PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — When Cardinals right fielder Dylan Carlson, a switch hitter, launched a 420-foot, three-run homer Sunday off Mets lefthander David Peterson, it was a reminder of how devastating Carlson was against lefthanded pitching last year. So were many of his strictly righthanded-hitting Cardinal brethren.
Carlson, who provided the decisive blow in a 6-4 exhibition victory, had a .342 batting average and .923 OPS against lefthanders last season, compared to .243 and .739, respectively, while batting lefthanded.
Righthanded-batting Paul Goldschmidt, who also popped a 420-foot homer Sunday, had a .350 batting average and 1.063 OPS against lefthanded pitching, compared to .279 and .832.
Nolan Arenado mashed lefthanders at a .931 OPS clip and a .295 average. But he batted just 245 against righthanders, with a .778 OPS.
Righthanded-hitting Tyler O’Neill, the third member of the 30-homer troika, was more balanced. He batted .286 against righthanders and .289 against lefthanders but his OPS was stronger, too, against lefthanders — 1.026 versus .888 against righthanders.
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The foregoing was a partial explanation of why the Cardinals, in a division dominated by righthanded pitching, went looking for a lefthanded batter in Corey Dickerson. He had big power seasons with Colorado and Tampa Bay several years ago. With the help of hitting coaches Jeff Albert and Turner Ward, Dickerson is trying to reboot himself into a batter who can hit with more production rather than just strictly for average.
But Carlson and Tommy Edman, another switch hitter, can help more against righthanded pitchers, too — especially Carlson, who seems destined for the No. 5 spot in the batting order. He often manned that slot in the Cardinals’ late-season winning streak of 17 games.
“We’re wanting to see a combination of both “Eddie” and (Carlson) take that next step from the left side,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. Leadoff man Edman had a .794 OPS against lefthanders and only .665 against lefthanders.
Marmol said both had been working to “try to get to pitches that the league has been trying to expose them on. I don’t think it’s any secret for “Eddie” that that pitch is up and in for a lefthanded hitter.”
Part of the process for Edman, said Marmol, is to lay off the pitches he can’t do much with anyway. Regarding Carlson, Marmol said he had “no doubt” that Carlson would grow into a power hitter capable of hitting more than the 18 homers he hit last season.
“Physicality. And confidence,” Marmol said. “And just a looseness that ‘I belong here.’”
Albert said, “They’re strong. They can hit from both sides. But I think they’re a little more natural on the right side. I think they know what they want to do ‘lefty’ but it just takes a little more work to get where they want to be with that.”
Marmol said he would do some experimenting with prospective lineups in the remaining 13 games of the spring. But, asked about Carlson hitting fifth, Marmol said, “Absolutely he can fill that spot.” .
Carlson also had two singles Sunday, matching the two singles the Mets had for the first six innings.
Mikolas: ‘Feels good to feel good’
Cards starter Miles Mikolas, who gave up a those soft hits, allowed one run in two innings but was impressive, hitting 94 mph consistently.
With his young twins in the crowd watching him, Mikolas took another step toward shoving his past two injury-plagued seasons farther behind him.
“My tagline right now is it feels good to feel good,” he said. “It’s a weight off your shoulders physically and mentally to not be warming up and thinking, ‘How is it going to feel today?’”
Having experienced the frustration of not being able to pitch, Mikolas can identify now with teammates Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes.
“It stinks,” said Mikolas. “I know the feeling. I know the look. Everyone is out there running around the back fields and you’re just kind of hanging out. It stinks. It’s not fun.”
Walsh paints Rookie Jake Walsh had a 1-2-3 sixth, netting two groundouts and a called third strike on slugger Pete Alonzo.
“That was impressive,” Marmol said. “I was actually more impressed with his demeanor than his stuff. When a guy is able to slow it down and have that calmness to him, even though you know he’s hyped up inside, that’s a good sign.
“He’s got a good shot.”
Walsh, 26, who had Tommy John elbow surgery after the 2018 season, has morphed from a starter to a reliever who led the Arizona Fall League in saves last season.
“Someone once told me,” said Walsh, “the difference is that starting is painting with a paint brush and relieving is painting with a sledgehammer. It’s much more fun” to paint with a sledgehammer.
Nootbaar makes things happenReserve right fielder Lars Nootbaar and center fielder Scott Hurst couldn’t corral a windblown double that cost two runs in the seventh inning. But Nootbaar then sprinted to his right to make a diving catch to stop the rally.
Nootbaar tripled to open the eighth, with throaty chants of ”Noot” ringing from the many Cardinal fans at Clover Park. He scored on a line single to left by top prospect Jordan Walker, brought along for the trip to get a couple of at-bats as a designated hitter. Nootbaar added a run-scoring single with two out in the ninth. Junior Fernandez recorded the save.
“People love old ‘Noot,’” Marmol said. “He’s no different in the clubhouse. For a guy like him to come in and bring life to the clubhouse and be able to get on veteran guys (like Arenado) ... he does it in a way that’s well received.”
Backup catcher Andrew Knizner takes the same approach with Arenado, and Marmol said, “Both of those guys get away with it somehow.”
Walker, delivered his run-scoring single after fanning in his first at-bat. Marmol said he would give the big third baseman a few more trials before the spring is over and Walker reports to his minor-league team.