The wild cards of the Cardinals rotation may look like Cy Young candidates thus far in the spring. But the high dollar guy the club brought in to be a rock in the middle of its rotation looks more like a bush leaguer.
Jake Westbrook gave up nine hits and four runs in five innings of work Thursday against the Marlins. But the numbers were less disturbing than the results. The Fish were making solid contact on just about every pitch they hacked at. Only one of the Marlins hits was not a line drive. And when Westbrook got in trouble and needed to knuckle down, he seemed to get hit even harder.
It was the same story for the offense. Class AA infielder Matt Holliday was the only Redbird to collect more than one hit. Albert Pujols was hitless in three at bats as was Lance Berkman. Berkman did, however, impress with a ranging play to his left to cut off a ball that appeared to be an easy double. He turned and fired to second base to hold the Marlins hitter to one base while the crowd murmured in satisfaction.
Matt Holliday was 1-for-3 with a solid hit. He was robbed of another by a sliding catch. Colby Rasmus swung at the first pitch he saw in the game and hit into an easy double play in the first. But he made up for it on the second pitch he saw. Rasmus deposited a fastball deep over the right field wall for a home run, his only hit in three tries.
Both of Carpenter's hits were line drives. He's still pushing the .400 mark at the plate and is forcing the Cardinals to take a long look at him as the infield utility player in Nick Punto's absence. I'm on the fence about this one. if the Cardinals thought Carpenter would play second or third on a daily basis, why not give him the shot? But if he's going to ride the pine and get four or five at bats a week, he'd probably be better off in Class AAA or Class AA starting every day.
Jason Motte was also hit hard by the Marlins, pitching an inning of relief that appeared worse because of some hard hit foul balls than the line score of a pair of hits and a run given up would seem to indicate. I think Marlins infielder Omar Infante, whom Motte hit on the elbow with a pitch that sounded as if it might have hit the bat, would tend to agree.
In attendance at Thursday's sold out game were Hall of Fame former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog and Red Schoendienst who sat in the suites near the press box. They got a loud ovation from the crowd when they were introduced.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Matt Carpenter
Cardinals Play of the Game: Rasmus' solo homer
Lowlight: Maybe he is still working on his pitches. But, with only two weeks to go before opening day, Westbrook's lack of success is becoming worrisome.