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Friday 9th Dec 2016

What do Ronnier Mustelier, Thomas Neal, and Adam Warren all have in common?  If you guessed that they were all in the Yankees' starting lineup on Friday in Jupiter, FL against the Marlins you would be correct. Living in Jupiter gives me the ability to share with you some nuggets observed at Friday's game.

1) Melky Mesa, in the running to take some Yankees regular season at-bats in Curtis Granderson's place, knocked two sharp line drive singles to center early in the game.

2) Nathan Eovaldi started for the Marlins and was less than impressive against the weak Yankees' lineup. While he only allowed one earned run in four innings, Eovaldi allowed four hits, three walks, and a hit-by-pitch.

3) John Maine relieved Eovaldi and looked much sharper than the starter. Maine struck out Brett Gardner and Eduardo Nunez and retired the four other hitters he faced. Maine has not pitched in the Majors for two seasons due to injury, but is in contention for a roster spot with the Marlins. He does have a career K/9 of 7.6 and could be useful in NL-only leagues.

4) We saw a lot of the "small ball" that the Marlins will have to play in 2013. Four of their six runs were scored on productive outs (two sacrifice flies and two ground outs).

5) There were no 2013 fantasy stars on the field today, but Melky Mesa and John Maine could help late.

On Tuesday, the New York Mets entertained the St. Louis Cardinals at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The visitors defeated the Metropolitans by a 7-1 score.

Mike Pelfrey gave up 21 home runs last season plus two more in his first two innings on this day. Several balls were hard-hit in the first frame, including a sinker to David Freese that didn’t sink enough. The result was a two-run home run by the 2011 post-season hero. The third baseman’s shot hit off the top of the outfield wall and kept on going. It was Freese’s second home run in two days.

Yadier Molina opened the second with a blast that was hit up into the jet stream and landed far over the left field wall. Molina is coming off his best season offensively in 2011 so won’t sneak up on anyone in drafts this season.

Pelfrey departed with a runner on third base with one out in the fifth. Garrett Olson was greeted by a delayed double steal, which ended with speedy infielder Tyler Greene coming home. Greene has considerable upside if he can earn the Cardinals starting job at second.

Pelfrey was charged with four runs in 4 1/3 frames. He allowed six hits, no walks and struck out two. 25 of his 42 pitches went for strikes.

Adam Wainwright made his second start since his return from Tommy John surgery, throwing 40 pitches, 24 strikes over three innings. He was helped out by double plays in each of the first two frames. Wainwright allowed one hit, walked one, fanned one and worked around an error behind him. He should not be undervalued in fantasy drafts much longer.

Following Wainwright was a young, hard thrower, Maikel Cleto. Despite loading the bases with no out, all the Mets managed was a sacrifice fly by right fielder Lucas Duda. It was their only run of the day. Cleto can hit upper 90's but could not command his fastball on Tuesday. He did show a good slider. He is expected to be a Triple-A starter in 2012.

Frank Francisco, slated to open as Mets closer, pitched the sixth. He gave up a Molina single, then an RBI double to Matt Carpenter, vying for a utility infield job with St. Louis. Francisco should continue to be one of the last closers taken in NL drafts, but has the capability to surprise.

Facing his old Mets teammates for the first time since his trade to San Francisco at the deadline last summer, Carlos Beltran played his first spring game in the field. Expected to play every day in right for St. Louis once the regular season gets underway, Beltran singled once in four at-bats. He should hit either second or fifth in new manager Mike Matheny’s regular season lineup.

Bryan Anderson plated two in the seventh after depositing a full-count fastball from well-traveled Ramon Ramirez into the right-center gap. Once a top prospect, Anderson is in a three-way battle with veteran Koyie Hill and Tony Cruz to back up Molina.

A previous Mets closer, Bobby Parnell, pitched the ninth of the blowout loss. He has a chance of making the roster, though with options remaining, he could return to Triple-A as well. He’d need several to stumble, including Francisco, to receive another chance at the ninth-inning job.

David Wright did not participate in the game, having gone back to New York for a cortisone injection for his sore ribs.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

I caught the Cardinals-Mets game on SNY on Tuesday. It carried unusual significance as it was Johan Santana’s first outing since 2010. He has been recovering from shoulder surgery since. Santana tossed two scoreless innings, throwing mostly fastballs in the 87-88 MPH range. 17 strikes, 12 balls. SNY commentator Ron Darling was very enthusiastic, noting Santana’s free and easy movement. Catcher Josh Thole, put on camera later in the game, singled out Santana’s off-speed command. It is early, but the velo is going to need to improve.

In case anyone thinks that huge new contract will turn Yadier Molina soft, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Molina easily erased speedy Mets second baseman Jordany Valdespin trying to steal. What made it notable was that Molina made the throw from behind the plate to second base from his knees!

An interesting back-of-the-rotation guy, Jake Westbrook, looks noticeably thinner this spring. Like Santana, he threw two shutout innings. He is hardly the first to use this to explain past problems, but Westbrook has altered his delivery to avoid what he believes was tipping of his pitches.

The Cardinals started Matt Carpenter in right field. Blocked at his natural third base spot by David Freese, Carpenter could earn a utility bench spot if he shows he can handle the outfield corners.

Veteran reliever Scott Linebrink was brought in with the bases loaded and gave up a bases-clearing triple to right center. The ball, which would have gone out had the wind not been blowing in, was crushed by new Mets centerfielder and leadoff man Andres Torres. Obviously, Torres’ strength is not strength, but it was a good swing and result.

Mets first baseman Ike Davis made a couple of nice stretching defensive plays at first base, which is encouraging given his past foot problems. However, one throw from third baseman Justin Turner was so far down the line it put Davis in harm’s way. Fortunately, no collision ensued.

Another younger first baseman, Matt Adams of the Cardinals, launched a no-doubter grand slam that arched over the left-center wall. Jeurys Familia was the victim. Adams, the 2011 Texas League Player of the Year, hit 32 home runs last season and will compete to take over for Lance Berkman next year.

Mets reliever Pedro Beato got the win, but may have absorbed a more costly personal loss as well. The right-hander had to leave the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

So goes the old saying. Josh Johnson proved that again on Saturday afternoon as the ace of the Miami Marlins made his second start of the spring, which also was his second outing against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Due of the limited number of teams within a two-hour area, and the fact the two clubs share a spring training complex in Jupiter, Florida, the Marlins and Cardinals are frequent March combatants.

On Saturday, Johnson handled the defending World Champs a second time. Though he was not efficient with his pitches, he wasn’t missing badly. Johnson went on to throw 52 pitches in total as Lance Berkman (walk) and David Freese (strikeout) drove him to full counts in the first inning. Johnson threw mainly fastballs, topping out at 95 mph.

A young player to watch this spring, Tyler Greene, worked a walk against JJ in the second inning and promptly swiped second base. He was also picked off later in the game and thrown out. Still, if the former first-rounder wins the starting second base job, he would be a very nice source of cheap steals. Remember that Tony La Russa’s station-to-station game is gone.

Second baseman Omar Infante is off to a hot start in early spring action. His .500 average includes taking Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse deep in the home first. A key for Lohse, who is in a contract year, is continued good health. The veteran put together a quietly productive 2011.

Johnson left after 2 1/3 innings when he gave up his first hit and neared his pitch count target of 55. He yielded no runs on two walks and collected three strikeouts. 32 of his 52 pitches went for strikes.

New Marlins closer Heath Bell pitched the fourth, looking sharp with both his fastball and breaking pitches. Bell rung up both Freese and hit-machine minor leaguer Matt Adams.

Speaking of Adams, it was a typical day for the big first baseman with a pair of strikeouts and a double in his first three at-bats. Despite seven RBI in early spring action, including a grand slam and a bases loaded triple, expect Adams to open in Triple-A and compete to replace Berkman in 2013.

Speaking of triples, the most exciting play in baseball, there were two on Saturday as well. Third baseman Donnie Murphy had one, stroking a ball hard during the fourth, but was stranded. Murphy, who is competing for a utility job, played for Hanley Ramirez on Saturday.

With the score 1-0 Marlins in the top of the fifth. the Cardinals put a runner on third base. Then heavy rain and a very unusual spring training delay of one hour, 49 minutes ensued.

The first batter when the game resumed, Cardinals Rule 5 outfielder Erik Komatsu, blasted his own triple over the centerfielder’s head to tie the game. The former Brewers and Nationals prospect has an outside chance of making his new team’s roster.

Jeff Dominguez’ days as a top project have passed, but he still slammed a one-hopper off the right-field wall for an RBI double. Dominguez scored on an RBI single from John Buck that set the final score of 3-1.

Johnson probably didn’t want to show the Cardinals too much as he will likely be facing them again on the opening day of the new Marlins Park on April 4. More familiarity and additional contempt will likely be shown.


Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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