3.12.19

Page 21

BASEBALL

03.12.2019 • Tuesday • M 1

sT. LOuIs POsT-dIsPaTCH • B3

CARDINALS NOTEBOOK

Ozuna shows progress with arm Outfielder has test as runner goes for double

Cardinals 3, Nationals 2 Washington ab r h bi Cardinals ab r h bi A.Eaton rf 2 0 0 0 Crpnter 3b 3 1 0 0 Wi.Difo ss 1 0 0 0 D.Fwler rf 3 1 2 1 T.Trner ss 3 1 1 0 Carlson rf 1 0 0 0 Ja.Noll 1b 1 0 0 0 Gldhmdt 1b 3 0 1 2 Ju.Soto lf 3 0 2 1 R.Rvelo 1b 1 0 1 0 Sanchez 2b 1 0 0 0 M.Ozuna lf 3 0 0 0 A.Rndon 3b 3 0 1 0 Schrock 3b 1 0 0 0 Rynolds pr 1 1 1 0 Mrtinez dh 4 0 1 0 Zmmrman 1b 2 0 0 0 Y.Mlina c 3 0 0 0 J.Hover rp 1 0 0 0 Ko.Wong 2b 3 0 1 0 Sverino c 1 0 1 0 Rbinson ss 3 0 0 0 B.Dzier 2b 3 0 0 0 H.Bader cf 3 1 1 0 H.Jones rf 1 00 0 K.Szuki c 3 0 1 1 M.Tylor cf 3 00 0 Schrzer sp 2 00 0 V.Rbles cf 1 00 0 Totals 32 2 7 2 Totals 31 3 7 3 Washington 100 000 100 — 2 Cardinals 003 000 00x — 3 E: Zimmerman (1). LOB: Washington 4, Cardinals 5. 2B: Turner (3), Rendon (1), Severino (4), Goldschmidt (2). CS: Reynolds (2). Washington IP H R ER BB SO Scherzer L, 0-2 5 1/3 6 3 3 1 2 2/ Hoover 0 0 0 0 1 3 Doolittle 1 0 0 0 0 1 Suero 1 1 0 0 0 0 Cardinals IP H R ER BB SO Flaherty W, 1-1 5 3 1 1 1 5 Miller 1 0 0 0 0 2 Brebbia 1 2 1 1 0 1 Woodford S, 1-1 2 2 0 0 0 1 WP: Suero. Umpires: Home, Lance Barksdale; First, Angel Hernandez; Second, Gary Cederstrom; Third, Greg Gibson. T: 2:34. A: 5,991.

BY RICK HUMMEL st. Louis Post-dispatch

JUPITER, FLA. • It didn’t take

long for the ball to find Marcell Ozuna on Monday during the Cardinals’ exhibition game against Washington. The second hitter, speedy Trea Turner, sent a hit to left field and tried to take second. Ozuna, making his first start in left field after offseason shoulder surgery, made a one-hop, marginally strong throw to second, but Turner slid in safely with a double and later scored on a single by Juan Soto. And then Ozuna didn’t have another chance for the rest of his seven innings. But manager Mike Shildt, forced to deduce what he could from a small sample size, was pleased by what he saw. “I thought he was fine. He’s got even more in him than he showed,” Shildt said. “But, already that throw is more representative than a lot of the throws last year. “We expect him to come through with flying colors.” Ozuna has more than two weeks to try to improve his arm. He will not travel more than two hours one way Tuesday to Lake Buena Vista for a game, but Shildt said Ozuna would be playing regularly the rest of the Grapefruit League schedule. Ozuna, who receives daily treatment and massage for his arm, said, “I feel my arm’s better than before. I’m going to work hard every day and don’t miss any treatment because that helps.” On his throw Monday, Ozuna, a Gold Glover in 2017 with Miami, said he hadn’t his used his body properly to help his arm. “It was a good throw,” he said. “What I like about the throw was that it was strong. And there was no pain. “After that, I said, ‘One more. Give me one more chance.’ I didn’t get it.” It had been three years or more since his arm had been painfree. “After 2014, in the winter I started throwing and I felt something in my arm pop,” said Ozuna. “I didn’t stop, no treatment, and I just kept playing like that. Year by year, it got worse.” Ozuna, who had 23 homers, 88 runs batted in and a .280 average in an “off” season last year, is one for 20 (.050) at the plate this spring. But he said he had been feeling better at the plate and was

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOS

Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty delivers in the first inning Monday against Washington.

Center fielder Harrison Bader (48) celebrates with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt after scoring a run.

getting closer to his 2017 feeling when he had 37 homers, 124 RBIs and hit .312 with Miami. “I’ve got to keep working and figure out how to get out of the hole,” said Ozuna, 28. Discussing the difficulties he had in his shoulder in his first year with the Cardinals, he said, “It’s bad when you have pain, especially on your right side. You can’t make an extension when you (are swinging) with just one arm. Right now, I feel I can get there. It’s just timing.” Shildt said that Ozuna’s swing was “more on plane. He looks a lot better. The games tell me that. The (batting practice) tells me that. And the balls (he hits) tell me that.

So, one for 20 doesn’t bother Ozuna? “No,” said Ozuna. “It’s spring training. When the lights are on, we’ll see.”

FLAHERTY IN LINE FOR HOME OPENER

After striking out nine Philadelphia Phillies in four innings this past Tuesday, Jack Flaherty whiffed five Nationals in five innings in a 3-2 win Monday. Shildt wouldn’t come out and say Flaherty will pitch the second game of the season, behind Miles Mikolas in Milwaukee and subsequently the home opener, but he didn’t deter that suggestion. “You are on a great path,” he mirthfully told a reporter. “Fol-

low the Yellow Brick Road. But I haven’t declared.” Flaherty outdueled three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, the former Mizzou star, allowing one run in five innings while Scherzer gave up three in 5 1/3. Scherzer hit against Flaherty, as the Nationals eschewed the designated hitter available to them, per Scherzer’s request. Flaherty wanted to bat against Scherzer, but Shildt determined that Jose Martinez should be the DH. But Scherzer didn’t really enjoy batting against Flaherty, who threw a couple of up and in pitches during Scherzer’s second at-bat. The second one Scherzer fouled off accidentally before he struck out. “The 0-2 fastball up at my head, I didn’t really like,” Scherzer told Washington reporters afterward. “The second one was kind of up and in. Thankfully it hit the knob and it just glanced (off) my finger. I kind of dodged a bullet there.” Scherzer cast a look in Flaherty’s direction and Shildt said, “I can understand that.” Flaherty credited much of his success Monday to Yadier Molina, who caught him for the first time this spring. “It’s always good to have him back there,” said Flaherty. Backup catcher Matt Wieters helped the Cardinals, too, by throwing out a runner in the ninth. “I’ve been pleased with Matt since the very first day (he was in camp),” said Shildt. Wiet-

Cards like what they’re seeing from Fowler CARDINALS • FROM B1

game for the switch-hitter the Cardinals want to seize the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Fowler also singled up the middle, and he aided starter Jack Flaherty by throwing a runner out at the plate in a Grapefruit League game the Cardinals would win 3-2. The two hits gave Fowler five in his past 18 at-bats. For weeks, the Cardinals have found reassurance for Fowler and themselves in advanced metrics and the health and bounce he’s showed throughout camp. The sneak bunt and hard-shot single against Scherzer were indicators of this shared optimism starting to leak into the box score. It was a good day that gave the Cardinals flashes of the Fowler they hope to see speeding toward a good start. A Fowler who looks — familiar. “He’s back to who he is, what kind of player he is,” manager Mike Shildt said. “Playing the game, seeing the game, doing those little things. Dexter is an experienced guy with a high baseball IQ that knows how to play the game and he’s enjoying playing the game. And he’s seeing the game and taking advantage of situations that you would expect (from) a guy who understands how to play and to play to win.” With Monday’s game the Cardinals have passed the

halfway point of spring and have played more games (17) than they have remaining before opening day (15). The regulars will begin to play deeper into games, play in back-to-back games, and face pitchers still being considered for big-league staffs. Fowler was on deck for a fourth at-bat Monday before leaving the game; Matt Carpenter did get a fourth plate appearance. Spring statistics can be misleading, varying from arid Arizona to sticky Florida and based on the competition. But in the coming week veteran hitters, like Fowler, will look for timing, and teams look for results. On Monday, Shildt took his weekly tour of the team’s statistics for trends and clues. Players can dismiss their individual numbers as small sample sizes. Teams, less so. The Cardinals began their back half of the Grapefruit League schedule as the lowest-scoring team in baseball, with 71 runs. Eleven of those came in their first game. At .398, the Cardinals were one of three teams in the majors with a slugging percentage less than .400. Some context is key. The only other Florida team with a sub-.400 slugging percentage and the other lowest-scoring team in baseball is the Marlins, the Cardinals’ Roger Dean Stadium roommates. “The Dean is not a hitter’s favorite. The Dean can be unkind to the hitters,” said Shildt, who had two players

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ers, a spring training acquisition as a non-roster player, has been in camp only two weeks. After Wieters caught a runner, backup first baseman Rangel Ravelo made a leaping and tumbling catch of a liner to end the game.

STARTERS TO BACK OFF

There are 14 exhibition games remaining for the Cardinals after Monday, but not all of them will be started by members of the projected rotation. Shildt said all his starters would take some starts on the back fields against minor leaguers to better control the workload of the pitchers, including their hitting and bunting. “We’re making sure we can get them into a controlled setting — 85 to 100 (pitches).” And maybe to throw off the scouts. “Make them work a little bit,” joked Shildt. “Not a lot of video back there. Not that anybody’s paying attention to video these days. It’s not a tool anybody uses for anything.”

EXTRA BASES

Righthander Carlos Martinez, out most of the spring as he strengthens his right shoulder, will begin playing catch in two days or so. “Everything’s been positive,” said Shildt. “Day by day. Brick by brick. He’s been diligent with his program.” • Jake Woodford got the save in Monday’s win — and then he got a trip down the hall to the minor league complex. Woodford, who has caught the eyes of president of baseball operation John Mozeliak, Shildt and the coaching staff, was among six players sent to the minor leagues after the game. Rick Hummel @cmshhummel on Twitter rhummel@post-dispatch.com

who saw potential home runs wilt into outs Monday. The manager added, “We now have a bigger sample size. Let’s look at it. There are areas where it’s like, ‘Yeah, I can see we’re moving the needle in this area from the previous week.’ And there are areas where you go, well, we’re still working, we need to work a little more, or that’s coming.” The Cardinals’ planned starting outfield — Marcell Ozuna, Harrison Bader and Fowler, left to right — has gone 10 for 70 (.143) this spring. Ozuna, who started in left for the first time, is still looking for his second hit and his first out of the infield. Bader went one for three Monday. At some point, even in spring, trends have to manifest as production. Fowler has as many hits in the Grapefruit League as Matt Carpenter, but context is required. Three of Carpenter’s five have been homers. He had extra bases taken from him Monday. Rather than look to the box scores and stats for evidence of Fowler’s swing, the Cardinals have provided him with advanced metrics. Hitting coach Jeff Albert shows Fowler his exit velocity on his contact, and this spring he’s hit the ball with greater velocity than he did at any point in 2018. (“It’s awesome,” Fowler said.) His average exit velocity has spiked, the team contends. When he lined to center recently the Cardinals didn’t want him to look at the out, just the 101 mph on ball off the bat. “It’s coming right along, coming right along,” Fowler said. “It’s like I said: I feel it’s coming. I feel right. Get some ABs and get some consistent ABs and let the rest take care of itself.” Fowler said there have been a few times when he’s spied the chance to bunt for a hit, as he did against Scherzer, and passed up on it because it’s spring. The focus is on his swing. His quest is for timing. At-bats have been scarce against lefty pitchers, so he’s looking to get them when possible, and it’s also clear that he’s going to the plate to hit, to take his cuts. Fowler has worked counts like he would during the season, but not worked walks. He’s yet to walk once this spring. Only Drew Robinson has more plate appearances than Fowler this spring without a walk. He has seven strikeouts. Only one teammate, Paul Goldschmidt, has fewer atbats than Fowler and has put the ball in play more often. At the start of spring training, the Cardinals had a checklist that included health and mobility for Fowler. They wanted to see an exuberance that allowed him to put distance between this month, this spring and this season from last year’s career lows. He’s moving the needle. As spring closes, trends become truths, or give way to them. “I hope I answered all of the questions,” Fowler said. “I’m trying to take good at-bats, get my timing back, get back into the swing of things, you know, and getting back in that baseball shape. At the end of the day, if I’m swinging the bat well, then it’s all you can keep doing. You keep going.” Derrick Goold • @dgoold on Twitter • dgoold@post-dispatch.com