Of Adam Wainwright & Backup Catchers: Spring Training Notes 03/13/12

Thanks to the magic of modern technology, I got to watch Adam Wainwright make his second start of the spring this afternoon; it was extremely comforting to see him back on the mound. You can forget about an injured pitcher surprisingly easily, thanks to the occasional nature of their appearances even when healthy, but once you see a guy back who hasn't been around for awhile, see the delivery and watch them work, suddenly you realize just how much you missed him. 
Wainwright looked good today, too. Three innings, no runs, one hit, one walk, one strikeout. His stuff was sharp, if not quite up to normal Wainwright standards. His fastball had nice life to it, with some real pop, and mostly seemed to do what he wanted it to. The curve was much as I remembered, though it did wander a bit. The biggest difference between Wainwright the Cy Young contender of two years ago and Wainwright the returning ace this spring mostly seemed to be variety; he threw more fastballs than the mid-season version does. I'm sure that's more a function of spring training than any actual change in Wainwright's approach. 

The best thing about Wainwright's start? Nothing unexpected. He looked, well, like Adam Wainwright. And that is enough to make me believe we're in for a good season from the Cards' ace. 

-- The backup catcher competition coming in promised to be as exciting as a backup competition can be; the Cards haven't gone into camp without a veteran signed to be the primary backup since 2004. They did sign former Cub Koyie Hill to come in and compete for the spot, but the job is still wide open for the taking. 

So far Bryan Anderson is looking like the clubhouse leader; he's well liked by Mike Matheny, has looked good behind the plate, and is hitting .667 on the spring. (And as I'm writing this he drills a double to right-center, driving in two.) Hill, on the other hand, has looked like Koyie Hill, hitting just .143 and allowing several passed balls. Tony Cruz, the third man in the competition (and the most versatile of the three, able to play third base in addition to behind the plate), has gotten just seven at-bats so far. He's collected a pair of hits, but just hasn't gotten enough time yet to draw many conclusions about his chances. Still, Anderson has to be the favorite for now with as well as he has played. 

-- Eduardo Sanchez has been just terrifying so far this spring. He's appeared in two games so far, covering a total of 3.2 innings. In those 3.2 innings, he's walked 3, allowed just a single hit, plunked one batter, and struck out 9. That's right; he's collected eleven outs, and nine of them have come via the strikeout. 

That's the good news; the bad news is the numbers crunch in the Cardinal bullpen means there's a very good chance some deserving pitcher is going to be left of the roster, and Sanchez is one of the most likely candidates. Kyle McClellan will be on the team, and Eduardo Sanchez may very well not be. That's just a terrible use of resources. 

-- David Freese has gone deep two days in a row. I'm very skeptical of Freese going forward; playoff hero or no he has some holes in his game (seriously, Dave, take a walk, would you?), and isn't exactly the most durable player. Still, if he shows power this season anywhere near what he showed in the minors coming up or last October the Cards shouldn't have any concerns about their third base situation any time soon. 

-- Carlos Beltran in a Cardinal uniform looks really weird. Really good, but really weird. He's been a guy I've wanted to see playing here in St. Louis for a very long time, going all the way back to before he was dealt to the Houston Astros in 2004, and actually seeing him wearing the Birds on the Bat almost looks like an optical illusion, or else seems like some fever-induced delusion. As delusions go, though, I'll take it. 

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