St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia looked Thursday like a pitcher who was still scraping a little bit of rust from his control after a long layoff due to injury.
What he did not look like was a pitcher who was in any way physically limited by the shoulder trouble that has ruined his last three seasons.
Garcia struck out seven Mets, proving that he still has the dramatic action on his pitches that made him a highly-touted Redbirds prospect before his ailments started to drag down the lefty hurler. But a couple of missed spots led to a home run and contributed a total five hits and two runs allowed in four innings of work.
If Garcia continues to sharpen his control -- and if he can stay healthy -- I don't see how the Cardinals can deny him a spot in the starting rotation. A trade seems extremely unlikely given his contract, his medical history and just, simply, because he's probably worth less to St. Louis in a swap than his potential worth if he can be a healthy, productive player.
When we last saw him pitching in the big leagues in early 2014, he looked tentative and timid when he faced hitters. As if he was afraid to let go of the ball because he lacked the confidence that he could fool hitters. Both in the bullpen before the 7-2 loss to the Mets and on the mound during it, he seemed confident and workmanlike.
Other noteworthy things from the Mets game:
Peter Bourjos actually got a hit. His 1-for-2 day raised his spring batting average to .080. He also sacrificed in his first at bat to move runners to second and third with one out. One of them eventually would score on a fly ball. I would have liked to see Bourjos hit away in a spring training game, but I can see where practicing the fundamentals would also have some value... It mostly bothered me to see him give himself up because in so many at-bats in 2014, Bourjos seemed to take the easy way out.
Peter Kozma was 0-for-1, spending time in both left and centerfield. His batting average remains at a wonderful .435 for the spring. But he made an awful play in the field, diving for a ball he had no hope to reach. It rolled to the wall, allowing one runner to score from first and the batter to reach third from which he was immediately driven in. He's going to have to improve quickly to make an impression that he is a legit option in the outfield. The Cardinals should have started to work on this project last year, not when Kozma is out of options and must be kept on the roster or, likely, lost to a waiver claim.
While the lefty-heavy St. Louis lineup struggled against a southpaw starter, as usual, one bright spot came on a Kolten Wong double over the New York left fielder's head. If he can continue to spray line drives all over the field, Wong is going to be a very exciting player.