Notes: Thompson turning heads
Dark horse for spot in Cards' rotation off to splendid start
JUPITER, Fla. -- It was Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan who identified Anthony Reyes and Braden Looper, but not Brad Thompson, as "priority" candidates for the Cardinals rotation. Yet it was Thompson who delivered the first outing this spring that truly qualifies as a dream showing for Duncan, manager Tony La Russa and the St. Louis staff.
Thompson faced nine batters and retired all nine. He induced six groundball outs, vs. only two in the air. He needed a mere 25 pitches to get through his three innings. It was a bad, bad day to be a worm in front of the plate at Roger Dean Stadium.
"You take the outs however you get them," said manager Tony La Russa. "But when he's at his best, there's so much movement that there's a tendency that the ball will be hit into the ground."
Thompson, trying to earn a starting spot over Reyes, Looper or perhaps Adam Wainwright, has been one of St. Louis' most impressive pitchers since the beginning of camp. He's thrown his hard sinker down in the strike zone again and again. Now his slurvy breaking ball and his changeup are starting to catch up with that sinking fastball.
"I'm happy with the way I've been throwing so far, but there's a lot of time left," Thompson said. "So you can't get excited about anything right now. But I'm happy that the ball is staying down, that it's sinking. I've just got to keep doing it."
Three potential outcomes face Thompson as spring rolls on. He could crack the rotation. He could return to the bullpen. Or he could, conceivably, be sent to Triple-A Memphis since he still can be optioned.
If Thompson continues to throw like this, however, it will be impossible to justify sending him out. Thompson has the ability to be a groundball machine, which is exactly how Duncan and La Russa like for their pitchers to go at things.
"It's nice that they feel confident enough to even throw my name in there with all the other great names," Thompson said. "I'm happy they're doing that, and if it doesn't work out, they know I can throw the innings."
Reyes shines: Thompson's performance followed a solid showing by Reyes. The righty pitched two innings, walking two batters, but not allowing any hits or runs. Reyes threw 32 pitches, 19 of them for strikes, before he was lifted.
He was fairly pleased with his own sinking fastball. Of course, for Reyes, the sinker is a work in progress, rather than the absolute bread-and-butter pitch that it is for Thompson.
"Last year, it was more about placing than just throwing it," said Reyes. "This offseason I was working with it and I just kind of found that release where I can just throw it and not try and make it move like I was trying to last year."
Wilson making progress: Preston Wilson expects to be in the lineup on Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale. He sat out the past two games as the result of mild biceps tendinitis.
"I think I'll DH or play Tuesday," he said. "It's nothing. It's just more precautionary. That's all. We're just trying to be smart about it. A couple days now will save us time later."
Wilson is 1-for-6 in two game appearances this spring.
Eck update: David Eckstein was held out of all baseball activities on Sunday, participating in the morning stretch and nothing else. He'll be re-examined by Dr. George Paletta on Monday.
Eckstein, who has a mild left oblique strain, does not expect to swing a bat or participate in fielding drills on Monday even if his examination is positive. He said that at most, he would expect to be permitted to throw some during Monday's workout.
Springer throws: Russ Springer, sidelined for several days as a result of some soreness in the ribcage area, threw from a mound on Sunday. He'll throw another bullpen session Tuesday, then the club will decide how to proceed.
"Everything's right where I want it to be," said the right-hander, who has yet to throw in a game this spring. "Actually a little bit better than I thought it would be."
Taguchi on the keystone? The possibility of So Taguchi making an emergency appearance at second base has come up at times during Taguchi's tenure as a Cardinal. It's being mentioned again while the Cardinals do without Eckstein and Adam Kennedy, both unavailable due to injury.
Taguchi would be, at most, a late-innings fill-in if someone else were to go down. But the possibility has crossed La Russa's mind. The skipper said that as long as Taguchi has not been removed from a game, the outfielder provides a bit of potential depth in the middle infield.
"[On Saturday], I already had sent [Scott] Spiezio out, so Aaron [Miles] stayed just in case," La Russa said. "But when I took Taguchi out, that's one reason Aaron had to stay till the ninth. If Taguchi's still in the game, I'd send Aaron out. We could play Taguchi in the infield."
Broadcast info: Sunday's game was carried on the Cardinals' radio network. Monday's will not be, but Tuesday's game in Fort Lauderdale will be available on radio and therefore on MLB.com Gameday Audio. The Cards' first televised game of the spring will be Sunday, March 11, against Atlanta on KSDK TV-5.
Standing-room only: Upwards of 100 media members are expected to follow the Red Sox from Fort Myers to Jupiter on Tuesday for Daisuke Matsuzaka's Grapefruit League debut against the Marlins. The Cardinals' bullpen bench will actually be used as overflow media seating on the field for the game.
Weather report: Monday's forecast calls for an even cooler day than Sunday. Game-time temperature in Jupiter is expected to be 68 degrees, and that may be as warm as it gets. It'll be breezy, with winds around 15 mph, and sunny with little chance of rain.
Coming up: The Cardinals play their fourth straight game at Roger Dean Stadium on Monday, and for the first time they'll face somebody other than the Marlins or Mets. The Astros make the trip down from Kissimmee for a 12:05 p.m. CT start. Adam Wainwright starts for St. Louis, followed by Mike Smith, Kelvin Jimenez, Dennis Dove, Ricardo Rincon and Josh Kinney. Fernando Nieve starts for visiting Houston.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.