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Blazek takes title of best bunting pitcher

JUPITER, Fla. -- Inserting incentive into what is a normally mundane drill, manager Mike Matheny is including bunting competitions as part of the team's early workout schedule.

The first to compete were the pitchers, who accrued points based on how many bunts they laid down within a particular boundary line. This happened on Friday and the four top bunters -- Victor Marte, Fernando Salas, Michael Blazek and Trevor Rosenthal -- advanced to Saturday's bunting championship.

With the entire team and full coaching staff watching and hollering, those four pitchers made another 10 bunt attempts in their quest for the crown. Blazek and Rosenthal each started five-for-five, but Blazek took the title with eight successful bunts made.

"When we started the meeting a couple days ago, I asked the guys to evaluate the bunting and I had two of our starters yell out that we stunk," Matheny said. "There's not a better time to start working on it; then to add the competition and put the pressure of your teammates watching.

"[It can] really get them reminded of some of the things [former Cardinals coach] George Kissell taught, some of the fundamentals. I know how much everybody loves the fact that we bunt. It seems to be great entertainment for everybody back home. So I'm glad to appease them."

Matheny said he expects to hold a bunting competition among the position players next week. There might be another pitchers' tournament, as well, as several starters, in particular, wanted another crack at impressing. Third-base coach Jose Oquendo and guest instructor Jim Edmonds were among those who jokingly suggested a coaches' competition should also be in the works.