ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals got their final tune-up before Opening Day on Wednesday with a 6-3 victory over the Royals at Busch Stadium. It was their first real look at what games will look like this year, playing a different opponent with the health and safety measures that theST. LOUIS — The Cardinals got their final tune-up before Opening Day on Wednesday with a 6-3 victory over the Royals at Busch Stadium. It was their first real look at what games will look like this year, playing a different opponent with the health and safety measures that the league has implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Its different, said manager Mike Shildt. Were getting in a rhythm of the dugout a little bit, figuring out where guys are and how guys transition. But I think at the end of the day, it really turned into a baseball game that were used to. The mechanics of it were pretty well established prior to it, and I thought it ran pretty effectively.
I think overall, the beautiful thing was, it was a baseball game.
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Here are three takeaways from the Cardinals lone exhibition game in Summer Camp:
Martínez sharp in startCarlos Martínez
might have had to come into the game in relief of starter Miles Mikolas
, but it was only a formality. The next time he pitches, hell be a starter. The Cardinals announced their rotation would include the two-time All-Star after he dedicated himself to a starters regimen this offseason and showed his commitment to staying healthy.
Im really happy, Martínez said. I tried to be strong, strong with my body, and forget about the last two seasons and just focus on this season and my opportunity again.
Martínez threw four innings Wednesday and allowed just one run — a solo homer to Bubba Starling — on two hits. He struck out two and walked one. The righty said hes been able to learn from serving as St. Louis’ closer, and that will help him this year as he navigates being a starter once again.
I got a lot of experience from the last two years, Martínez said. I was a little bit frustrated because I was hurt, but that gave me good experience to be positive. And now I feel like Im mature, the great guy to be healthy and the great guy to help the team and be focused for the whole season.
Martínez starting means Kwang Hyun Kim will be the closer to begin the season, and the team got its first look at its free-agent signing doing just that in the ninth inning on Wednesday. The lefty struck out a trio in 16 pitches (10 strikes), completely flummoxing the Royals’ hitters. Against Franchy Cordero, he swerved from a 70 mph curveball to a 94 mph fastball for a called strike three. Then Kim ended the game with an 84-mph slider to a swinging Bobby Witt Jr., baseball’s No. 10 prospect.
Good tempo, multiple pitches for strikes, lefties, righties, Shildt said. Thats the reason hes in that spot. Hes a veteran guy with good presence. Went out with a lot of different pitches with good movement.
DeJong locked inThe Cardinals have been measuring shortstop Paul DeJong
to be Marcell Ozunas replacement in the cleanup spot, and so far DeJong has passed that test. Over the offseason, spring and the almost 4 1/2-month break from games, DeJong focused on improving his production with runners in scoring position. He found breathing exercises and meditation to help calm himself in the batters box, and he shifted his balance at the plate as well as tightened his swing.
On Wednesday, DeJong hit three lasers all over the field. A hard-hit grounder to third base caused Maikel Franco to fumble the ball and ended with DeJong on first base in the second inning. A sacrifice fly to center field scored Matt Carpenter in the third. And DeJong ended the day, and his camp, with a two-run home run to left field after Paul Goldschmidt walked in the fifth.
Hes starting to be more consistent with his approach, Shildt said. Slow things down, able to take the at-bat that is necessary based on the situation. And the fact of the matter is he happens to hit fourth doing it.
ONeill primed for playing timeTyler ONeills first at-bat Wednesday was exactly what the Cardinals are hoping to see out of the left fielder this year. In a bases-loaded, no-out situation, he lined a two-run double to the left-field wall. St. Louis wants to see ONeill unleash the power he showed in the Minors, and the club is giving him the opportunity to do it this year with more playing time.
While the Cardinals havent made the announcement, its likely that ONeill will be the teams Opening Day left fielder.
Well, Im doing everything that I can, ONeill said. Ive put in a lot of effort, a lot of work, these last couple months, especially during the quarantine. Im going to be ready for the task.
ONeill started Spring Training with a home run in the second inning of the Cardinals’ first Grapefruit League game, and five months later hes showing that same ability to do damage. The results in Summer Camp and on Wednesday showed the work he put in during the break with hitting coach Jeff Albert in Florida. He adjusted his batting stance to get a little more time seeing pitches, and hes been able to draw more walks and make contact because of it.
Obviously, as hitters, were trying to see the ball, trying to make contact, but just that extra 5 percent, 6 percent emphasis on seeing the ball, getting the location, seeing the angle and everything like that, ONeill said of his approach. And then placing the barrel where its supposed to is going to be a key factor for me. The more reps I get, the better Im going to feel with it.
Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.