ST. LOUIS -- Even with no fans, in a simulated game during preseason training, hearing a player’s name announced for the first time at Busch Stadium is special.
“Outfielder Dylan Carlson” still has a ring to it, even in Summer Camp.
“Hearing your name called, being announced when you’re walking up to the plate, it’s something you always dreamed about,” Carlson said Saturday. “This gets you that much more excited for what’s to come.”
Carlson’s future excites everyone –- fans and the team alike. Invited to train St. Louis, the Cardinals' No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, is getting plenty of looks in the outfield and at the plate during these three weeks of Summer Camp. The 21-year-old switch-hitter will likely start the season at the Cardinals’ alternate training site in Double-A Springfield. Tyler O'Neill and Lane Thomas are the front-runners for the starting spot in left field; the Cardinals have said they want to see what those two have before moving to their outfield depth.
But Carlson could still debut in this shortened, 60-game season with so many unknowns. He said he doesn’t think much about it because he knows it’s out of his control, and manager Mike Shildt said he’s had “honest conversations” with Carlson about the roster.
“He wants to help us win baseball games,” Shildt said. “I love that, and I respect it highly. Like we discuss about roster, nothing’s in a vacuum. We’ve got a lot of guys doing the right things, and Dylan is doing what he needs to be doing, but there’s guys that are doing their part, too.”
Added Carlson, “I go out there and try to do everything I can in my power to get better. Ultimately, the decision is up to the team. I’m just going out there trying to compete. Make myself the best version of myself I can.”
Having Summer Camp at Busch Stadium is a bonus for Carlson and other top prospects invited to train in St. Louis. It allows them to become familiar with the stadium and field before games count, making it easier for them when they do ultimately debut. Carlson has gotten used to the dimensions of the outfield, the shadows Busch Stadium presents at different times of the day and the layout of where everything is in the stadium, like the clubhouse, weight room and parking lot.
When the time does come, he’ll be ready to hear his name announced again.
“Being familiar with the surroundings, knowing the field and everything,” Carlson said. “The sun, everything that goes into playing defense. Even offensively, it’ll help a lot. Little more comfortable standing in that batter’s box before. I think it’ll definitely help.”
Fowler limited with back tightness
Outfielder Dexter Fowler was held out of Saturday’s intrasquad game with back tightness, Shildt said. Fowler started drills on Friday and felt soreness from the night before, so he didn’t participate in the workout. Shildt said Fowler won’t play in Sunday’s intrasquad game, and the team has Monday off.
“Nothing to be overly concerned about,” Shildt said. “He’s going to be day to day. Obviously not going to push it.”
Infielder/outfielder Brad Miller is still dealing with heel soreness and didn’t participate Saturday. Shildt said Miller will follow a similar plan with Fowler, not playing Sunday and taking Monday off.
Exhibition game in the works
The Cardinals are trying to plan an exhibition game with the Royals, their closest opponent geographically and one they’ll play six games against this season, some time before Opening Day. Shildt said “there’s a pretty good chance” the team will schedule a game against Kansas City, but it is not finalized yet. The Cardinals open the season on July 24 in St. Louis against the Pirates and likely have an optional workout at Busch Stadium the day before.
Around the horn
• Carlos Martínez worked quickly and efficiently in his 1-0 win for Cardinals Blue on Saturday night. Facing many of the Cardinals' regulars, he struck out four -- including Paul Goldschmidt swinging -- over two innings, didn’t allow a hit and walked one. Martínez threw 28 pitches, 18 for strikes, and had six swing-and-misses. Saturday’s intrasquad was three innings, and the scoreboard showed the last three innings of a game instead of the first three, simulating a close game in late innings.
“I thought he looked sharp, especially the offspeed stuff, which is safe to say he’s definitely been working on his stuff while he’s been away,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “The offspeed stuff normally takes a while to come back, but it was sharp from the get go today, which a good sign.”
• Harrison Bader was 2-for-2 at the plate for Cardinals Blue, knocking all of the team’s hits. He singled in the first inning and lined a two-out double in the third inning.
• Shildt said there will be umpires -- either a player or a coach -- calling these intrasquad matchups soon. The last two matchups have had robot umpires calling balls and strikes, with each pitch’s location shown on the scoreboard and the team going off that.
• The Cardinals will play a five-inning intrasquad game on Sunday with a 1:15 p.m. CT first pitch. Miles Mikolas and Jake Woodford will be the starters, and Andrew Miller, Brett Cecil, Ryan Helsley and Junior Fernández are scheduled to be the relievers.