JUPITER, Fla. • All was well with the Cardinals’ offense. Cleanup man Marcell Ozuna (one for 20) doubled his hit total with a single and a double Wednesday. “I liked Ozuna’s day quite a bit,” manager Mike Shildt said.
The Cardinals showed they could manufacture a run when Paul DeJong was nicked by a pitch, stole his second base of the spring (matching his total for his first two seasons), moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Max Schrock’s single through the infield.
But all actually was not well.
In a tried and true recipe for defeat, the offense mustered three hits (besides striking out 10 times). And the Cardinals’ pitchers walked eight in a 4-1 exhibition loss to Miami, although only two of the walks scored.
As for the offense — or lack of same — Shildt said, “Don’t love it. But it’s not a concern. We’re competitive and we want to put our best foot forward but we know ... guys are working on stuff. No concern about where we’re going with our offense. Just continue to work toward where we want to go. We know we want to get there soon.”
The Cardinals have scored 72 runs in 19 games, or fewer than four per game. They are hitting .240 as a team, although they have not used their prospective regular-season lineup in any game yet.
As for all those walks, including six in the first four innings by Dakota Hudson and Jordan Hicks, Shildt said, “That actually speaks to the guys we (pitched). Jordan and Dakota ... their stuff plays. Obviously, you don’t want the traffic, but they were able to get out of it for the most part.”
Shildt, asked about the balance between the number of bases on balls and few of them scoring, said, “I’m a half glass full guy. But I don’t like to pour water into that glass a whole lot and drink out of that one.”
Pitching coach Mike Maddux said, “We managed the walks well. We stranded a lot of runners (11). But we certainly don’t like to give up the free bases the way we did.
“Guys are trying a couple of things here and there. We tell them to try everything and let’s hone in what we do best. We’re making the pitch when we have to, but we’ve got to be better making them to stay out of that situation.”
Hudson walked three in three innings, giving up one run and throwing 69 pitches. Hicks, topping the 100 mph mark more than half a dozen times (he was as high as 103), made his first appearance in eight days. He walked three also. Both Hudson and Hicks walked opposing pitcher Jose Urena.
“Walks are going to happen,” Shildt said. “Clearly, eight of them are unacceptable.”
SHILDT ‘LEANING’ TOWARD 12 PITCHERS
Unlike last season when Cardinals manager Mike Matheny often had 13 pitchers on his staff, Shildt said he was “leaning” toward keeping 12 pitchers, which would mean seven relievers.
Shildt, acting out the news of the day, actually leaned to his left when asked about 12 pitchers. He said if he leaned to his right, the answer would be 13 pitchers.
Subject to several changes, the 12 would include starters Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright and one of two others, either Hudson or John Gant. The seven relievers could be Hicks; Andrew Miller, who had another scoreless inning, striking out two Wednesday; Chasen Shreve, Alex Reyes, Dominic Leone, Mike Mayers and either Hudson or Gant. John Brebbia also is a factor in this, as is lefthander Austin Gomber, and Carlos Martinez ultimately will be in the bullpen when his shoulder is right.
Maddux, discussing his own leanings, said, “Right now, I’m leaning on the 24 we have (still in camp).”
WACHA WILL BE FIRST PITCHER TO HIT
Wacha will bat Thursday as the first Cardinals pitcher to hit this spring when he faces the New York Mets. Wainwright will pitch Friday night in one game against Houston and righthander Daniel Ponce de Leon will travel to West Palm Beach that night to face another squad of Astros.
Wainwright, anticipating Wacha hitting, said, “I’ve seen his BP this spring. It’s been pretty special.”
But Wacha said, “I hope there’s guys on base every single time I’m up, so I can bunt them over. Get them over and let Carp (Matt Carpenter) drive them in.”
“You never know, I might drag bunt,” said Wacha. Acknowledging that he never had done that, Wacha said, “There’s always a first time. How many times did Peyton Manning sneak? He did it — and he scored a touchdown.”
Wacha is hitting .080 for his career with one double and 101 strikeouts in 212 at-bats.
But Shildt, echoing Wainwright said, “You haven’t seen his BP. This guy’s an animal. Michael Wacha is chomping at the bit to do damage with a bat in his hand.”
Wainwright might have wanted to be the first pitcher to hit this spring, but Shildt noted that “Wainwright’s very secure with his Silver Slugger.”
Gant will throw two innings in a minor league squad game Friday. Shildt contends Gant, Hudson, Ponce de Leon and lefthander Gomber are all in the fifth starter competition but said, “We’ve got to narrow that down soon.”
Struggling lefthander Brett Cecil also will pitch an inning in the squad game.