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Carpenter 'proactive' in resting tight back

@anne__rogers
February 26, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- The move to scratch Matt Carpenter from Wednesday’s split-squad game against the Marlins because of back tightness was “super precautionary,” the Cardinals' third baseman said. Carpenter, scheduled to play third base and hit second before St. Louis’ 8-7 loss to Miami at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, went

JUPITER, Fla. -- The move to scratch Matt Carpenter from Wednesday’s split-squad game against the Marlins because of back tightness was “super precautionary,” the Cardinals' third baseman said.

Carpenter, scheduled to play third base and hit second before St. Louis’ 8-7 loss to Miami at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, went through defensive work early Wednesday morning and alerted the training staff that he wasn’t feeling as mobile as he would have liked going into a game. Based on the timing -- Opening Day is still a month away -- the Cardinals felt it was better to rest Carpenter rather than have him push through it.

Carpenter said there wasn’t anything that happened to cause the back tightness.

“I’m not concerned with it at all, and it was super minor,” Carpenter said. “If this was middle of the season or even Opening Day, I would’ve played. But it’s Feb. 26, and I just didn’t want to do something stupid.

“I just wasn’t as mobile as I’ve been the past few days. I’ve had so many issues, I just kind of learned my body. And I just know that on a day like today, if I push through it, it might’ve done something. So [I was] just being proactive.”

Carpenter, 34, has dealt with back tightness during Spring Training before, but he said this time was different because he caught it and backed off before anything specific happened to cause his back to tighten. Carpenter wasn’t going to travel to North Port, Fla., for Thursday’s game against the Braves, and now he will likely take Friday off as well before being re-evaluated.

“He’s felt this in the past, so he just said, ‘Let’s stay ahead of it, not worth taking a chance this early on in camp,’” bench coach Ollie Marmol, who managed the home game Wednesday, said. “Especially knowing that he wasn’t going to travel tomorrow, it gives him two days to feel it out. He felt pretty good as far as where he was at. [It was] more preventative than anything.”

Looking to have a bounce-back year after 2019 was filled with career lows at the plate, Carpenter has reworked his swing and established a new routine that involves starting and ending his day in the training room. The focus is on mobility and staying healthy, especially with the back and oblique issues he has had in the past.

He’s also being more transparent about how his body feels. That’s how Wednesday’s scratch came into play.

“Today would’ve been a great example of not saying anything, going out and played, and something happening,” Carpenter said. “Today I told them, ‘Hey, I just don’t feel as good as I normally do,' and we made this decision. I think that is going to be big for me going forward, just being open to not push through stuff that can set me back for a month, and just say, ‘Hey, today I don’t feel as good,’ and it’s two days instead of two months."

Goldschmidt returns to field
Paul Goldschmidt, who was dealing with right elbow soreness at the beginning of camp, made his Grapefruit League debut in the field against the Marlins. After two games at designated hitter, Goldschmidt played first base for four innings. He also got hit by a pitch -- on his left arm -- and drew a walk.

The 32-year-old first baseman threw to the full infield on Tuesday and threw up to 120 feet last weekend. Goldschmidt wasn’t overly concerned about the soreness, but with a month until Opening Day, he and the Cardinals wanted to be cautious.

After Wednesday’s game, Marmol said there were “no concerns” about Goldschmidt’s elbow.

Top prospects shine
Some of the Cardinals’ prospects put on a show in Jupiter.

Nolan Gorman wasn’t supposed to start, but the 19-year-old third baseman replaced Carpenter and almost immediately made an impact. Gorman, the No. 47 prospect in the Majors per MLB Pipeline, singled to left field in his first at-bat and went 3-for-5 with three RBIs.

Then Dylan Carlson, MLB Pipeline’s No. 17 prospect, replaced Dexter Fowler in right field in the fifth inning. The 20-year-old switch-hitter went 2-for-2 with two runs -- including a go-ahead run on Gorman’s double.

“One of the things we look for in those guys is just their maturity level, if they’re going to be able to handle the pressure and the ups and downs of being a big leaguer,” Marmol said. “And they’re handling being in that clubhouse really well. Some of the older guys that have been around for a while are impressed by just how they carry themselves, and they’re comfortable enough asking questions and kind of picking Goldy’s brain, and Dex and those guys, which is a huge advantage.”

Worth noting
Kwang-Hyun Kim was unhittable in his first start of spring, throwing two perfect innings and fanning three Marlins. Kim pitched on four days’ rest after throwing an inning in relief Saturday. He mixed in a sharp breaking ball with his 90- to 94-mph fastball and carried a quick tempo on the mound.

“He’s got a big spread,” pitching coach Mike Maddux said. “He went from 68 mph to 92 or 93. So that will keep the hitter in between. We’ve all talked about his fastball and slider, but I think he showed everybody he’s not just a two-pitch guy.”

• The Cardinals split Wednesday's games with a 7-5 win over the Astros in West Palm Beach, Fla. Left-hander Genesis Cabrera impressed in his first spring start, pitching two scoreless innings on 23 pitches, 19 of them strikes. Home runs from Lane Thomas and Justin Williams, as well as RBIs from Brad Miller and catching prospect Ivan Herrera, contributed to the victory.

Up next
The Cardinals head to North Port, Fla., on Thursday to face the Braves at CoolToday Park. Jack Flaherty will start, followed by Dakota Hudson. Each will throw three innings or 50 pitches. Then Junior Fernandez, Kodi Whitley and Alvaro Seijas will follow with one inning apiece. First pitch is set for 12:05 p.m. CT.

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.