(Jupiter, FL) As early as this weekend, the St. Louis Cardinals could have Luke Gregerson available once again out of the bullpen. Sidelined by an oblique issue, the 33-year old right hander threw to live hitters earlier this morning.
“Two days ago, he threw a really good bullpen and then today, just carried over what we saw,” assessed pitching coach Mike Maddux. “He looks healthy. It’s all a matter of the bounce back now. How he feels tomorrow is going to be the tell tale. If all goes good tomorrow, we’ll probably see him in there Sunday and get back on schedule.”
Counting the game on Sunday, the Cardinals will have nine exhibition games left before opening the regular season March 29th in New York against the Mets. That should provide Gregerson enough opportunity to get prepared for his expected role as closer.
“The one-inning guys, it all really comes down to how they feel and can they go back-to-back,” said Maddux. “He might not get the back to back, but we might throw a game and then throw on the side the next day.”
In his one spring appearance, Gregerson struck out two of the three hitters he faced in one scoreless inning.
This was the second consecutive day the Cardinals had a pitcher on the comeback trail face live hitters as yesterday Alex Reyes threw two simulated innings.
“He’s coming along,” said Maddux. “It’s what rehab guys do, we get used to just throwing and trying to regain our health or do the rehab. We never get to compete. That’s as close to competition as we can get instead of just throwing on the side. It kind of gives a little barometer of ”where I am. It’s good to see him out there. Command needs to pick up, but right now it’s all about health and rebounding. And he’s doing that. So far, rehab has been very successful. It’s good that we see what we do because we know that we’re not ready. 90% is what we can attain quickly, that last 10% is what’s going to take time.”
Maddux shared that Reyes will not be ready to pitch in an exhibition game this spring.
NOW BATTING: PITCHER VS PITCHER
Besides the Gregerson session, Sam Tuivailala also faced hitters in live batting practice today. Both pitchers threw 27 pitches. Reyes threw 40 in his outing.
“It’s free looks,” pointed out Maddux, who has incorporated the practice of pitchers taking some of the at-bats during these sessions.
“Whatever happens right there, it’s not going to show up in the box score and all we get to do is try stuff that might be out of our box. There’s no penalty. You might find something you like. You might eliminate something too. You’re working on something, you don’t get positive feedback–alright, let’s try it. It doesn’t work, now we know. Let’s try things we don’t know–you might find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on the back field and it’s something you wouldn’t try in the stadium.”
The practice is not without some risk. For instance, Adam Wainwright had to get out of the way of an inside fastball from Reyes. Tommy Pham was sent scrambling on a tight delivery from Tuivailala. Losing an everyday player or pitcher from the rotation in batting practice would not be ideal.
“I didn’t like it at first,” admitted Mike Matheny. “I didn’t like the idea and the more I thought about it, the more I did. You know what, they’re professional athletes. They’re going to be facing live pitching. There’s risk. There’s risk having them walk out across the field right here. You try to mitigate those risks. I think this makes sense–we talk about the value of every out. They’re going to have some valuable at-bats and it’s hard to do it, not that we’re trying to save them from themselves or from injury, it’s that we have other players we want to get at-bats for, so that’s why we take the DH so deep into the spring. So how can we take advantage of the opportunities to get live at-bats? It happens back here.”
“It’s a great learning tool,” continued Maddux. “You stand behind them, give them a sequence, have them read a swing, it’s coaching while they compete as opposed to being in the game out there where you can’t get in their ear from the dugout. So you tell them, ‘Hey, you see that? Then this…’ and they see it and they go wow, that kind of works and it becomes part of what they do. So it’s all fun that way.”
photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com