Ponce de Leon to mix in his curveball

Munoz still in the running for a spot on the Opening Day roster

March 3rd, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. – As so many players do at this point in the year, Daniel Ponce de Leon finds himself seeking to strike the right balance between competing for an Opening Day roster spot while not abandoning the longer view of getting himself in position for an extended career.

Ponce de Leon embraced the chance to develop his curveball this winter and has continued the work into the spring. It’s a pitch that, Ponce de Leon said, would come and go when he was in the Minors, but one mostly abandoned last season. According to brooksbaseball.net, Ponce de Leon threw only 18 curveballs among his 581 pitches for the Cardinals.

He’s seeking to bring it back into a repertoire that already features a four-seam fastball, changeup and cutter.

“It’s a big [pitch] if I really want to cement myself as a starter,” Ponce de Leon said. “I do pitch a lot up in the zone, so if I could throw the curveball right off it, that’d be a good thing.”

Ponce de Leon had few opportunities to throw it while covering the first three innings of Sunday’s 10-8 loss to the Mets. That’s mostly because he was searching for his fastball command. He’ll continue to work on both as he simultaneously continues to audition for the team’s open rotation spot.

Munoz on the mend

Utilityman Yairo Munoz remains in the mix for a spot on the Opening Day roster after learning that his left wrist was merely bruised, not fractured, after getting hit by a fastball on Saturday.

“I thought it was broken for sure,” Munoz said after returning to the Cardinals’ facility on Sunday. “When I saw that the X-rays were negative, I just thanked God for the opportunity to keep working hard.”

Munoz’s wrist showed little swelling on Sunday, and he went through his day without needing to have it wrapped. The Cardinals don’t plan to reinsert Munoz into Grapefruit League games until at least Tuesday. He remains in the mix for a bench job and will continue to get exposure across the infield and outfield this spring.

“I feel really good,” said Munoz, who was leading the team with five hits before being hit by the pitch. “All the work I did during the offseason and have kept doing here is paying off during the games. I feel very comfortable at the plate and in the field.”

Brock reports to camp

Hall of Famer Lou Brock arrived at the Cardinals’ complex on Sunday morning and is expected to stick around for about a week. His arrival coincidentally synced up with that of Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney, who addressed the team before joining players for batting practice.

“It was great because I walk out and there’s a two-time national champion. And then I walk out in the hall and there’s a Hall of Famer and World Series champion,” manager Mike Shildt noted. “It’s like, ‘What world am I living in?’ It was really special to see Lou. I’m glad he could make it down.”

Shildt has given Brock an open invitation to speak in one of the team’s morning meetings if the two-time World Series champion wishes to do so.

Worth noting

• Catcher Matt Wieters, who joined the club under a Minor League deal on Thursday, made his debut as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game. Wieters struck out looking in the at-bat. He is scheduled to start Monday’s game behind the plate.

Brett Cecil, who told MLB.com on Saturday that he will sit out of Grapefruit League games for more than a week so he can work through mechanical adjustments, returned to the mound for a side session on Sunday. It marked Cecil’s first time throwing off the mound since Wednesday.

• After homering on Friday, Scott Hurst joined the Cardinals from STEP (Spring Training Early Program) camp and knocked a triple in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game. Hurst, a third-rounder, was the Cardinals’ first pick from the 2017 MLB Draft.

Up next

The Cardinals will kick off three consecutive road games with a visit to Lakeland, Fla., on Monday for their second of two spring games against the Tigers. Adam Wainwright, who threw two scoreless innings in his spring debut, will make the start with Wieters as his batterymate. Lefty Austin Gomber, a candidate for the fifth rotation spot, is expected to enter behind Wainwright.