Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has kept an optimistic tone about Matt Carpenter’s lingering back injury since it flared up in one of the club’s first spring training workouts, but the seventh-year skipper finally acknowledged Tuesday that there is some concern about his first baseman’s potential readiness for the start of the 2018 regular season.
“He’s moving along in the right direction, but I think there is some urgency,” Matheny told Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re pushing right now to get him locked in timing wise. We’re probably right at that edge that if this doesn’t stay on track I don’t know if he’s going to be timed up. Now physically I think he’ll be ready. Whether he’s timed up and actually ready to be at his best when we bust out of the gate in New York, we’re right at that point.”
Carpenter has not appeared in a Grapefruit League game and he’s yet to even take full batting practice. He did pull around a sled with 200 pounds of weight last weekend and he’s been doing a number of swinging drills this week at camp in Jupiter, Florida, but the intensity of his workouts will have to ramp up in a big way over the next several days and the Cardinals probably don’t want to rush the process at the risk of this becoming a long-term issue.
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Jose Martinez could very well open the 2018 regular season as the starting first baseman for St. Louis. A former Pacific Coast League batting champion in the Royals’ system, he slashed .309/.379/.518 in 307 plate appearances last year with the Cardinals and would take on a good amount of fantasy value in an expanded role. Jedd Gyorko figures to handle the large bulk of early playing time at third base, where Carpenter was (or still is) expected to get a chunk of starts.
Over the last three seasons, Carpenter has averaged an .864 OPS, 24 home runs, 74 RBI, and 91 runs scored per year. He projects to serve as the Cardinals’ No. 3 hitter when healthy.
Debut Finally Approaching For deGrom
This time last week there was growing concern about the health status of Mets starter Jacob deGrom and the right-hander has still yet to make his Grapefruit League debut because of a lingering back issue, but the situation does seem to be trending in a positive direction.
Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland raved about deGrom’s performance in a two-inning, 30-pitch simulated game on Tuesday morning and suggested that deGrom could be ready to make his first start of the spring sometime this weekend. “He wasn’t holding anything back,” Eiland told Tim Healy of Newsday. “He wasn’t protecting anything or making adjustments to his delivery to protect his back. So it’s all systems go right now. … Unless he comes in tomorrow not feeling well. None of us anticipate that.”
Ranked a top-10 fantasy starter in our 2018 Rotoworld Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, deGrom boasts a 2.98 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 107 career major league starts. He set career-bests in innings pitched (201 1/3) and strikeouts (239) last season, winning a career-high 15 games.
It’s a safe bet at this point that deGrom won’t be stretched out enough to take the ball on Opening Day (March 29) against the Cardinals, but he should be ready to rock sometime in early April.
The Federalist Lands In Kansas City
One of the many remaining early-March free agents found a home on Tuesday.
As first reported by Rustin Dodd of The Athletic, the Royals have agreed to terms on a one-year, $3 million contract with veteran outfielder Jon Jay. The deal also includes another $1.5 million in performance-based incentives. Jay has already arrived at Royals camp in Surprise, Arizona and passed his physical, so the one-year pact is official.
It’s a nice low-risk signing for the rebuilding Royals and a pretty good landing spot for Jay, who stands to get something close to everyday playing time in center field and could potentially move on to a contending team before the July 31 trade deadline. He’s never hit for much power and hasn’t been a base-stealing threat since his early days with the Cardinals -- so this isn’t really fantasy-relevant news -- but Jay plays solid defense in the outfield and posted a .374 on-base percentage in 141 games (433 plate appearances) last season with the Cubs.
Quick Hits: Mariners manager Scott Servais said Tuesday that Mitch Haniger (hand) is on track to make his Cactus League debut this weekend … Yu Darvish allowed a run but no hits across two innings Tuesday in his Cactus League debut, striking out four Dodgers hitters … Billy Hamilton has been diagnosed with a sprained left index finger … Brian Dozier told reporters Tuesday that he has not been approached by the Twins about a contract extension … Marcus Stroman (shoulder) isn't expected to resume throwing for another few days … Jason Kipnis ripped a two-run homer -- his sixth already this spring -- on Tuesday against the Reds … Carlos Martinez (personal) is on track to make his next scheduled Grapefruit League start on Thursday … Chris Davis said Tuesday that his right forearm feels much better … Michael Conforto took regular batting practice Tuesday for the first time since his shoulder surgery last September … Free agent starter Lance Lynn reportedly turned down a recent two-year, $20 million offer from the Twins … Michael Brantley (ankle) has progressed to doing agility work in his running program … Ryon Healy will hit off a tee Tuesday for the first time since February surgery to remove a bone spur from his right hand … Sean Manaea (back) tossed two scoreless innings against the Rangers in his Cactus League debut Tuesday … Felix Hernandez played catch Tuesday for the first time since taking a line drive off his right arm last Monday … Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday that Drew Pomeranz (elbow) is pain-free and will resume his throwing program … Steve Pearce has been diagnosed with a mild left calf strain but is only expected to miss a few days in Blue Jays camp … Royals placed right-hander Jesse Hahn on the 60-day disabled list with sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow … An MRI taken Tuesday on Amed Rosario's left groin and hamstring showed no structural damage … Rangers signed Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez for a bonus of $2.8 million … Brandon Guyer (wrist) has advanced to doing front-toss hitting … Austin Hays (lat) is expected to return to the Orioles’ lineup in the DH spot on Wednesday … Brock Holt was scratched from the Red Sox lineup on Tuesday due to left abdominal tightness … Travis Wood has been released by the Tigers and is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on his left knee Wednesday … Bud Norris (hamstring) threw live batting practice on Tuesday in Cardinals camp … Erasmo Ramirez (lat) isn't expected to begin a throwing program until later this week … Alex Dickerson (elbow) is not expected to be ready for the start of the 2018 regular season … Nick Vincent (arm) threw another bullpen session Tuesday in Mariners camp … Mike Pelfrey has retired from baseball at age 34 … Athletics released 1B/DH Brandon Moss.