What's on deck for Cards' home opener

April 7th, 2021

On Thursday, the Cardinals will welcome fans back to Busch Stadium for the first time in 544 days. When they file in, the 32-percent capacity crowd will have a slice of normal back in their lives -- more than just watching their favorite team in person once again.

The famed Budweiser Clydesdales will be back in attendance, returning to St. Louis a tradition that had to be put on hold last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The steeds will set up to start his sixth home opener and to experience his first in St. Louis. First pitch against the Brewers is set for 3:15 p.m. CT.

To really set the stage, Arenado will catch a ceremonial first pitch from Cardinals Hall of Famer Scott Rolen -- a toss from Gold Glove third baseman of past to that of the present.

“Excited for Nolan to get a taste of what it's like to play in front of our fans,” said manager Mike Shildt. “I know how much they appreciate and are excited, and I know they're excited to show him.”

Coverage of the day’s festivities will start at 1:30 p.m. CT on Bally Sports Midwest, with an extended edition of “Cardinals Live.”

Here are some of the other events the program will broadcast:

• Pregame tributes to late Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock

• Introduction of other Cards Hall of Famers at the center-field batter’s eye

• Salute to Mike Shannon in the KMOX booth, as he enters his 50th and final season

• Introduction of the 2021 Cardinals in a Ford motorcade

• National anthem performance from Dr. Shephali Wulff, an infectious disease specialist with SSM Health in St. Louis

“There's really nothing that can compare to Opening Day at Busch Stadium,” Shildt said this spring, “other than playoff baseball at Busch Stadium. Looking forward to both with fans in attendance this year.”

Carpenter gets a start
Citing track record, a matchup with Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara and the need to get him going, Shildt plugged into the lineup for first start of the season on Tuesday in Miami, with the 35-year-old playing second base and batting in the five-hole. Tommy Edman slid from second to the outfield for the first time this season.

The decision was more about getting Carpenter his first full-game action of the season than trying to find a solution in right field, after Austin Dean and Justin Williams combined to go 0-for-15 with nine strikeouts through the first four games. Shildt said he likes what the left-handed, fly-ball-hitting Carpenter may be able to do against Alcantara, a right-handed ground-ball pitcher.

While Carpenter didn’t turn in a hit in the 4-2 win over the Marlins, he was the only starter not to strike out, and he barreled up a ball in the eighth inning that would have been a home run in seven other ballparks.

“I loved his at-bats,” Shildt said. “… He just absolutely crushed that ball into left-center field and doesn’t get any love for it. But gosh darn, talking about three pro at-bats from a pro hitter. Very encouraging from Carp tonight.”

In slotting Carpenter at No. 5, Shildt broke up a slew of righties, with Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson sliding down to the Nos. 7 and 8 spots, the latter rewarding his manager with a homer.

“You got a guy that's two years removed from being in the MVP discussion, and he hasn't started yet,” Shildt said. “So he needs to get out there and play, and he has earned that opportunity.”

Around the horn
• Left-hander Kwang Hyun Kim (back tightness) threw five innings (68 pitches) in a sim game against Cardinals Minor Leaguers in Jupiter on Tuesday, with eight strikeouts, two hits conceded and "maybe a walk or two," per Shildt. Kim will head back with the team to St. Louis on Wednesday, then the staff will asses if he needs to still build up to 80-90 pitches. Otherwise, the next step could be an activation off the IL.

"He's going in the right direction," Shildt said.

• The Cardinals set their pitching order for their home-opening series, with Wainwright starting Thursday, Carlos Martínez on Saturday (after an off-day Friday) and Daniel Ponce de Leon on Sunday. The Brewers will counter with National League Cy Young Award contender Corbin Burnes, Adrian Houser and Brett Anderson, in order.

• Harrison Bader is roughly two weeks out from a platelet-rich plasma injection into his right forearm, and he’s slowly resuming baseball activities, Shildt said. Primarily, that’s been lower-body work, pitch tracking and drills with his non-throwing arm. The hope has been a late April/early May return for the center fielder, and his progression at the alternate training site in Sauget, Ill., will dictate that timeline.