2021 Cardinals alternate training site in Sauget, Illinois

The Cardinals announced Tuesday that they have partnered with the Gateway Grizzlies — a member of the independent Frontier League — to host their alternate practice site at GCS Credit Union Ballpark in Sauget, Illinois.

The move is a change – and much closer – after the club used the Double-A Springfield facility for the 2020 alternate training site. The Grizzlies’ baseball stadium is about eight miles from Busch Stadium. , establishing a more cohesive relationship, the club hopes.

“It just seemed logical that if we could get closer to something that I think from a convenience perspective for our players it would make more sense,” said president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. “And then hopefully if there’s going to be any interaction with that group, we just have a lot more access.”

The alternate training site, as in 2020, will be used as a training base for players from the taxi squad and who could be possible call-ups before the start of minor league seasons; last week, the Triple-A schedule was pushed back a month to start in May. A maximum of 28 players will be allowed at camp, which will be led by Triple-A Memphis staff.

As it stands, the Cardinals plan to treat their alternate training site as an extension of spring training — just without the Florida sun. Those who call the site home will likely make up the bulk of those expected to make the Triple-A list once the season begins, Mozeliak said.

Scrums are not out of the question, Mozeliak added, although it depends on how easy it is to plan with other clubs. The Cards also plan to have their players from the alternative training site work under the lights of Busch Stadium when the big league club are on the road, which was not possible with the alternative training site more than 200 miles at Springfield last season.

“The Village of Sauget is thrilled to step in for the Cardinals and provide them with a platform to thrive at GCS Credit Union Ballpark,” Sauget Mayor Rich Sauget Jr. said in a statement. “Sauget has long been the smallest town in America with professional baseball. Now we will have the chance to host an MLB franchise to show that, no matter what size, Sauget can shine on the biggest stage.”

Players not included in the alternate training site — namely young prospects and minor leaguers who weren’t scheduled to start the year at Triple-A — will stay for a Minor League camp in Florida. The hope is that the Cards will eventually schedule scrimmages with teammate the Marlins at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

Martínez finds a rhythm
Carlos Martínez took a small but significant step for Cardinals starters this spring training in St. Louis’ 5-3 loss to the Mets on Tuesday: He became only the second to record all three outs in the first inning. .

Truth be told, Martínez looked much sharper in his second outing in March, working in base traffic for three strikeouts and three scoreless innings. Martínez was scored for six runs in 1 2/3 innings Thursday against Houston.

“Being focused is my goal in spring training,” Martínez said. “To emphasize the opening day and the season. I’m working on it.

Martínez has thrown 53 pitches (33 strikes) and averaged 92 mph on his fastball as he prepares for a spot in the rotation. His role has become more important now with the health of Miles Mikolas (right shoulder) in question.

Pitch plans
Jordan Hicks’ expected comeback against his opponents comes Wednesday, when he plays in a “B” game against the Nationals in West Palm Beach. Hicks has made only positive impressions this spring as he wraps up an 18-month comeback from Tommy John surgery, extended when he retired from the 2020 season. Pitching coach Mike Maddux said said the flamethrower had already returned to 102 mph on the radar gun.

Right-hander John Gant will start ahead of Hicks, while Jake Woodford will also pitch, continuing his bid as a prime option to be a swingman in the opening-day bullpen. Jack Flaherty will start the club’s Grapefruit League game against the Nationals on the main field. The first pitch against Washington is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. CT.

To note
Harrison Bader (right forearm pain) was originally scheduled to return to the starting lineup on Tuesday, but manager Mike Shildt said it would happen on Wednesday instead. Bader has appeared in just two Grapefruit League games as he works through illness and looks to cement his role as a starting centre-back.

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