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Cardinals spring training

Cardinals infielder Yairo Munoz takes batting practice in Jupiter, Fla. Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com

SARASOTA, Fla. • Maybe it's the position.

Yairo Muñoz, an infielder acquired from Oakland to give the Cardinals' needed depth and versatility at Class AAA, was thrust into right field Wednesday for the road trip finale. He quickly looked the part, keeping the pace set by the other young outfielders in the first week of games.

Muñoz homered twice in the same inning and keyed an eight-run inning that brought the Cardinals back for a 10-9 victory against Baltimore at Ed Smith Stadium.

Adolis Garcia, one of the aforementioned outfielders having a stirring start to spring, outran a throw from third for an infield single in the top of the eighth. He then scored on Alex Mejia's RBI single to break the 9-9 tie and send the Cardinals back to Jupiter, Fla., with a win. They took two of three during their three-day visit to the Gulf Coast.

Earlier this winter, Mejia represented the Cardinals' closest middle-infield prospect. Edmundo Sosa, a shortstop, is on the rise, but otherwise the Cardinals had a ad hoc group, with Wilfredo Tovar being the strongest member in the middle.

Tovar had a bases-clearing, three-run double against the Orioles in between Muñoz's two homers.

To address this depth, the Cardinals acquired two infielders in the deal that sent Stephen Piscotty to the Athletics. Max Schrock, who has yet to play because of an oblique issue, profiles as a bat looking for a position, though he's proficient at third and second base. Muñoz is considered the more versatile fielder when it comes to playing all over the infield, and his bat has some sock.

The 23-year-old slugged .464 in the minors last season. He hit 13 home runs at Class AA and Class AAA combined, and he earned a promotion to Triple-A after an .880 OPS for the A's Texas League affiliate.

Also in the game:

  • Jack Flaherty ran into trouble the second time through the lineup. He allowed two singles and a walk before Manny Machado lashed a grand slam into the left-field seats for a 4-0 lead. That was the 50th and last pitch Flaherty threw.
  • Flaherty has been working on a sinker. That was the pitch Machado hit for a grand slam.
  • Jason Motte pitched a scoreless inning that included a duel with former teammate Colby Rasmus. Motte got a groundout. 
  • Rasmus, at leadoff for the O's, walked and singled.
  • John Gant continues to piece together an impressive spring as he lays claim to being in the mix to start at Memphis or be the long reliever in the majors. Gant got tagged for a home run -- who didn't? -- but slipped well through his two assigned innings. He struck out four.
  • Matt Bowman pitched for the second time in three days and secured the save with a scoreless ninth inning. Cardinals appear to not only be holding some relievers back as insurance -- they also seem to be deploying them for situations, even this early in spring. Mike Maddux is pulling the strings on a lot of this, especially with Bowman, Dominic Leone, and Tyler Lyons, who has yet to appear in a game.

From earlier ... 

Cardinals unleash Pham vs. Orioles

When it comes to the four batters that Mike Matheny intends to hit 1-2-3-4 in his lineup, the Cardinals manager has decided to dispense with ceremony, skullduggery, or guessing.

He's just putting them there, and writing around them.

In Fort Myers, Fla., against Boston on Tuesday, Dexter Fowler hit leadoff and Marcell Ozuna batted cleanup. There was no need to put Ozuna second or third so that he got his at-bats that much quicker and could hit the road that much sooner. That's so 2017. Ozuna is likely to bat cleanup, so Matheny said he might as "well get familiar with how it looks."

Ditto for Tommy Pham.

The Cardinals' center fielder drew the longest bus trip of this three-day road trip, and when he arrives at Ed Smith Stadium he'll be hitting second. That's where Matheny envisions him hitting to start the season, and boxcarred behind Pham will be Matt Carpenter once he's given the green-light from the training staff to return to the lineup. 

Matheny cautioned that the lineup is always subject to change, and change it did last year with Carpenter vaulting back to leadoff and Fowler searching for a spot to hit in the middle of the lineup. Production will be the determining factor, Matheny said.

Now, it's familiarity.

What that means for players like Kolten Wong (third on Tuesday) and Yadier Molina (third this past week) and Paul DeJong (third this afternoon).

Here's the lineup that will follow Jack Flaherty into Wednesday's Grapefruit League game against the Orioles:

  1. Greg Garcia, 2B
  2. Tommy Pham, CF
  3. Paul DeJong, SS
  4. Jose Martinez, 1B
  5. Carson Kelly, C
  6. Patrick Wisdom, 3B
  7. Rangel Ravelo, LF
  8. Andrew Knizner, DH
  9. Harrison Bader, RF

This will be Flaherty's second turn in the rotation and that means plunging an inning or two deeper than the two innings he had in his first start. Knizner earned the start at DH with his home run against Boston and his run of strong at-bats that has drawn raves from catching aficionado Matheny.

Check back throughout the day for more coverage from O's home. 

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