Wacha right where Cardinals need him to be
Dart Bader! Outfielder shows off wheels on bases
JUPITER, Fla. – Michael Wacha is right where you’d want a starting pitcher to be at this point in Spring Training. The right-hander turned in another satisfying outing, throwing five scoreless innings Thursday in the Cardinals’ 1-1 tie with the Mets.
“Just take that outing and keep working on what I need to work on and get the mechanics where I need to,” Wacha said. “But it’s going in the right direction, for sure.”
Wacha gave up five hits, one in each inning of work – all singles except for a fifth-inning double by Mets leadoff hitter Jeff McNeil. He struck out two, both in the fourth inning and both on fastballs. The first one clocked in at 92 mph and got past Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud. The other was a 93 mph heater that third baseman Adeiny Hechavarria swung through.
“Overall I was happy with the outing,” said Wacha, who threw 65 pitches, 44 for strikes. “I thought we attacked guys well with different pitches, mixed it up well. Just keeping them off balance.
“It was a good day today. I was able to hit the high fastball whenever I needed to, get some swing and misses on it. Worked well with the changeup down. The curveball was over for strikes; cutter had good action as well.”
In four Grapefruit League appearances, Wacha has thrown 14 innings, allowing just three runs on 12 hits while striking out nine and walking four.
Bader on the bases
We already know that Harrison Bader is an elite defensive player. But the Cardinals’ center fielder showed off his wheels on Thursday. Bader reached base in each of his first three trips to the plate, going 2-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch.
On all three occasions when Bader got on, he promptly stole second. He came into the game with just one steal this spring.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no Cardinals player in the last 25 years had ever stolen three bases in a Spring Training game.
“Just kind of playing my game,” Bader said. “Preparation allows you to do some of those things. So when you tie confidence into that, you can go out there and I guess take some bags and have a successful day.”
Gant, Cecil throw in squad game
John Gant threw two solid innings -- featuring a nasty breaking ball -- and Brett Cecil continued to scuffle in his inning of work during a squad game prior to the Cardinals’ scheduled game with the Mets on Thursday.
In an effort to get the two pitchers some work, the Cardinals held the game on a back field where Gant, who remains in the mix for the open rotation spot, threw well after pitching just one inning in his last Grapefruit League outing on Tuesday.
Cecil threw a lot of pitches in his inning of work. He gave up one run but did not allow a hit. The lefty walked one, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch allowing the lone run to score. His inning was extended by a fielding error.
Cecil continues to work on mechanics after losing more than 40 pounds in the offseason, and he is now attempting to gain some of that back.
The Cardinals play split-squad games with the Astros in Jupiter and West Palm Beach on Friday. Both games begin at 5:05 p.m. CT. The Cardinals host the Astros at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Right-hander Adam Wainwright is scheduled to make his fourth Grapefruit League start for the Cardinals. In nine innings this spring, Wainwright has allowed just two runs on seven hits. He’s struck out six and walked two. The Astros will counter with lefty Wade Miley.
In the West Palm Beach game, right-hander Daniel Ponce de Leon goes for the Cardinals while right-hander Forrest Whitley goes for Houston.