3/2/2014 6:21 P.M. ET
Adams putting in work to improve vs. lefties
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
JUPITER, Fla. -- As Matt Adams went about his winter work, he zeroed in on the one deficiency that he believed could hold him back from thriving in his upcoming opportunity as an everyday first baseman in St. Louis. He had to find a way to keep from being exposed by lefties.
Adams began that process by setting up a lefty pitching machine to throw offspeed pitches that he could track. Then he invited some southpaws living near him in central Pennsylvania to throw to him during batting-practice sessions. Again, the intent was to get as many looks as he could at pitches coming in from that side.
The Cardinals helped him continue that work by having him face at least one lefty each workout day during coach-pitch batting practice. He stood in for live BP sessions by Randy Choate, Tim Cooney and Kevin Siegrist. And in his first at-bat against a lefty in Grapefruit League play, Adams singled off New York's Steven Matz on Sunday.
"I remember last year when I first got in the box against a lefty during live BP, I felt like I was kind of on my heels more than in my base and ready to go," Adams said. "This year, I felt like I was more balanced and that I was picking the ball up better. I'm not picking it up later as it's leaving their hands. That's a good sign.
"Obviously, you're not going to make those [righty-lefty] splits completely even, but bringing that lefty split up a little bit would make me feel pretty good."
Adams did not have a huge sample size of at-bats (52) against lefties in 2013 because of the role he filled. Manager Mike Matheny chose spot starts for Adams based largely on matchups. Until Adams had to step in at first base regularly in September, the only lefties he often saw were those brought in to face him after he was announced as a pinch-hitter.
Combining his 2013 results with those from his time in the Majors the year before, Adams has a .208 average. 219 on-base percentage and 25 strikeouts in 72 at-bats against left-handers. Only three of his 19 home runs have come off them.
"In the Minor Leagues I felt good against lefties whenever I was playing every day," Adams said. "I had my rhythm down. My swing felt good. My swing felt good last year as a pinch-hitter, but it's tough going out there, seeing that guy on the mound as a right-hander and you have your approach set for him, then all of a sudden your name is announced and you have a lefty coming in. You have to hurry up and flip-flop that approach as best you can. I would say that those numbers are kind of misleading last year."
Adams is not done looking for ways to improve in this area either. He said he plans to sit down with lefty specialist Choate later in camp to talk about philosophy.
"If I can recognize what he is going to do," Adams said, "I'll have a good idea during the season what a lefty specialist is going to do to me."
Postseason star Wacha still trying to impress
JUPITER, Fla. -- If Michael Wacha wanted a reminder of the difference a year makes, all he had to do was peer up at the Roger Dean Stadium video board minutes before his spring debut. There, he could relive his October.
After the video highlights had ended and the applause had waned, Wacha took the mound with aspirations much simpler than those put on his shoulder last postseason. He just wants to make the team.
"I feel like I still have to make an impression," Wacha said after his 1 2/3-inning start. "I'm still trying to win a job right now. I'm still going out there trying to make a good impression and trying to get guys out."
Later informed of Wacha's answer, manager Mike Matheny grinned.
"Exactly the right answer," he said. "We should probably put that on a poster out there. Or a T-shirt."
Wacha's sensational October -- one that included wins in each of his first four postseason starts and a National League Championship Series MVP trophy for the mantel -- puts him in strong position for an Opening Day rotation spot. Last year, he arrived at his first Spring Training trying to get noticed. Nowadays, he's merely trying to keep a stranglehold on that spotlight.
Wacha won't be matching the standout spring results he had in 2013, when he struck out 15 and did not allow an earned run in 11 2/3 innings. He walked one batter in his five appearances last spring. On Sunday, he issued two walks in the first inning alone.
Searching for his fastball command, Wacha threw 30 pitches in that opening inning. Curtis Granderson clobbered a hanging one-out changeup for a double in between those two walks, but Wacha wiggled out of the inning unscathed. He retired two batters in the second before being removed due to pitch count (39).
"I think I might have been a little too amped up -- a couple fastballs up in the zone where I didn't want them," Wacha said. "I just had to settle down going out there in the second inning and it worked out a lot better. … I have to get better throwing that first-pitch strike, attacking them with my stuff, and then throwing quality strikes."
Rosenthal returns to hill following groin issue
JUPITER, Fla. -- After ending Tuesday's live batting practice early due to tightness in his right groin, Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal returned to the mound on Sunday and threw without issue during a 25-pitch bullpen session.
Rosenthal said he expects to throw once more on the side (either a bullpen session or live batting practice) before making his Grapefruit League debut. That side session will likely come on Wednesday.
"I was lucky that it wasn't too [serious an injury] and that it was early," Rosenthal said. "I feel like I'm pretty close to being right on track."
Rosenthal did not appear to be throwing at full intensity on Sunday, though that was to be expected after the short layoff. The Cardinals believe that Rosenthal potentially prevented a more serious issue with his groin by alerting the medical staff to the discomfort immediately last week.
• The Cardinals reassigned right-hander Jordan Swagerty to Minor League camp on Sunday. Swagerty, who stopped his throwing program due to elbow inflammation, will continue his rehab work in the new setting.
• Matheny said that the Cardinals still do not have a date scheduled for Oscar Taveras' spring debut, as the club is waiting until "he is 100 percent and not holding back." Taveras continues to increase the intensity of his running and is specifically being pushed through exercises that have him take his first step with his surgically repaired right ankle.
"He's close to being ready to take off," Matheny said. "When he's ready to go, it'll be full go."
• Jason Motte, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, threw another bullpen session on Sunday. He threw 20 pitches, took a break for a few minutes and then closed the session with 20 more. Motte has now thrown four bullpen sessions to a crouching catcher, a step he moved onto last Sunday.
• The Cardinals will get their first chance to test Major League Baseball's new replay system on Wednesday, when it is made available for the team's game against the Red Sox. MLB is preselecting a handful of games for replay during Spring Training, and in those games, managers will not have a limit on how many calls they choose to challenge.
• Infielder Greg Garcia, who left Saturday's game with a left hamstring cramp, was held out of Sunday's game but is making the trip to Lakeland, Fla., for Monday's game. He is expected to be available to play in the game against Detroit.
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.