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At Springfield, there's no place for games as Reyes, Cabrera, Carlson make their case for promotions

At Springfield, there's no place for games as Reyes, Cabrera, Carlson make their case for promotions

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Cardinals Twins Baseball

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon throws to a Minnesota Twins batter during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS — If anything, the conversations and exchange of details that manager Mike Shildt usually has with an affiliate about rising prospects or returning players has increased this season with the Cardinals’ alternate site camp in Springfield, Mo.

That is, after all, the extent of the farm this year.

“There’s probably more interaction with that camp, just based on the moving parts,” Shildt said Wednesday. “That is our minor-league system that we draw from.”

Pitchers Alex Reyes and Genesis Cabrera faced hitters in a live batting practice workout Wednesday morning at Hammons Field, home of the Cardinals’ Class AA club. Top prospect Dylan Carlson hit a ball over the wall against the lefty Cabrera, and it’s his performance as much as the pitchers’ that reveal the way players in the perpetual camp with be able to get attention without the traditional production they would have in games for Class AAA Memphis.

With no minor-league games this season, Carlson and Reyes won’t have the usual route north to the majors. They can force the issue with their game performance. Instead, the Cardinals will lean heavy on the review of coaches like Jose Oquendo and the analytics they can gather from a ballpark outfitted with all of the modern tech necessary to measure Carlson’s exit velocity on his sim-homer or Cabrera’s spin rate on the pitch Carlson hit.

“The ability to measure is a little bit different,” Shildt said. “Some measurables are still there. The eye test says this guy has performance and is ready, mentally and physically. We keep our numbers down there just like we keep them up here in our intrasquads. We’ve been able to extract the right amount of data points, and a lot of that is guys getting in counts or guys getting chases. Are guys in the zone with their pitches? Are hitters chasing or are guys in the zone? What’s their exit velocity look like?

“Some of those things will tell us when a guy is in a pretty good spot.”

The Cardinals do not yet have enough players at the alternate site to have complete games, but could at some point as the major-league roster shrinks. They do shuttle fielders in and out to work on situations during live batting practice rounds. There will be baserunners at times so that they can get work, and the pitchers can practice holding the runner. At times, that pitcher will pivot to throw a pickoff to second — only to find the coach running the camp, Oquendo, there. The focus is on the pitcher and hitter getting their reps.

At the Class AA facility, the Cardinals also have a large building at their disposal that can be used for cages, conditioning, and other off-field work without overstepping social-distancing guidelines because of its space.

Shildt’s staff and the second-camp staff have also synched pitching staffs so that arms throwing in Springfield are doing so at intervals when they might be needed or utilized in the majors. For example: Reyes and Cabrera throwing their live BPs on the same day the Cardinals turn to Daniel Ponce de Leon for a spot start in the majors. Shildt said the goal was to have the pitchers there “somewhat staggered” to assure at least one would be available in case of injury.

That’s part of the ongoing conversations and texts he has with pitching coordinator Tim Leveque, or the Cardinals’ hitting coaches in the majors have with their colleagues in Springfield. Recently, Shildt and Oquendo had a discussion about how, with so many prospects like first-rounders Nolan Gorman and Jordan Walker at the camp, they would instruct a fundamental.

“There is intentionality of some interaction,” Shildt said. “Going back and forth.”

Gallegos gets goingIncluded in the perfect run through the second half of Tuesday’s game by the Cardinals’ bullpen were two quick outs from Giovanny Gallegos in his first game appearance since spring training. Gallegos got a groundout and a lineout from the final two batters in Minnesota’s order, and the Cardinals intend to continue to easing him toward the late-inning and high-leverage spots he manned a year ago.

Eventually Gallegos could be the Cardinals’ setup man or considered for the closer role if the team has to shift Kwang Hyun Kim into the rotation.

Gallegos missed all but the final week of “Summer Camp” because he was unable to cross the border from Mexico due to a COVID-19-related issue. He has declined to offer details, but he said he continued throwing, conditioning, and even facing batters while unable to travel, and that has allowed to him to accelerate his readiness for the games.

“Before the pandemic I came back to Mexico, and I never stopped working out,” Gallegos said. “I prepared 100 percent for two months, nonstop.”

Gallegos said in his two times facing hitters in a live batting practice session the Cardinals had corrected the timing of his windup to give him more control.

He pitched Tuesday with the initials of a friend written near the brim of his cap, with a cross as punctuation. He explained that it was a memorial to a friend who recently died.Brotherly giftThe ball from the homer Tommy Edman hit Tuesday night beyond center field was retrieved by the Minnesota Twins so that they could give it as a gift to one of their employees — Tommy’s brother. John Edman is a member of the Twins’ baseball analytics staff, and he has been with the team since December. A data quality engineer in Minnesota’s baseball operations, John Edman was at the ballpark for each of the games against the Cardinals. He volunteered to help run the Trackman system — a radar-like gatherer of data that evaluates everything from a hitter’s launch angle to a pitcher’s spin rate — and got to see his brother’s home run.

Extra basesRangel Ravelo made his first start of the season at designated hitter Wednesday to get his righthanded success and 1.035 OPS against lefties in Class AAA in the lineup vs. Twins spinner Rich Hill. … With almost half of the Marlins’ active roster still quarantined due to positive COVID-19 tests, there has been discussion about extending the time period clubs have with a 30-man roster. The initial agreement was to start the season with 30 on the roster and then reduce the number by two every two weeks before going with a 26-man roster the final month. Shildt said he’s heard some talk of sticking with 30 and thought it made sense.

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