A pair of defensive gems by Harrison Bader were among the highlights of the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 loss to the Washington Nationals in split squad action this afternoon.
The first play came on a line drive off the bat off Anthony Rendon with a runner at third to end the 1st inning. Bader charged in for the diving snag. An inning later, it was Andrew Stevenson who was robbed in similar fashion.
“First dive was a terrific jump,” praised Mike Matheny. “And then going back was a really nice play.”
From home to straight away centerfield is 406 feet at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches–six feet deeper than the Cardinals home field at Roger Dean Stadium.
“There’s a lot of room out there too, for sure,” agreed Bader. “The biggest thing is just the wind was a little bit of a factor, but not really. It wasn’t too bad. Just maybe a step or two in a certain direction. Keep in mind that lefties the ball’s going to fade away from you a little more and righties the opposite direction.”
The defensive alignment for Bader this spring has been based on who else was in the outfield that day. As a result, he has taken it upon himself to change it up in batting practice, so he can work on the different angles and get the necessary reads from all fields.
So are the pair of diving catches the defensive equivalent of a home run and triple at the plate?
“To an extent,” began Bader.
“Yes, I will answer that for him, yes it does,” interjected Mike Mayers from a nearby locker.
“Thank you,” Bader replied with a smile to his teammate. “Yeah, sometimes you’re not going to go 4-4 at the plate so what you’ve got to do is every time you get a chance to get on base or play defense, you’ve got to in many ways be the best defender you can. If you’re not hitting at the plate, it’s time to go play defense and go out there make a play for your guys. That was a great example of that today–I snuck one up the middle for sure, but I didn’t do too much damage at the plate so it was nice to kind of make some plays out there for my pitcher.”
–Meanwhile across town in the other split squad game, Yadier Molina hit a pair of home runs and had a double with three RBIs as the Cardinals beat the Miami Marlins 4-2.
“I think that helps his chances of making the ballclub,” quipped Matheny. “Every time he goes up there, he’s got a really clear plan with who this guy he’s facing is, how he feels, what the game situation is…he really thinks through his at-bats really well and has a great plan and has the talent to go along with it.”
Against Washington, the slimmed-down Jedd Gyorko hit his first home run of the spring–a bomb that traveled over the left field wall and Cardinals bullpen onto the patio concourse above.
“I love to see the results like today, but he’s always joking around,” said Matheny. “In batting practice, I threw him a pitch and he said ‘the fat me hits that on the clubhouse’. I said ‘that’s not true’ and he goes ‘no, that’s not. I’m going to hit it further now than I did before.”
A low-carb diet in part helped Gyorko shed some pounds, while at the same time adding more muscle mass this off-season.
photo credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports, Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com; Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports