Wandy, what went wrong? As Pence and Ludwick pound the ball.
A quiet contributor, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Ryan Ludwick, shot a two-run double off Houston Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez in the first inning on Monday in Kissimmee. He added another two-bagger the next time up. Expect Ludwick to get plenty of RBI opportunities hitting behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday this season.
Speaking of those two, one returned while the other was sidelined again. Pujols was scratched with a recurrence of earlier lower back stiffness while Holliday saw his first action since March 9th. His first at-bat was an RBI double in the other Cardinals split squad game. (Update: Pujols required an MRI and a shot. While it is being downplayed, watch the situation carefully.)
Rodriguez, throwing a lot of sinkers early, was also touched for a long three-run shot by Cards third baseman David Freese. With no real competition, Freese is expected to be the opening day starter. In the other dugout, Chris Johnson is having a better spring offensively, but is expected to start in Triple-A due to the Astros’ signing of Pedro Feliz, who also went deep on the day.
Rodriguez settled down a bit, going four innings and flashing a good fastball as he went along.
Not in the box score: Hunter Pence screamed two balls off Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse. Both were outs. The first was caught on an instinct play by Freese. The second shot off Lohse’s rear end. Pence came into the day with a 1.529 OPS on the spring (not a typo).
Following Lohse was Jaime Garcia. The youngster is bidding to win the fifth starter’s job and made another good showing Monday. The 23-year-old lefty went four strong innings, allowing just one run on two hits.
I just caught the end of the Yanks-Phils in time to see Phil Hughes serve up a hanging breaking ball to the Phillies’ Wilson Valdez for a walkoff two-run home run. Hughes gave up three home runs in 4 1/3 innings of work, but did fan six and didn’t walk anyone.