Notes: Cardinals rotation announced
Despite off-days, La Russa plans five-man staff to start season
JUPITER, Fla. -- After flirting with the idea of a four-man rotation in the season's early going, the Cardinals have decided to go five-deep from Day 1.
Manager Tony La Russa announced his team's pitchers for the first week of the regular season on Sunday, and all five starters will pitch in the first six games. The club will use all five starters regularly during the early part of the season, despite numerous off-days.
Chris Carpenter will pitch Opening Night against the Mets on Sunday, April 1, and then on Friday, April 6, against the Astros in Houston. Kip Wells will start the season's second game, April 3, against New York. Wells was chosen for the assignment in part because the Cardinals will receive their World Series rings that night, and Wells is the only member of the rotation not getting a ring.
Braden Looper makes his big-league starting debut on April 4 against the Mets. After Carpenter starts the first game in Houston, Adam Wainwright will make his first Major League start on Saturday, April 7, with Anthony Reyes pitching on Sunday, April 8.
Carpenter will stay on his fifth day for one more turn, closing out the team's six-game road trip to Houston and Pittsburgh on April 11.
Some of the choices were obvious -- like Carpenter starting early and often, and Wells going on Ring Night. Others were less so. Reyes, a fly-ball pitcher throughout his career, seems like an ill fit for cozy Minute Maid Park, but pitching coach Dave Duncan noted that the right-hander has been getting grounders this spring.
"You look at what guys' styles of pitching are, and the style of hitting of the club," said Duncan. "Sometimes there's an advantage for one guy -- not an advantage, but he matches up better than somebody else. So you look at that. And you look at history -- what history they have against different clubs."
Starting after their April 12 day off, the Cardinals expect to roll their starters over for the following weeks, regardless of breaks in the schedule.
"We were seriously, for the first time in years, talking about [having] four guys and the fifth guy bouncing in and out," La Russa said. "But because of how well these guys have gone about everything, game and non-game days, we'll be pitching five guys."
Molina update: Catcher Yadier Molina was held out for a fourth straight day due to soreness in his right shoulder. Molina tested out the shoulder in practice on Sunday, and liked how he felt.
"If this was the opening of the season, he would play," La Russa said. "But we want to make sure we put that behind us. It's nothing with hitting. It's all throwing. And it's such a weapon that you want to get it well. He throws a lot, and that's just part of what happens."
Rough Reyes: Reyes endured the rockiest outing for a Cards starter this spring on Sunday. He allowed five runs on eight hits, plus two walks and a hit batter, in four innings.
Reyes' command wasn't sharp, leading to the slew of base hits. But he pointed to 55 strikes in 84 pitches as an encouraging sign. A pitcher who always had excellent control in the Minors, his walk rate spiked greatly when he got to St. Louis last year.
"I'm used to throwing a lot of strikes," he said. "I think I fixed the problem I had last year. I think I'm a lot more positive this year, and feeling comfortable on the mound each time."
Visit from the Bear: Golf legend Jack Nicklaus addressed the Cardinals on Sunday morning. Nicklaus, golf's all-time record holder with 18 major championship wins, is a resident of Palm Beach County.
Nicklaus signed numerous autographs and posed for photographs with players and coaches alike.
"They're all fired up," La Russa said of his players. "That's why I always get a kick out of it when we do that. You look around, and he has their attention. I always look with envy, because I get them answering their mail and talking on their cell phones. They pay attention to him."
Wainwright was one of those especially thrilled to meet the "Golden Bear." The righty is an avid and skilled golfer.
"He's the greatest golfer ever," Wainwright said, "[although] he's got a guy nipping at his heels who's still playing. But any time you can listen to somebody who's the best ever at what they've done, that's a pretty big treat for us."
Cutdown day: The Cardinals trimmed four non-roster players from camp on Sunday. Tagg Bozied, Edgar Gonzalez, Eli Marrero and Brian Esposito were re-assigned to Minor League camp.
Marrero, bothered by soreness in his right elbow, will be examined by a doctor on Monday. La Russa said that he expects Marrero to accept an assignment to the Minors, rather than opting for free agency.
"I talked to him a week ago and he said that he would be ready to go to Triple-A," La Russa said. "He's gone too far this spring to back off now. He's close enough. The first thing right now is for him to get healthy."
Auspicious debut: The Cardinals' Major League staff got its first look at one of the most promising arms in the system on Sunday. Right-handed reliever Chris Perez was called from Minor League camp to pitch an inning, and he did so with aplomb. Perez retired all three batters he faced, getting a flyout to left field, a popup to short and a grounder to short.
"He's got a good arm and he wasn't scared," Duncan said. "He went out there and let it go. That's what you look for. His breaking ball looks like it's a little erratic, probably needs some refinement."
Several veteran Cardinals, including Carpenter and Jim Edmonds, stopped to watch Perez pitch before hitting the showers. Perez was the No. 42 overall selection in last June's draft. After making his debut at low Class A Quad Cities, he could start this year at Double-A Springfield.
Weather report: Monday will look a lot like Sunday in Jupiter, weather-wise, at least. The forecast calls for a first-pitch temperature of 80 degrees, a very slight chance of rain and winds at around 20 mph.
Coming up: The Cardinals will be the visitors in their own home ballpark on Monday when they play the Florida Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. Wainwright will make his last Grapefruit League start, against the Marlins' Sergio Mitre, at 12:05 p.m. CT.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.