for strikes. It was the most dominant of Wainwright's three spring performances.
"It was an easy adjustment to me, [because] it was more natural," Wainwright said. "I've got it ingrained in my memory now."
In between autographing that photo and taking the mound Saturday, Wainwright tested the two stride lengths during a bullpen session. With video coordinator Chad Blair filming the session, Wainwright threw several pitches with the stride he used last season and this spring. Then, he reverted back to the old one. Afterward, the analysis was obvious.
"I felt like it was improved," Wainwright said. "The life on the ball was better. I was working down better. I was able to mix and match speeds better."
Wainwright is scheduled to make three more spring starts before the regular season opens.
Matheny to have surgery, miss couple of games
JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny will fly back to St. Louis after Sunday's game and undergo a minor back procedure on Monday morning. The procedure, which is called a microdiscectomy, will help alleviate the pain that has been caused by a ruptured disc. A fragment from the disc that is pressing against a nerve will be removed.
Matheny will miss the club's games on Monday and Tuesday, but is expected to return to Jupiter, Fla., on Wednesday, which is an off-day for the team. During his absence, Mike Aldrete will serve as the team's acting manager. First-base coach Chris Maloney will move into the role of bench coach. Triple-A manager Ron "Pop" Warner will coach first base.
The Cardinals are hopeful that this procedure will provide long-term relief for Matheny, who has been dealing with back pain throughout Spring Training. The second-year manager received temporary relief from an epidural shot on Monday, but that had worn off over the last few days.
Carpenter continues to look comfortable at second
JUPITER, Fla. -- For the Cardinals, the debate is no longer if Matt Carpenter can play second base, but rather, will he?
Carpenter has proven himself capable of handling the position, which he has played almost exclusively since Spring Training opened. He got a head start on the transition with the work he did over the winter, and he arrived at camp ahead of other position players to get one-on-one tutoring from coach Jose Oquendo.
With the foundation built through that work, Carpenter has not looked out of place at second base in Grapefruit League play.
"When I watched him early on, I was very confident that this was something he was going to be able to do," manager Mike Matheny said. "He looks good. He looks good on the turns. That was our main concern that making sure that he was comfortable enough around the bag to stay out of harm's way. He's making some tough plays and seems to be working well with the other middle infielders. That's all we could ask from him."
Though the Cardinals are pleased with Carpenter's progress, they are not crowning him the team's starting second baseman just yet. Daniel Descalso, an above-average defender, is still very much in the mix. Matheny indicated that the organization is open to various second-base scenarios, whether it be splitting playing time between the two or giving one the majority of the starts.
"It's too early to tell that," Matheny said. "We still have a lot of time to see how that plays out."
Holliday misses third straight with stomach virus
JUPITER, Fla. -- Left fielder Matt Holliday made a brief appearance at the Cardinals' spring complex Saturday, but he was again not available to play due to a lingering stomach virus. It marked the third straight game Holliday has missed from being sick.
Manager Mike Matheny said Holliday's high fever subsided on Friday before spiking again overnight. Added Matheny: "He's just having trouble kicking this thing."
The layoff won't affect Holliday's ability to get himself conditioned for the start of the regular season, since three weeks of Grapefruit League games remain. In his seven game appearances before becoming ill, Holliday went 3-for-14 with two home runs and four RBIs.
With Holliday temporarily sidelined and Carlos Beltran away for the World Baseball Classic, the Cardinals' reserve outfielders continue to pile up the playing time. Adron Chambers has played in all 14 of the Cards' Spring Training games. Justin Christian entered the day having appeared in 12 games.
• Though he has never set a firm deadline for negotiations, Adam Wainwright said on Saturday that he would expect contract extension talks to be tabled if an agreement is not reached before Opening Day. The Cardinals and Wainwright's agent, Steve Hammond, remain in ongoing talks about finding a mutually beneficial agreement that would keep Wainwright from becoming a free agent after the season.
"It's something that, especially from my standpoint, I can't come to the field every day thinking about a contract situation," Wainwright said. "I think once the season happens, from our standpoint, we'd just put it on hold indefinitely. That's not to say that something couldn't get done during the season. You never know. But there's far too much in Spring Training to even think about it."
• Cardinals relievers Fernando Salas (Team Mexico) and Mitchell Boggs (Team USA) each made a one-inning appearance in a World Baseball Classic game on Friday that pitted the two teammates as opponents. Salas allowed one run on two hits in the eighth inning. He threw 18 pitches. Boggs worked around two baserunners to pitch a scoreless ninth. He needed 17 pitches to get through the frame.
• Carlos Beltran went 1-for-3 with an RBI double as Team Puerto Rico's starting right fielder on Friday. Yadier Molina also started for the club and went 1-for-4. Puerto Rico defeated Spain, 3-0.
• Rafael Furcal has scheduled his elbow surgery with Dr. James Andrews for Wednesday at Andrews' office in Pensacola, Fla. The club announced on Thursday that Furcal had elected to have the season-ending procedure.
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.