Could Peter Bourjos be playing himself off the St. Louis Cardinals?
Bourjos entered spring training as the front-runner for the fourth outfielder spot, but he has fallen flat and is batting .043 (1-for-23) after going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and hitting into a double play Tuesday in a 7-1 victory over Miami at Roger Dean Stadium.
Asked whether he is concerned about Bourjos’ difficult spring, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny replied: “Bourjos is definitely concerned about Bourjos.”
Matheny has noticed a change in Bourjos in recent days.
“There are some things he was doing well, and now I’m starting to see him tense up, trying to make things happen instead of trusting what he’s doing,” Matheny said. “That’s what is frustrating. ... This game is hard, and there are going to be times when you’re doing the right thing mechanically and the hits don’t come. But you want to see some positive reinforcement when you’re doing something you think is right.
“He’s just frustrated now. He wants to see results.”
Bourjos dressed and left the complex after being replaced by Rafael Ortega.
Matheny isn’t going to cut bait with Bourjos with two-plus weeks of spring training remaining, but if Bourjos continues to labor, Randal Grichuk is capable of filling the void.
“I still know that what we’re watching now is better than what we were watching a year ago mechanically, with how (Bourjos) is able to get through the ball,” Matheny said. “Even things just as simple as BP are very good indicators of what he physically can and cannot do. He can get through the ball now. That is so big to be able to fight one of the things that he struggled the most with, which is getting on that ball that is breaking away from him so much.
“I still feel that he’s going to be fine.”
Wednesday is a day off for the Cardinals, with the exception of Lance Lynn and Jon Jay. Lynn will pitch a simulated game and Jay will be one of the hitters opposing him.
More than perhaps anyone, Bourjos will not be permitted anywhere close to Roger Dean Stadium.
“He’s one of the guys who is not allowed here,” Matheny said. “Take a day to clear your mind and then get back to work. He’s a guy wired very much like a Matt Carpenter, where more is better. He’s not going to shy away from getting the work done to try and get through this as quickly as he can.”
The writing was on the wall after Adam Wainwright worked in a simulated game Monday, but Matheny confirmed Tuesday that Wainwright would make his first spring start Saturday against Atlanta at Roger Dean Stadium.
That would put the longtime ace on a path to start the season opener against Jon Lester and the Chicago Cubs on April 5 at venerable Wrigley Field.
“He’ll get his starts depending on how this next one goes,” Matheny said, adding that Wainwright will throw between 50 and 60 pitches. “He should still be on track to get to where he needs to be for early in the season. It’s getting interesting, right?”
Matheny also said Jaime Garcia will start Thursday against the New York Mets in Jupiter, preceding Michael Wacha on Friday against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie.
Matheny did not confirm when veteran John Lackey will pitch again. Lackey threw three perfect innings Monday and would be due to pitch again Saturday, but Matheny said he will not throw on the same day as Wainwright.
Gonzales wins again
Left-hander Marco Gonzales improved to 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA in the victory over the Marlins. Gonzales allowed one run (earned) on four hits in 4 2/3 innings, with two walks and three strikeouts. He also struck out Jeff Baker with the bases loaded to end the third and had an RBI single in a three-run fourth.
Gonzales enjoys hitting, something he did with proficiency at Gonzaga.
“That’s why I loved college so much, because I was on the field every day,” Gonzales said. “When I was pitching, I would hit for myself. It adds the element of you get to contribute every inning. You have to be locked in. Sometimes when you get DHd for, you sit there and kind of think about your outing. When you’re hitting, you think about other things.”
Gonzales is batting Jaime Garcia and Carlos Martinez to become the fifth starter, but he’s not reading much into it.
“I’m at-bat to at-bat,” he said. “I just go after hitters and do the best I can. Afterwards, I just reflect and learn things that I did. Grow and get better. In the game, I’m not thinking about anything else but getting outs and helping the team win.”
St. Louis on Tuesday morning optioned left-hander Tyler Lyons and infielder Greg Garcia to Class AAA Memphis. The club also re-assigned a pair of nonroster players, as converted catcher Carson Kelly was sent to high-Class A Palm Beach and infielder Breyvic Valera was dispatched to Memphis.
Forty-eight players remain in the big-league camp.
Lyons, 27, has pitched creditably well in his two years with the Cardinals, although he is 2-8 with a 4.62 ERA in 23 games and 12 starts. He has yielded 82 hits in 89 2/3 innings. Garcia batted .143 (2-for-14) in 14 games last season.
“Tyler’s message is figuring out consistency,” Matheny said. “Because when he’s right, it’s really good. Greg Garcia, it comes down to opportunity. I would say this is probably the most middle infielders we’ve had in camp as far as guys who legitimately have a chance to make this team. There haven’t been as many opportunities, and they’re going to lessen as we start stretching guys out.
“It’s never fun to send guys out, but we believe it’s necessary.”
Other middle infielder competing for a spot on the team are Dean Anna, Ty Kelly and Jacob Wilson, who Matheny said “kicks the door open as soon as we crack it.” Kelly, meanwhile, is a versatile player who Matheny said will offer consistently tough at-bats.
The Cardinals remain high on the future of Carson Kelly, 20, a second-round pick from Westview High in Portland, Ore., in the 2012 draft. Kelly, previously a third baseman, batted .248 with six home runs and 49 RBIs in 98 games last season at low-Class A Peoria.
“I gave him the best compliment he could probably get as a catcher in that it looked like he belonged in big-league camp, and that’s after only one year (as a catcher),” Matheny said. “That’s impressive. We’re watching a young player who has all the characteristics and skill set to be an impact player in this game.”