Postcard from Florida: Heading back to Belleville

News-DemocratMarch 14, 2014 

This final edition of Postcards from Florida comes from Palm Beach International Airport, where photographer Zia Nizami and I are waiting for the plane that will get us to Atlanta and then on to St. Louis. We squeezed in a little more time at spring training in the morning and watched Jason Motte face hitters for the first time in about one year. Motte's recovery from Tommy John surgery has had no setbacks and Motte seems to think it's possible he will return in April. It's difficult to determine whether the Cardinals will allow that to happen or adopt a more cautious approach with their former closer. With Motte, Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, Joe Kelly, Kevin Siegrist, Pat Neshek and Randy Choate, the bullpen is in good hands.

Outfielder Oscar Taveras, perhaps mercifully, was optioned to Class AAA Memphis late Thursday, and he seems further away from the big leagues than he was when spring training opened. That's not an encouraging thought to contemplate about a top prospect, but Taveras already has carved a track record as being injury-prone. The Cardinals already had doubts about his maturity level, and those concerns still exist. Now Taveras must deal with the real possibility that he has fallen behind Stephen Piscotty on the prospect depth chart. Piscotty has performed; Taveras can't get on the field.

As usual, this has been a jam-packed week, filled with long days and short nights. Waking up when it's still dark, well, I will not miss that in the immediate future. But Florida and the return of baseball has a way of reviving the soul. We will do our best to put together an entertaining and informative special section on the Cardinals in the News-Democrat of March 30.

With time to kill before boarding the plane, a solid hour was spent on the Juno Beach pier, which extends 990 feet into the Atlantic. Breath-taking views. From there, it was off to the popular Thirsty Turtle for lunch. Fried shrimp, cole slaw and steamed vegetables put the finishing touches on another trip to the Sunshine State.

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