JUPITER, Fla. • Michael Wacha knocked off the best performance by a Cardinals starting pitcher this spring when he threw three innings of hitless ball, striking out four, against the Miami Marlins Saturday in a 4-3 Cardinals exhibition victory.
Wacha allowed only one baserunner, a four-pitch walk to Isan Diaz in the second inning but catcher Francisco Pena threw out Diaz trying to steal.
The victory was marked by versatile infielder/outfielder Yairo Munoz being hit in the left wrist by an eighth-inning pitch from Miami’s Zac Gallen, a former Cardinals farmhand. Munoz was taken for X-rays, which came back negative but he is likely to be out a few days.
Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong missed 45 games last season when his left hand was fractured by a pitch.
The last two outs recorded by Wacha were courtesy of third baseman Matt Carpenter, who gloved a short-hop bouncer and then dived to his left to flag down another ground ball, throwing true to first base on both occasions.
All of Wacha’s strikeouts came in succession from the end of the first through the second in his 42-pitch effort. He threw 17 balls out of the 42 and said his fastball command needed work.
“Wacha was good, really good,” said Shildt. “I love the fact he’s using the upper part of the (strike) zone now and he’s got the downhill plane, which make his changeup and curveball even better.”
Dexter Fowler had his first hit since last August, when he suffered a fractured left foot. Fowler singled and scored in the first inning, ending a seven at-bat hitless streak in spring training. He also reached on a dropped fly ball and struck out and made a good catch in deep right center field.
“He made a really nice play on a tough ball,” Shildt said.
Marcell Ozuna, however, went nothing for three as the designated hitter and is nothing for 12 this spring, admitting his timing isn’t quite where he wants it.
“A couple of days. . . you will see," Ozuna said.
Francisco Pena, fighting to keep the backup catcher job he had last season, singled twice and threw out a runner stealing. He is five for 11 (.455) this spring. Another catcher, Jeremy Martinez doubled home two runs in the eighth to erase a 3-2 Miami lead.
Lefthander Chasen Shreve, who figures to be part of the Cardinals’ bullpen, had a perfect fourth inning and righthander Dominic Leone helped himself survive the fifth by picking a runner off first. The Marlins had two hits and a walk in the inning but didn’t score.
PONCE de LEON, FLAHERTY TO GET STARTS
Daniel Ponce de Leon and Jack Flaherty will be the seventh and eighth Cardinals pitchers to start a spring game, beginning on Sunday when Ponce de Leon, who has allowed three runs in 2/3 inning of relief work, faces the New York Mets here.
Flaherty, who has backed up Miles Mikolas in their first two appearances, will get the start on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies at Clearwater, Fla., likely to be backed up by Alex Reyes, who would be making his spring debut.
Dakota Hudson, who took one start, now may be in relief for a while, as will be Austin Gomber, who has yet to start. The Cardinals are looking at several options to fill what is expected to be a vacancy with Carlos Martinez ailing. John Gant, who pitched on Friday night, may be the leader in the clubhouse as he will get another start on Wednesday at Tampa against the New York Yankees.
Veteran Adam Wainwright, who is almost sure to be in the rotation, will make the long trip to Lakeland on Monday to face the Detroit Tigers. Michael Wacha, next in seniority, will pitch here today against the Miami Marlins and Mikolas will not start for a while but throw on the side. There is nothing wrong with the March 28 opening day starter.
Yadier Molina, Kolten Wong and newly signed Matt Wieters took at-bats on the back fields in a simulated-type game against Williams Perez, Evan Kruczynski, Seth Elledge and Hunter Cervenka, most of whom haven’t pitched that much this spring.
Today’s lineup features Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter. Dexter Fowler and Marcell Ozuna, who will face Miami first-day starter Jose Urena.
Fowler and Ozuna both are seeking their first spring hits, Fowler going nothing for seven and Ozuna nothing for nine in the first week of games. Utilitymen Drew Robinson and Yairo Munoz, who move around virtually every day, will start at shortstop and center field, respectively.
1. Matt Carpenter 3b
2. Dexter Fowler rf
3. Paul Goldschmidt 1b
4. Marcell Ozuna dh
5. Drew Robinson ss
6. Yairo Munoz cf
7. Randy Arozarena lf
8. Francisco Pena c
9. Edmundo Sosa 2b
RH Michael Wacha p
1. Curtis Granderson dh
2. Martin Prado 1b
3. Brian Anderson 3b
4. Peter O’Brien rf
5. JT Riddle ss
6. Lewis Brinson cf
7. Isan Diaz 2b
8. Austin Dean lf
9. Bryan Holaday c
RH Jose Urena p