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Cards keeping starters close to vest vs. Mets

Wainwright stretches out to 90 pitches in Minors game Tuesday
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

JUPITER, Fla. -- Matt Harvey started for the Mets against the Cardinals on Tuesday, meaning he likely won't pitch when it counts next weekend against St. Louis at Citi Field. Meanwhile, the Cardinals stretched Adam Wainwright out to 90 pitches on the back fields precisely because he will pitch in New York in that Opening Series.

The Cardinals are taking a strategic approach in the first act of what is set to become an unusual chess game with the Mets over the final week of Grapefruit League play. The two clubs will face each other on Friday and Saturday before opening the regular season with a three-game set in New York. They'll play six times over the season's first month.

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Matt Harvey started for the Mets against the Cardinals on Tuesday, meaning he likely won't pitch when it counts next weekend against St. Louis at Citi Field. Meanwhile, the Cardinals stretched Adam Wainwright out to 90 pitches on the back fields precisely because he will pitch in New York in that Opening Series.

The Cardinals are taking a strategic approach in the first act of what is set to become an unusual chess game with the Mets over the final week of Grapefruit League play. The two clubs will face each other on Friday and Saturday before opening the regular season with a three-game set in New York. They'll play six times over the season's first month.

View Full Game Coverage

The Mets won Tuesday's back-and-forth exhibition, 8-7.

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"I'm throwing some new looks, new wrinkles up there. The thought was to not expose what I'm going to face in the next couple days," Wainwright said. "Somebody asked, 'Why does it make a difference? It's just one game.' My response was: Well, we missed the playoffs by one game a couple of years ago. There are two ways to look at it. I get to see them a little bit more, but I've also faced most of those guys a lot."

For consistency, the Cardinals are extending the policy to all their starters this week, regardless of opponent. Neither Luke Weaver (lined up to start Friday) or Carlos Martinez (Saturday) will face Mets hitters for fear of giving away state secrets.

"We play them two more times, which is strange," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "But after that, it's more about getting them stretched out in a controlled zone."

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That's what Wainwright did Tuesday, when he threw around 90 pitches over six-plus modified frames against Minor Leaguers from the Mets' farm system.

"I tried to treat it like it was the World Series," Wainwright said. "The last thing I wanted was a wasted day. To go out there and throw 90 pitches over 3 1/3 innings, I tried that last Spring Training. That junk doesn't work. I tried to get into the same mindset today I know I'll be in for my first start."

Wainwright's final spring tune-up is scheduled for Sunday against the Nationals. He plans to pitch in the main stadium in West Palm Beach, Fla., against big league hitters. The Cardinals and Nationals don't play for real until August.

Camp battle
Mike Mayers and Josh Lucas continue to make good impressions and final pushes for bullpen spots. The righties combined to throw three scoreless innings in Tuesday's game, which Mayers started with two pristine frames. Lucas threw a scoreless fourth.

Mayers and Lucas have now combined to throw 21 1/3 scoreless innings this spring, setting themselves up for high-leverage duty at Triple-A Memphis, at least.

Video: STL@HOU: Mayers whiffs Kemmer, strikes out the side

Mayers is performing with a newfound mindset and confidence after buying into a full-time transition to the bullpen in winter ball. He is up to 11 scoreless innings this spring while showcasing a high-90s fastball and swing-and-miss slider.

"I don't want to just be a Spring Training hero," he said Tuesday.

Lucas' successful spring comes after a tough but productive stint in the Arizona Fall League last year, during which he switched his starting position back to the first-base side of the rubber. The 6-foot-6 Lucas throws three-quarters and across his body, causing a nightmare matchup against right-handed hitters. He began throwing from the third-base side to add even more deception, but his mechanics suffered.

"I was flying open, not finishing toward the plate at all," Lucas said. "So I went back over [to the first-base side] in the Fall League, and it kept me a little bit taller, kind of kept me more on line with the plate."

Video: STL@WSH: Lucas gets big double play to end threat

Right-hander John Brebbia, who likely has a leg up on Mayers and Lucas due to his success at the big league level last season, also threw a scoreless inning Tuesday.

Up next
Reliever Matt Bowman will start against the Marlins on Wednesday while Michael Wacha stretches out on the back fields. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. CT at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Listen to the game on exclusive webcast.

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

St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright