Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the St. Louis Cardinals

news

Cardinals News

Cecil faces batters for first time in 'B' game

Matheny urges Cards' young pitchers to study Scherzer's intensity, focus
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

JUPITER, Fla. -- When Cardinals left-hander Brett Cecil started a "B" game against the Marlins on Wednesday, his wife and children were watching from the bleachers on back field No. 1 at St. Louis' spring complex. It was the left-hander's first time throwing to hitters after a long offseason, as Cecil reported to camp a week late due to a family matter he's declined to disclose.

The Cardinals remain hopeful he'll be ready for Opening Day despite his delayed schedule.

JUPITER, Fla. -- When Cardinals left-hander Brett Cecil started a "B" game against the Marlins on Wednesday, his wife and children were watching from the bleachers on back field No. 1 at St. Louis' spring complex. It was the left-hander's first time throwing to hitters after a long offseason, as Cecil reported to camp a week late due to a family matter he's declined to disclose.

The Cardinals remain hopeful he'll be ready for Opening Day despite his delayed schedule.

"Just getting him off the mound was the most important thing, how he responds," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "The reports said his stuff looks good."

The left-hander allowed a run on two hits over one inning, striking out one. He threw 13 of his 16 pitches for strikes while testing his sinker, slider and changeup. He faced five batters, including one with Major League experience: first baseman Garrett Cooper, who appeared in 13 games for the Yankees last season.

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

Matheny said the outing took the place of a live batting-practice session, typically the intermediary between side bullpens and Grapefruit League game action. The plan is for Cecil to make his Grapefruit League debut on Saturday vs. the Marlins.

Video: Cardinals could use bounce-back year from Cecil

Cecil is looking to rebound from a disappointing first season in St. Louis, when he set a career high in appearances (73) but struggled against left-handed hitters. Lefties hit .343/.397/.539 against Cecil, whom St. Louis signed to a four-year, $30.5 million contract prior to the 2017 season.

O'Neill's oblique OK
Cardinals outfielder and No. 4 prospect Tyler O'Neill returned from a left oblique strain to pinch-run in the seventh inning of Wednesday's Grapefruit League game against the Nationals. O'Neill, who missed eight games with the injury, immediately stole second base and scored on Breyvic Valera's two-run single.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Sizing up St. Louis boy Scherzer
During a recent game, Matheny placed what he called "a gag order" on some of his younger, chattier pitchers in camp. The intention, Matheny said, was to force them to bring a fiercer intensity to the dugout in between innings, to keep them more "locked in" to their starts even when not physically on the mound. This kind of intensity is something Matheny admires in many great pitchers, including Nationals ace and St. Louis native Max Scherzer, who started against the Cardinals on Wednesday.

Matheny encouraged his pitchers to watch the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner and glean what they could.

"Watch when you have a guy like this on the mound. Watch what he's doing. Watch how locked in they stay for that entire period of time," Matheny said. "Watch his mannerisms, watch how he reacts. He gets emotional at times, but he always gets back into the pitch. That's such a great lesson to learn for a young pitcher. Fake it. Mimic it, for a while. He's been really good for a long time."

Matheny said Scherzer's famous intensity reminded the former catcher of several of his old All-Star battery mates, including Pat Hentgen, Matt Morris and Chris Carpenter.

"The guys who would come back into the dugout and start yapping, they didn't stick around long," Matheny said. "It's not a coincidence they are names none of us remember. I think there is something to that. That's why I keep telling these younger players: Watch the ones who have had success."

Matheny recalled a particularly funny memory of working with Morris, who won 101 games and made two NL All-Star teams over eight seasons in St. Louis.

"Matt Morris and I had a bunch of go-rounds," Matheny said. "We had a lot of stuff that never got out. He loved it. He was good at doing whatever we had to do for me to keep pushing him harder. That's what he wanted. It was kind of exhausting to be honest. We'd have confrontations in the middle of the game, and then afterwards he'd come up and kiss me.

"Grown man with a big beard, kissing me on the face when I wasn't expecting it, in the middle of a baseball game. It was a little surprising."

Up next
Cardinals ace Carlos Martinez is scheduled to take his regular turn through the spring rotation Thursday after missing his last start due to a personal matter. The issue was not physical. First pitch against the Marlins at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium is set for 12:05 p.m. CT. Listen to an exclusive audio webcast.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Brett Cecil