JUPITER, Fla. -- Disappointed to see his name absent from Thursday's lineup, Matt Carpenter was told he'd have to wait only one more day before returning to the field, uninhibited, for the first time in more than two weeks."Because they love me," Carpenter said. "That's what they told me."The Cardinals,
JUPITER, Fla. -- Disappointed to see his name absent from Thursday's lineup, Matt Carpenter was told he'd have to wait only one more day before returning to the field, uninhibited, for the first time in more than two weeks.
"Because they love me," Carpenter said. "That's what they told me."
The Cardinals, indeed, have been cautious with Carpenter since he alerted them to nagging back tightness on the first day of this month. He hasn't taken an at-bat in a game since, but will now have two weeks to get the necessary reps ahead of Opening Day.
Carpenter, who took on-field batting practice for the second straight day on Thursday, emphasized that he has felt "100 percent" for almost a week. He proved it during BP, too, by putting on a show of power during his session.
Carpenter was 1-for-5 before being sidelined. He did play in two Grapefruit League games last week, but did not have clearance to swing. In those plate appearances, Carpenter tracked pitches and laid down a bunt for a hit.
Center fielder Magneuris Sierra, one of the standout performers in Cardinals camp, was optioned to high-A Palm Beach in advance of Minor League games starting on Thursday.
"I think he's been real impressive all spring, and I think there is way more in there than what he's even seen," manager Mike Matheny said. "Just an interesting mix of talent, and I like the way he goes about his business, too."
Sierra, 20, hit .387 with a .908 OPS and ranked second on the team with 12 hits. He made a handful of defensive web gems and such a strong impression that a Major League coach on another team asked Matheny if Sierra would make the Cardinals' Opening Day roster.
Matheny had to explain that Sierra has never played above low-A.
Though he was optioned to Palm Beach, Sierra is not necessarily assured of being assigned there. The Cardinals could consider having him open the season in Springfield (Mo.), with the Double-A club.
Tyler Lyons threw another round of live batting practice on Thursday, which would suggest he's close to return to Grapefruit League play. The Cardinals, however, haven't finalized the rest of Lyons' spring plans.
With Lyons coming off right knee surgery, the left-hander has not yet reached full mobility. Matheny acknowledged that it "could be" in Lyons' best interest to get the rest of his spring work on the backfields, where the Cardinals can control Lyons' movement off the mound.
"[It's] kind of an interesting injury," Matheny said. "We just have to keep our eyes on it, make sure we're not doing anything to put him backwards."
Keeping Lyons out of Grapefruit League games would also permit the Cardinals to backdate a disabled-list stint, if Lyons is not ready at the start of the season.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.