Molina's Grapefruit timetable firming up

February 25th, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals have circled March 14 -- exactly two weeks before the club’s regular-season opener -- as their target date to have catch his first Grapefruit League game of the season, manager Mike Shildt announced Monday. The club has intentionally slowed Molina’s schedule this spring in order to allow him additional time to recover from offseason knee surgery. Molina will be used as a designated hitter in spring games likely about a week before getting behind the plate.

“There’s real clarity to that now,” Shildt said. “He’s in a really good spot to make that happen.”

Molina has already been engaged in plenty of work behind the scenes. He’s taking batting practice, working through catching drills and, over the weekend, resumed catching bullpen sessions.

Outfielder is on a “similar-ish” timetable, Shildt noted, as far as advancing to play the field. Ozuna made his second appearance as a DH on Monday, but the Cardinals don’t want to expose him defensively until he regains more strength in his surgically repaired right shoulder.

Live look

The most notable pitches thrown by Cardinals on Monday were delivered in the 8 o’clock hour, when , and took the mound, one after another, on a practice field to face hitters. Each of the three made it through the exercise without issue.

It marked Miller’s first session of live batting practice this spring and the first for Reyes in which the hitters were cleared to swing.

“I think all things considered, timing, first time I’ve thrown to a hitter, first time in a new place, I felt like the ball was coming out pretty good,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, the two guys that followed me made it look like it wasn’t.”

He grinned, before adding: “No, I’m really happy with today.”

The Cardinals scripted a slower spring for Miller in part because of the run of injuries he dealt with last season. The newly acquired lefty is likely to be ready for his Grapefruit League debut this weekend. Hicks and Reyes could be as well.

“Just another step in a positive direction,” Reyes said. “I’m dying to pitch in a Spring Training game.”

The Cardinals, who saw Reyes flip a few wicked curveballs Monday, are eager to see him in that setting as well. Injuries and rehab kept Reyes out of Grapefruit League games each of the last two springs.

“I just was cackling in the outfield to myself at some of the pitches being thrown,” Shildt said of watching Reyes. “Just dirty pitches. Elite pitches. I was just happy.”

Morales sidelined indefinitely

Andrew Morales, a non-roster invitee to big league camp, left the Cardinals complex Monday morning to undergo an MRI on his ailing right shoulder. The scan was scheduled one day after Morales exited his spring debut after facing four batters. The fact that he did not recover well overnight prompted the Cardinals to take a deeper look at the issue.

A second-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, Morales has a history of arm injuries. He was moved to the bullpen full time in 2017 and made 49 appearances last season, including 46 with Triple-A Memphis.

“We’re trying to figure out whether it’s something we’re looking at being more chronic or being serious,” Shildt said. “I’d like to give you better news, but it’s going to be a while.”

Worth noting

• Golfer Zach Johnson, who will be playing in the nearby Honda Classic tournament later this week, stopped by to take batting practice at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on Monday morning.

• The Cardinals have slotted in Dakota Hudson to start Wednesday’s game against Atlanta. Though Hudson pitched out of the bullpen for the Cards last season, he is in camp competing for a spot in the rotation.

• The club’s latest acquisition – a blue bounce house – was set up outside the Cardinals’ clubhouse as part of another impromptu family day for players Monday. It may be staying, too. Shildt said he is considering purchasing the bounce house to make it a permanent fixture in camp. 

“Just thinking about the sacrifices the family makes for the commitment we have to our sport and the support that the families give the guys,” Shildt said. “I grew up in a clubhouse, so I always appreciated that time. There’s a lot of young families. It’s really cool.” 

Up next

Adam Wainwright will make his spring debut Tuesday when the Cardinals travel to the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches for a 12:05 p.m. CT game against the Nationals. Wainwright is expected to throw two innings (35 pitches). Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler and Paul Goldschmidt will be in the lineup.