JUPITER, Fla. • While Cardinals pitchers Carlos Martinez and John Gant could walk back to the Roger Dean Stadium clubhouse with bounces in their steps before Thursday's Grapefruit League game against the Mets, reliever Brett Cecil returned with perhaps more questions than he carried into his one-inning appearance in an intrasquad game.
Early Thursday morning, Martinez could be spotted throwing from flat ground, which was not news, if you read today's Post-Dispatch. But Martinez's throwing partner had not been reported. It was manager Mike Shildt.
"It wasn't in the plans," Shildt said. "But he went out, and I didn't have a lot to do at the moment. I played a little catch with my man Carlos. He looked great."
How did Shildt look?
"I don't think I'll keep doing it for much more," Shildt deadpanned. "We'll see. It's been a while since I had to throw. I threw a few cutters that got him, I think."
Later, Gant pitched two solid, easy innings against Cardinals minor league hitters in an intrasquad game. Gant's trip to the back field was not a health-related issue. The righthander still in competition for the fifth rotation spot was just in need of work.
Cecil entered later, and left frustrated. He did not allow a hit to a minor leaguer, but he totaled an unofficial count of 15 balls and 12 strikes, including one walk, one hit batsman and one wild pitch that allowed a run to score. Cecil would have been out of it sooner, if prized third baseman prospect Nolan Gorman had not committed an error when a grounder scooted beneath his glove.
Cecil's three outs came on an easy groundout and two harmless fly balls. The contact was not a problem. The control and command was. After his inning ended, Cecil returned to the practice bullpen and threw some more pitches under the supervision of pitching coach Mike Maddux.
Cecil has been searching for his command after significant weight loss this offseason. An update on Thursday's outing will be available later this afternoon.
Some others news and notes:
• Shildt said both Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes could, potentially, transition from pitching in the Cardinals' bullpen to pitching in the Cardinals' rotation during the season. Reyes is competing for a bullpen spot, the team has clarified. Martinez's future has not yet been decided, and will be based on his progress and how the rotation looks without him when he reaches that fork in the road. Martinez is about two weeks out from throwing off of the mound. Shildt expected Martinez to rest Friday and resume flat-ground throwing Saturday.
• Second baseman Kolten Wong, back in camp, said he is feeling good after he was scratched from yesterday's game due to being under the weather.
• Cardinals pitchers, for the most part, will start hitting in games moving forward, starting with Michael Wacha in the lineup, hitting ninth, today.
One small step forward: Carlos Martinez, who has been out 25 days, returns to his throwing program Thursday. One small step back: Dakota Hudson, the Cardinal perceived to be leading the pack in the race to replace Martinez, encountered turbulence in his latest under-the-microscope start.