Jack Flaherty, likely headed to Double A to start the season, is one of the pitchers in the Cardinals' major-league camp for the first time this spring. (Peoria Chiefs)
By Rob Rains
Barring any unexpected developments – injuries, trades, dramatic differences in performance – the roster the Cardinals will take into the season-opener on April 2 against the Cubs is virtually set.
That doesn’t make what happens in the next six weeks in Florida unimportant, however. It just calls for a different perspective.
Instead of paying attention to most of the players who will be on that 25-man roster for the first game, this spring is the time to get to know the new players, both from within the organization and those new to the Cardinals.
Of the 64 players who will be in the Cardinals’ major-league camp, 10 are new to the organization since last season ended. A total of 29 players will be in their first spring as part of the major-league camp, although some of the minor leaguers did appear in past spring games when they were called over from the minor league fields.
In a two-part series, we will present a capsule look at those players in the Cardinals’ big-league camp for the first time, divided into pitchers and position players. Fourteen pitchers are included in that group, including five new to the organization and nine in camp on a non-roster basis.
The non-roster invitees are designated NR. The list is presented alphabetically.
Sandy Alcanatara (NR)
– A 21-year-old right-hander, Alcantara split the 2016 season between Class A Peoria and Palm Beach and recorded a combined 162 strikeouts in just 122 2/3 innings. He made just six starts in Palm Beach, so he probably will start out there this season but could find himself in Double A Springfield before the year is over.
– One of the Cardinals’ two major free-agent acquisitions, Cecil joins Kevin Siegrist as the second left-hander in the bullpen after signing a four-year deal. Cecil has spent all of his six seasons in the majors with the Blue Jays, including three years in their rotation.
Jack Flaherty (NR)
– Even though he only won five games in Palm Beach last year, Flaherty could be the Cardinals’ best pitching prospect after Alex Reyes, or at least the best who is the closest to the majors. The 21-year-old right-hander is expected to begin this season in Springfield.
Kendry Flores (NR)
– The 25-year-old right-hander signed as a minor-league free agent after spending the last two years in the Marlins’ system. He pitched eight games for the major-league team, including two starts, and started 16 games at Triple A New Orleans last year. He originally signed with the Giants when he was 17.
– One of the three players the Cardinals acquired from the Braves in the trade which sent Jaime Garcia to Atlanta, Gant is a 24-year-old right-hander. He has been both a starter and reliever with the Braves, appearing in 20 games for the major-league team last year and also starting 10 games at Triple A.
Josh Lucas (NR)
– A 26-year-old right-hander, Lucas has been in the Cardinals’ system since he was drafted in the 21st round in 2010. He split the 2016 season between Springfield and Memphis, earning 16 saves for the Double A club before his promotion. He had 66 strikeouts in 60 innings and only 16 walks.
– Mayers’ major-league introduction could not have gone worse last July, when he failed to get out of the first inning in his debut against the Dodgers. He did pitch in three more games in relief, but likely is headed back to a second season in Triple A. At Memphis last year Mayers was 4-8 in 16 starts.
Zach Phillips (NR)
– A 30-year-old left-hander, Phillips was signed over the winter as a minor-league free agent. He has 27 games of major-league experience with the Orioles, Marlins and Pirates, including eight relief appearances for Pittsburgh last season. Phillips also spent the 2014 season pitching in Japan.
– Well known by now to Cardinal fans, this is nonetheless Reyes’ first official spring in the Cardinals’ major-league camp. He should have been there last year but was excluded because of his 50-game suspension for testing positive for marijuana. He likely will miss part of this year’s camp as well, if the Dominican team advances past the first round of the World Baseball Classic.
Arturo Reyes (NR)
– Ever since he signed with the Cardinals, Reyes has been known as either the “other” Reyes besides Alex, or the “other” pitcher from Gonzaga besides Marco Gonzales. Arturo Reyes is making a case for himself, however, as the 24-year-old right-hander was a combined 9-5 in 21 starts at Springfield and Memphis last year.
Robby Rowland (NR) – Rowland was supposed to make his first appearance in the Cardinals’ major-league camp last year but was not able to pitch because of an injury. That setback limited him to just 18 relief appearances in 2016, spread across three levels of the organization.
Jordan Schafer (NR)
– Signed as a minor-league free agent, Schafer is in camp as both a left-handed pitcher and an outfielder. He moved to the mound last year in the Dodgers’ system after playing more than 300 major-league games as an outfielder. He pitched in 37 games in Double A and Triple A, recording 53 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings while walking 17.
Ryan Sherriff (NR)
– The left-handed reliever was 7-1 with a 2.84 ERA at Memphis last season and then pitched in the Arizona Fall League. He has been in the Cardinals’ organization since 2011, when he was drafted in the28th round. Sherriff was moved to the bullpen in 2014.
– A converted outfielder, Wick has adapted quickly to pitching, moving to the Double A level in less than two years. He had 57 strikeouts in 44 innings combined at Palm Beach and Springfield in 2016, a year in which he was a Florida State League All-Star. The 25-year-old right-hander will miss part of camp to join Canada’s team for the World Baseball Classic.
Coming Thursday, a look at the position players in the Cardinals’ major-league camp for the first time.
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