St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals’ top draft picks experience Busch Stadium; Molina hits first home run

A glimpse into the St. Louis Cardinals’ future made an appearance Monday at Busch Stadium.

Top draft picks Nick Plummer, a center fielder from Brother Rice High School in Michigan, and Jake Woodford, a right-handed pitcher from Plant High School in Florida, worked out before the Cardinals’ scheduled game against the Minnesota Twins.

Plummer was selected 23rd overall; Woodford was the Cardinals’ competitive-balance pick at No. 39 overall. Another right-handed pitcher, Jordan Hicks, also was at the stadium for a workout. Hicks, from Cypress Creek High School in Texas, was a supplemental pick between the third and fourth round of the draft (105th overall).

All three players passed their physicals and signed their contracts Monday. They will report to the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.

Plummer hit in a group that included Peter Bourjos and Pete Kozma. He didn’t appear comfortable in his first go-around, but soon began scorching line drives to all fields.

“It took me a little bit, but yeah, I settled down,” said Plummer, who is believed to have signed for the slot value of the 23rd overall pick ($2,124,200).

After taking his swings, Plummer said he hadn’t met his favorite Cardinal, second baseman Kolten Wong. Plummer said Wong is an inspiration because he made it to the big leagues two years after being drafted, an accomplishment Plummer would like to repeat.

“I know Kolten Wong got drafted in 2011 and made it here in 2013. That’s a guy I look up to and I look forward to meeting him,” said Plummer, who batted over .500 and stole 32 bases as a senior at Brother Rice. “I’m ready to get down to Jupiter and start my career.”

Plummer was delighted when Matt Carpenter strolled over to him and shook his hand near the batting cage.

“It’s awesome,” Plummer said. “My stepdad loves Matt Carpenter. He thinks he’s crazy for not using batting gloves, but it’s awesome to be able to meet him.”

Plummer grew up a Tigers fan.

“But I knew that the Cardinals were a winning organization and that they bring their minor-leaguers up and that they develop their players,” he said. “So it’s the best of both worlds for me and I’m really excited to be a part of the Cardinals.

“It’s been a lot of fun being able to be here and be here with my family and kind of experience that. This kind of goes back to all the work they put in and all the money they put in for me to travel and everything. It’s great for them to be here and for me to be here. I’m really excited.”

Woodford, whose fastball reaches 94 mph, signed with the Cardinals rather than attend Florida. He was 7-0 with a 0.67 ERA for Plant, with 57 strikeouts in 52 innings. The slot value for the 39th overall pick was $1,585,400, although it is believed Woodford received more to sign.

“Just the winning environment and how supportive the entire organization is,” the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Woodford said as the major reason he shunned the Gators for the Cardinals. “It’s every baseball player’s dream to play pro ball. I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity.

“There was definitely a little difficulty there, but once you see (this) stadium and talk to the guys, you realize how great of an organization it is. It wasn’t that hard after that.”

Woodford said it was “nerve-wracking at first” throwing a bullpen while being observed by Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak and pitching coaches Derek Lilliquist and Blaise Illsley.

“But you realize they’re there to help you,” Woodford said. “They just want to give you feedback. It’s really cool being able to take advantage of that opportunity.”

The 6-2, 185-pound Hicks was at Busch Stadium with his dad. The rest of his family was on a cruise to Jamaica.

“I chose to come here,” said Hicks, who can reach 96 mph. “I would much rather be here. ... My mom wishes she could be here, but she can’t. It’s a really cool stadium. I really enjoyed pitching in the bullpen. It’s all been a great experience.”

Like Woodford, Hicks had to reel in his nerves.

“I mean, it’s the pitching coaches (there),” Hicks said of Lilliquist and Illsley. “It’s pretty scary. It’s the St. Louis Cardinals. But I was excited. I went out there and did pretty good. I’m just excited. I want to get here already.”

The slot value for the 105th overall pick was $543,300.

“It’s exciting to get these guys here and signed,” Cardinals Scouting Director Chris Correa said. “They’re all in good health. I think they made a good first impression and they’re ready to go. They’re all going to go to the GCL in Jupiter.

“They’re all excited to play. It wasn’t that hard at all (to sign them), to be honest with you. They’re all excited to play, they’re all ready physically, emotionally. They’re all mature kids. They’re ready for the challenge of professional baseball.”

The Cardinals have signed 16 other draft choices, including six of their 12 picks in the first 10 rounds.

Others who have signed are: outfielder Paul DeJong (fourth round), right-hander Ryan Helsley (fifth), infielder Andrew Brodbeck (ninth), outfielder Craig Aikin (12th), catcher Ryan McCarvel (19th), infielder Luke Doyle (20th), infielder Hunter Newman (22nd), right-hander Ben Yokley (29th), left-hander Chandler Hawkins (33rd), inifielder Dylan Tice (36th), catcher Stephen Zavala (37th), outfielder Orlando Olivera (38th) and infielder Joey Hawkins (40th round).

Three non-drafted free agents also were signed: infielder Josh Swirchak, catcher Riley Drongesen and left-hander Brady Bowen.

The Cardinals have until 4 p.m. on July 17 to sign all of their drafted players. Otherwise, the players will return to the 2016 draft pool.

Molina breaks through

Catcher Yadier Molina had gone 342 at-bats since his last home run when he connected against Trevor May in the third inning Monday. It was Molina’s first homer since June 27, 2014, and his first at home since June 17, 2014.

“I have a feeling he cares maybe more than we do,” Matheny said before the game of Molina’s home-run drought. “We’re watching extra-base hits, we’re seeing some doubles, we’re seeing some good at-bats.

“You know that I always downplay the home-run thing. They’re nice. He’s a guy who can hit them. He hit 20 (22 in 2012). It’s not that he can’t do that. It’s nice to get people off your back about stuff, so I imagine that’s what he wants to do as much as anything else. It’ll come.”

About three hours later, Matheny was right. Molina rocked a 1-1 pitch on a line into the Twins bullpen to make it 3-0.

“He finally got one that carried a little better for him,” Matheny said. “We’re not concerned about it. I know the rest of the watching world has been. He was just able to maybe take that off his back and not think about it so much.”

Makeup date

The Cardinals’ home game against the Royals that was rained out Sunday has been rescheduled for 6:15 p.m. on July 23.

Fans with tickets from the scheduled game Sunday should use those same tickets for admittance July 23. Fox Sports Midwest will televise the July 23 contest.

Matheny a Molitor fan

First-year Minnesota manager Paul Molitor has been a favorite of Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who at 44 is 14 years younger than Molitor.

“He was one of my heroes,” Matheny said. “I was a big fan of Paul Molitor. I watched how he went about being a superstar in Milwaukee’s organization when I was coming up. He and Robin Yount were the tandem that you wanted to watch. How they played the game, the way (Molitor) personally reached out to young players like me and some others, he made an impact – a lasting impact.”

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 618-239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

Cardinals 3, Twins 2

Mark Reynolds and Yadier Molina hit back-to-back home runs against Trevor May in the fourth inning Monday to support another strong Busch Stadium performance by right-hander John Lackey as the St. Louis Cardinals nipped the Minnesota Twins 3-2. It was the first back-to-back home runs hit by the Cardinals this season.

At the plate

Molina ended a drought of 342 at-bats without a home run, which dated to July 27, 2014. ... Reynolds has two home runs in his last two games. ... The top three hitters in the Cardinals’ order, Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta, were 1-for-11. ... Randal Grichuk’s triple in the third gave him a team-high four.

Odds and ends

Minnesota rookie Byron Buxton collected his first big-league hit, a triple, in the eighth inning. ... Lackey is 5-1 with a 1.81 ERA at home, compared to 0-3 with a 6.27 ERA on the road. ... Kevin Siegrist pitched the ninth for his second save.

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