JUPITER, Fla. • Yes, it still is spring training, but the Cardinals’ fourth shutout in the past week, second in succession and fifth of the exhibition season caught manager Mike Matheny’s attention Sunday. And he wasn’t happy about it.
The Cardinals really haven’t had their offense, what with outfielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Yadier Molina gone to the World Baseball Classic and third baseman David Freese out with a tight back for another day or so. But Matheny figures there still is enough talent here to score more than one run in the last 25 innings. Sunday’s 6-0 loss to the Miami Marlins wasn’t much to look at.
“I hate it,” said Matheny. “I hate looking up there and seeing zeroes and seeing the kind of offense we have.”
What particularly irked Matheny was the failure to score Kolten Wong after a leadoff triple in the fourth. Backup catcher J.R. Towles and rookie Patrick Wisdom both struck out and Jon Jay flied out.
“Things like that start to beat a team down,” Matheny said. “It is spring training. You don’t panic about anything. But I haven’t made any secret about the fact that I hate to lose, even in spring training, especially when our offense doesn’t represent itself like it can.
“We take positives out of everything, but we don’t like starting bad habits.”
To the point that some of his offense isn’t available, Matheny said he didn’t care about that. “We’ve got some talented offensive players,” he said.
“You know why I can be frustrated? Because they’re frustrated — because they have high expectations every time they walk out there.
“If we’ve got an intrasquad game and we’ve got one of the minor league coaches pitching against us, they want to get hits. They want to score runs. That’s what they do.
“I’m not going to make light of that. This is our job. Our job is to figure out ways to put up more runs than (the opponents) have got. We don’t like it when we don’t do our job.”
BOGGS IS BACK
Reliever Mitchell Boggs returned after two weeks in the World Baseball Classic and pitched a scoreless inning, his fourth of the spring. Boggs got a strikeout on his developing split-fingered pitch and had the confidence to throw it on a full-count pitch that resulted in a walk.
In the next room sat Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter, one of the most famous practicioners of the pitch and a spring-training instructor. Boggs said he hadn’t much chance yet to talk to Sutter but he will.
“I’ve only been here a day,” said Boggs. “The conversations I’ve had with him have been more him making me laugh. I’m sure I’m going try to advantage of it the next couple of days.
“But it’s kind of like asking Mariano Rivera how to throw his cutter. Bruce’s split is one of the nastiest pitches that’s ever been thrown and it’s kind of hard to replicate.”
As for his effort Sunday, Boggs said, “I feel I’m right where I need to be.”
An impresed Matheny said, “My hand was hurting just watching Audry (non-roster catcher Audry Perez) catching him. It just looked like cannonballs coming in. It’s good to have him back.”
FOR STARTERS, IT’S MILLER
The Cardinals’ battle for the fifth starting spot will take a different twist Tuesday, with Shelby Miller starting and Joe Kelly slated to relieve. Last Thursday, Kelly started and Miller relieved.
THREE SENT OUT
The Cardinals optioned righthander Keith Butler and infielder Ryan Jackson to Class AAA Memphis and reassigned lefthander John Gast to the minor leagues, leaving 40 players in camp.
Patrick Wisdom, a draft pick from Santa Clara last summer, came over from the minor-league camp to start at third base. Wisdom made a strong throw after fielding a slow hopper, but Carson Kelly, a highly regarded third baseman drafted out of high school in Oregon last summer, was tentative in letting one ball go to the shortstop and Matheny politely told him afterward to be more aggressive. “Make aggressive mistakes in this game. Don’t fall into the habit of being timid,” was Matheny’s message.
“I imagine he’ll never forget that conversation.”
Randy Choate, the lefthanded specialist who hadn’t faced that many lefthanders this spring, went to the back fields on the minor league side to throw batting practice to five unsuspecting lefthanded-hitting minor leaguers Sunday. Choate held big-league lefthanders to a .158 average last year. “He can get a better feel for repeating his breaking ball,” said Matheny. “We know he’s not going to face many righthanded hitters during the season.”