JUPITER, Fla. -- Matt Carpenter isn’t in Thursday’s Cardinals lineup against the Miami Marlins, but he said before the game that it wouldn’t be long, probably at the start of next week.
Carpenter, who hasn’t played all spring as he has tended to lower back issues, did some hitting in the batting cages Thursday. Recently, manager Mike Matheny had said that Carpenter would be ready by the middle of March but Carpenter said, “That’s being cautions. I think it’ll be sooner.
“I’m going to have two weeks of playing (games),” said Carpenter.
Matheny said today, “Every day we give him a little (more) and today the intensity is being kicked up, so he’s not far away.”
But, when Carpenter does return, it probably will be at first base rather than at a variety of positions, as had been plotted over the winter.
Matheny cited Carpenter’s shoulder problems of last year as reason not to move him around too much yet. “The shoulder is always something we’re concerned about,” Matheny said. “That probably hasn’t been talked about during all this. We’re trying to get his back right and he’s also trying to get his shoulder into a really good place. But that (shoulder) might be something that would push it more toward first base than third.”
Before he hit Thursday, Carpenter was taking ground balls at first.
Infielder Yairo Munoz, who has opened eyes with his bat and his versatility, has been out with a left (non-throwing) shoulder suffered when he dived back into a base a couple of days ago. With Munoz not available, the Cardinals have invited 2016 top draft pick Delvin Perez, a shortstop, and third baseman Evan Mendoza, a 2017 pick in the 11th round, to join the club for the game. Both had done well the day before in a “B” game watched by Matheny and both almost certainly will be in the game Thursday at some point.
“We don’t bring them over just to have them sit there,” Matheny said. “Those are exciting players so, hopefully, we’ll get a chance to see them. The organization is very high on them.”
Carlos Martinez, whose last scheduled start was adjusted to a minor league appearance to allow himself to take care of a personal matter, will throw some 65 to 70 pitches Thursday.
Among the regulars, Dexter Fowler, Yadier Molina, Jedd Gyorko and Marcell Ozuna are in the lineup, as is quasi regular Jose Martinez.
MATHENY SAYS GREGERSON WILL BE READY
Late-inning reliever Luke Gregerson is being treated for an oblique injury but Matheny said, “He should (have) plenty of time to get ready for opening day.” That is March 29 in New York.
Gregerson was being brought along slowly anyway but has pitched just one scoreless inning, striking out two. But he said Thursday morning his condition was "tremendously better from the onset of the injury.
“Why push a button when there’s no reason to really force something and you can take the time to make sure it doesn’t make anything worse?" he said.
Gregerson suspects he felt the tightness in the weight room and not pitching. “I’ve had a few oblique injuries. I know the feeling, sensed something and we all decided it was better to get ahead of it," he said.