Notes: Trio of starters making progress
Pineiro, Clement, Wasdin encouraged by bullpen sessions
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals' coaching staff, as well as any interested outside observers, got a three-for-one on Sunday afternoon. Three recuperating starting pitchers all threw bullpen sessions at the same time outside the clubhouse at Roger Dean Stadium.
Joel Pineiro, who was skipped from a scheduled Sunday start after experiencing shoulder tightness, got back on the mound for the first time in a week. Matt Clement, who has been held back due to a lack of arm strength in early workouts, threw his second bullpen session after sitting out for nearly two weeks. And John Wasdin threw off the mound for the first time since encountering what he calls "shoulder irritation."
They all had different aims, but similar assessments. Everybody was encouraged.
"Right now I feel pretty good," said Clement, who threw about 45 pitches. "It's more a thing where I have a lot of rust."
Clement expects to throw another bullpen session on Tuesday, and he could begin facing hitters in batting practice within the week.
Pineiro is the closest to a return. He'll also throw off a mound on Tuesday, but his next outing after that will be a start on Friday against the Dodgers. Pineiro shut down his last throwing session, earlier in the week, when he couldn't get loose.
"You always have a little bit of soreness," Pineiro said. "But it felt more than normal. That's why I had to say something. And Yadi [Molina], too. He goes, 'If you don't say something, I'm going to say something.'"
Wasdin, in camp as a non-roster invitee, shut it down earlier in camp due to some shoulder discomfort.
"All the strength work you do in [the training room] can't simulate throwing a baseball," Wasdin said. "But overall, I was really happy. I threw 30-some pitches. Hopefully, I can start doing the job and open some eyes."
Concern about Johnson: Tyler Johnson remained silent about his ailing left shoulder on Sunday, but manager Tony La Russa said the club is worried. Johnson is experiencing "tightness and weakness" in his throwing shoulder and will undergo an MRI on Monday.
"We had worried about him not being in great shape coming down [to Spring Training]," La Russa said, "because he had gotten sick. His workouts had been sporadic because of busy times and sickness. And when he started throwing, it looked like he was throwing OK and he felt OK. ... But it is not a big surprise."
Give him a look: La Russa confirmed on Sunday that he expects the Cardinals to give right-hander Sidney Ponson a tryout this week. Ponson made 13 starts for the Cardinals in 2006, going 4-4 with a 5.24 ERA. He was released and signed with the Yankees, then made seven appearances for the Twins in 2007.
"I heard this morning that he's probably going to throw for our scouts at some point," La Russa said. "[I'll] just keep an open mind."
Different tactics: In recent years, La Russa has been adamant about turning his rotation over without skipping a fifth starter, thus ensuring that every pitcher gets the extra day of rest when the schedule calls for an off-day. That plan could change in 2008, while the Cards deal with the absences of a significant chunk of their preferred starting rotation.
"I think one of our key focuses is to compete the best we can, find a way to contend until we get our starters back," La Russa said. "And I think we're optimistic that we'll get them back. So if that means early on you've got four good starters and they pitch every fifth day, and the fifth guy moves in and out, [that's OK]."
First cuts: The Cardinals re-assigned 10 non-roster players to Minor League camp on Monday. Pitchers Mitchell Boggs, Dewon Brazelton, Jaime Garcia, Adam Ottavino, P.J. Walters, Tyler Jerron and Stuart Pomeranz were sent down, as well as catchers David Carpenter, Nick Derba and Brandon Yarbrough.
The moves leave the Cardinals with 57 players in camp.
Weather report: It should be a beautiful but breezy day for baseball at Space Coast Stadium on Monday. The forecast calls for temperatures pushing 80 in Viera, Fla., with only a few clouds and winds pushing 20 miles per hour.
Coming up: The Cardinals make the long bus ride up Florida's eastern coast to Viera on Monday to face the Nationals for the first time this spring. The game will mark Braden Looper's 2008 spring debut, and it's a much different circumstance than a year ago. In 2007, Looper was a curiosity and a contender for a starting spot. Now, he's a member of the rotation trying to get ready for the year. First pitch is set for 12:05 p.m. CT.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.