03/19/2013 6:41 PM ET
Miller, Kelly still battling for fifth-starter job
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
JUPITER, Fla. -- There may not have been a resolution in the competition for the Cardinals' fifth rotation spot -- a competition that manager Mike Matheny indicated will last for a while longer -- but both Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly used their respective outings on Thursday to further mold their identities.
Miller was as effective and efficient, as he's been all spring, throwing 43 pitches (31 strikes) in four scoreless innings. He ended his outing by retiring 11 straight Marlins hitters and had to throw 20 extra pitches off the bullpen mound in order to get enough work in for the day.
Though Miller has been sharp throughout spring, he believes that the recent identification that he was tipping some pitches helped his progress. To address the issue, which pitching coach Derek Lilliquist brought to his attention, Miller deliberately held his glove closer to chest when starting his motion.
"It feels more natural anyways, and there is less room for error," Miller said. "I'm not going to give it 100 percent to why I threw good today, but it definitely felt a lot smoother and I worked the plate good. I felt a lot better than last time. I was keeping my fastball down."
Kelly's shift was much more substantial, as it constituted a change in style. At the Cardinals' urging, Kelly is making a focused attempt at becoming a sinkerball pitcher, not a power pitcher. In other words, instead of trying to use his velocity to collect strikeouts, Kelly wants to induce early contact on his sinker.
He successfully induced plenty of ground balls on Tuesday, though several found holes. Kelly allowed six hits in the seventh inning, which led to four runs.
"With that kind of style of pitching, you're either going to go deep in the ballgame quick getting grounders, or sometimes they're going to go through because you're pitching to contact there," Kelly said.
Matheny, in trying to sway Kelly to use his pitches in such a way, shared with him the evolution of Jason Marquis, who, after getting past his own stubbornness, adopted the suggestion from pitching coach Dave Duncan to transform himself from a power pitcher to a pitch-to-contact one after being traded to St. Louis.
"[Duncan] got him to believe that there is a beauty to pitching to contact and being an efficient ground-ball pitcher," Matheny said. "The next thing you know, 10 years later, the guy is still throwing sinkers.
"I think Joe has to figure that out for himself. If he doesn't buy into it, we're all wasting our time. But I believe him to be a sinkerball pitcher. He believes him to be a sinkerball pitcher."
As for a winner in this ongoing rotation competition, there isn't an announcement yet. Matheny noted that it's likely both young right-handers will pitch again before a decision is made.
"Throw them back out there when we can, and watch them continue to pitch," Matheny said. "That's really where we are. You guys [the media] don't like that answer. Our fans probably don't like that answer. I, personally, am OK with it because it means that we have a couple of guys throwing the ball real well. What we do is we continue to put them out there. They're both getting better with every opportunity. It's not hurting us as a club to continue to give them opportunity to help get their pitch count up."
Infielder Cedeno released on Tuesday
JUPITER, Fla. -- The projected composition of the Cardinals' bench became much clearer on Tuesday with the organization's announcement that it has released middle infielder Ronny Cedeno.
Indications that Cedeno would be squeezed out of a roster spot began soon after it was announced the Rafael Furcal needed season-ending surgery. That's somewhat ironic, given that Cedeno was signed late in the offseason as insurance in case anything happened to Furcal.
However, rather than usher in a competition between Cedeno and Pete Kozma for the starting shortstop job, the Cardinals were immediate in anointing Kozma as the replacement. Daniel Descalso's ability to play short then gave the Cardinals the flexibility to take a bench spot away from Cedeno and give it to someone else -- most likely, Matt Adams.
"It surprised me a little bit, but it's part of baseball," said Cedeno. "I don't have control of that. I only have control of myself and can work hard. I think they were going in a different direction."
Cedeno signed a one-year, $1.15 million contract with the Cardinals on Jan. 29. Because that salary was not fully guaranteed, the Cardinals are only obligated to pay just under one-quarter of it by releasing Cedeno before the start of the season. That puts the club on the hook for about $284,050.
The organization also felt it fair to send Cedeno out now so that he has an opportunity to seek employment elsewhere. The Cardinals did not offer Cedeno the option of accepting a Minor League assignment.
"I think as we were trying to put it all together, it wasn't fair to drag him on," manager Mike Matheny said. "This gives him an opportunity to still catch on with somebody else when it became apparent which direction we were going. We are just trying to do, one, what's best for our club, and two, what's right for the other guy."
With Cedeno out of the mix, the Cardinals have a bench opening to keep Adams, who is batting .304 with three homers and 12 RBIs this spring. He hit .329 with 22 doubles, 18 homers and 50 RBIs in 67 Triple-A games last season. The left-handed hitting Adams would serve as another backup option at first base.
Furcal visits team after season-ending surgery
JUPITER, Fla. -- Six days after undergoing season-ending elbow surgery, shortstop Rafael Furcal returned to the Cardinals' spring complex to visit with teammates on Tuesday.
Furcal, his right arm nestled in a sling, referred to the surgery as successful and noted that Dr. James Andrews found more ligament damage than expected during the procedure. Furcal will not be able to throw or hit for at least four months, he said, but may wait even longer to ensure that his elbow is completely healed.
That's because he doesn't want to jeopardize his chances of being ready to play in 2014.
"I'm going to try to come back," Furcal said. "If my arm feels good, I know my body is going to feel fine because I'll do the same stuff I did in the offseason. This was one of the years my body was in better shape. I felt like I was going to steal 30 bases again because I spent three months working hard."
If all goes as expected, Furcal intends to play winter ball in the Dominican League. Not only will that help him get back into playing shape, but it will allow teams to get a look at what he still has left. Furcal will be 36 by the time he becomes a free agent next winter.
"They know me and they know when I'm healthy what I can do," Furcal said, referring to other clubs. "It's not a surprise. My mind right now is to try to get a good rehab. That's my main thing. I'll get in shape and see what happens. I don't have control."
Furcal said he will do the majority of his rehab work in Miami, where he makes his home. He added that he plans to return to St. Louis during some homestands. The Cardinals would welcome Furcal's presence as often as they can have it.
"He's walking energy," manager Mike Matheny said. "He just walks in and you hear the room explode with different things. He's starts yelling things that we can't hardly understand. He's just life. There's just some people here who can't hide how much they love showing up. Raffy has always been one of those guys who loves what he does. You can't have too many of those guys around."
•The Cardinals reassigned left-hander Tyler Lyons to Minor League camp after Tuesday's 5-4 win over the Marlins. Lyons allowed four earned runs on 11 hits in nine innings of Grapefruit League play.
• Matheny said that the club hopes third baseman David Freese (bruised tailbone) will return to the field on Thursday. Freese last played on March 14 but is being cleared to do a little bit more in workouts each day.
• The Cardinals will have a handful of Major League players stop by the team's spring complex on Wednesday to get work on the off-day, though most everyone has been told to stay away. This will be the last of three off-days for the club since workouts began last month.
• Matheny said he remains optimistic that he will not have to undergo an additional procedure on his back, which was operated on in St. Louis on March 11. Matheny had his back re-examined on Tuesday and was told that it is healing as it should.
• Michael Wacha, the Cardinals' top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, made his first appearance in Minor League camp on Monday. After not allowing an earned run in 11 2/3 innings of Grapefruit League play, Wacha tossed three scoreless innings in a Triple-A game. He allowed one hit, one walk and struck out four.
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.