Notes: Busch to welcome fans; Reyes excels

March 5th, 2021

When the Cardinals open their home schedule on April 8, they’ll be joined at Busch Stadium by several thousand of their closest friends.

The Cardinals, in cooperation with the city of St. Louis and Major League Baseball, announced Thursday that the club has received approval to host fans at the ballpark beginning with the home opener against the Brewers.

“There's just the bond that it is Cardinal baseball with Cardinal nation,” manager Mike Shildt said. “It’s hand-in-hand; it's special, it's magic, it's really not duplicated in any other place.”

When the season begins, approximately 32 percent of capacity will be allowed to attend each game. Tickets for April home games will go on sale soon, with Cardinals season-ticket holders receiving the first opportunity for tickets to the first two homestands. If inventory allows, on-sale dates for the general public will be determined and announced at a later date.

“We are excited to have our fans back in the stands for the upcoming season,” team president Bill DeWitt III said. “We thank Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office, Health Director Dr. Fredrick Echols, and the City of St. Louis Health Department for partnering with us to develop a comprehensive reopening plan that complies with all city health directives and the league’s return-to-play protocols.”

Dr. Echols, the city’s acting director of health, noted that reports of new COVID-19 infections have continued to decline in St. Louis during the past month. The case positivity rate recently fell below 5 percent for the first time since mid-September.

“The Cardinals organization has worked diligently to ensure they are able to create and maintain a safe environment for staff and fans,” Echols said. “Wearing a face covering, social distancing, cleaning, and other infectious disease control measures they have in place for the stadium should keep us moving in the right direction.”

A number of policies and protocols will be in place for anybody attending games at the ballpark including socially distant seating in pods of four or fewer people, a mask requirement at all times unless guests are eating or drinking, mobile-only ticketing, cashless transactions at all concession stands, kiosks and other retail areas, designated entry gates, limitations on bags, hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the ballpark, and staff health screenings and temperature checks.

“Busch Stadium’s vast open-air footprint, six entry gates and wide concourses gives us the ability to create the safest environment possible for guests to root on the Cardinals this year,” vice president of stadium operations Matt Gifford said. “We’ve all missed the fans at the ballpark and are confident that all fans will adhere to these policies for an outstanding gameday experience.”

Reyes impresses

Alex Reyes was one of the few bright spots in the Cardinals’ 14-0 loss to the Astros on Thursday, throwing a pair of perfect innings with three strikeouts. The 26-year-old is a candidate for a starting spot, the closer’s role, or just about any job in between, but right now he’s focused on getting outs.

“I would love to start,” said Reyes, who has now thrown three perfect innings this spring. “That’s what I've done as a Minor Leaguer, that’s what I've done my whole career. Pitching in the bullpen is also fun. Our organization, we're blessed with so many talented guys, that's the fun part about Spring Training -- coming out here and competing. However it ends up, it ends up; all I want to do is be on that 25-man roster.”

Not Miles away

Miles Mikolas is scheduled to throw a bullpen session this weekend, the next step for the right-hander after it was revealed Wednesday that he is dealing with shoulder stiffness.

"Like everybody, we take it from the body of work that they’re doing at the moment and we progress it to the very next step," Shildt said. "We’ll progress Miles’ next step based on how he feels. His catches have been really positive; he’s excited and he’ll throw a bullpen this weekend, then we’ll see what the next step is on Miles’ journey to get back in the rotation."

President of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Wednesday that he hopes the issue won’t be “something that lingers for a week or two,” so this weekend’s session should be a good indication of how Mikolas is feeling.

Mikolas -- who is making a return from last summer’s surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his right arm -- had been scheduled to throw a simulated game on Monday, but the shoulder issue pushed his next throwing session to the weekend.

Around the horn

• Jordan Hicks and Andrew Miller were slated to throw live batting practice on Thursday, after which the Cardinals will figure out what the next step will be for the two relievers.

• Jack Flaherty will start the B game against the Astros on Friday instead of pitching against the Nationals. The Cardinals are scheduled to face the Nationals in a pair of April series. John Gant will get the start Friday against Washington.

• Shildt applauded MLB following the announcement that June 2 would mark the inaugural “Lou Gehrig Day” around the league. “It's clearly a great tribute to a great man, and it creates even more awareness for a really nasty illness,” Shildt said.