Pujols and Holliday Return, but Molina Injured
After an MRI and anti-inflammatory shot in his back on Monday and an open day Tuesday, Albert Pujols took the field for the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla. on Wednesday and played seven innings. Though he is hitting just .208 on the spring and went 0-for-3 with a walk, Pujols showed no ill effects from the back ailment. Fantasy owners everywhere can breathe easier as a result.
It was only the second game all spring in which both Pujols and Matt Holliday played. In his second game back from an intercostal strain, the outfielder played six innings and went hitless in three at-bats.
On a baserunning play at second base after doubling in Wednesday’s second inning, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina suffered a strained right oblique. After taking third on the next play, the 27-year-old left the game in favor of backup Jason LaRue. Molina will be re-evaluated on Thursday. On the spring, the Gold Glove Award-winning catcher is batting .314 (11-for-35) with six doubles, but has just one RBI. He walked once, struck out five times and grounded into one double play.
In the Cardinals’ fifth starter competition, Rich Hill seemed to punch his ticket to Triple-A Memphis by continuing to have trouble throwing strikes, allowing two runs in his first inning of work. Pitching coach Dave Duncan is tinkering with Hill’s delivery. The lefty has a June 1 out to declare free agency if not back in the majors. It looks like he can use the time.
Kyle McClellan followed Hill and was impressive. He allowed two hits and no walks in three innings, lowering his spring ERA to 1.80. Despite that, current indications are that McClellan will be returned to relief with lefty Jaime Garcia claiming the fifth starter’s job.
Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold was one of the few starters to make the road trip to Jupiter. He went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, raising his spring average to .129. He also made an especially bad baserunning play, getting thrown out trying to take third on a grounder to short with no outs.
New Cardinals third baseman David Freese had an even better line than Reimold. His three hits included a pair of doubles and three RBI. Freese has quietly lifted his spring average to .306. Deep sleeper alert.
Not starting with lefty Brian Matusz on the mound for Baltimore, Colby Rasmus came in and worked a walk against another lefty, Mike Gonzalez, in the eighth. If the second-year outfielder can earn regular time against lefties, too, his 2010 value will increase even more.
Against the Cardinals regulars, Matusz was not dominant, but held his own. He allowed three runs on nine hits in six innings.
Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin had a 1-2-3 ninth to finish off the game.