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Kim roughed up in first spring start as Cardinals offense rolls for 14-9 win over Mets

KK was hit hard, but the offense showed up in a big way against the Mets. Nolan Arenado also recorded his first Cardinals RBI

JUPITER, Fla. — The Cardinals have only played three games so far this spring, but one battle already appears that it will be as competitive as had been predicted coming into camp.

The team likely will carry nine relievers on its opening day roster, and trying to figure out who will fill the final couple of spots is not going to be easy for manager Mike Shildt and his staff.

Eight relievers combined to cover 8 1/3 innings on Wednesday following a shorter than expected start from Kwang Hyun Kim. Seven of them did well, Junior Fernandez did not, allowing three runs in the ninth inning.

In the first three games of the spring, the combined bullpen allowed just three runs, two earned, in 20 1/3 innings before Fernandez’s outing.

In those 20 1/3 innings, the relievers have combined for 20 strikeouts.

“It’s a real competitive situation,” Shildt said. “Clearly there are opportunities out there to make the club and that’s why we’re here.”

Among the relievers who did not appear in any of the three games are four who almost certainly will be on the team – Andrew Miller, Ryan Helsley, Jordan Hicks and Kodi Whitley.

One newcomer to the group of bullpen candidates made his Cardinals debut on Wednesday, 6-foot-9 right-hander Johan Quezada, acquired from the Phillies for cash considerations shortly before spring training began.

Quezada displayed a fastball clocked in the high 90s as he struck out two and pitched around a double in his one inning of work.

“Liked what we saw, you don’t want to over-react or under-react,” Shildt said. “He threw strikes, which today was not a given for us. He was kind of the gold-star guy today. Got ahead, slider was good, thought he was in command of what he was doing, ball comes out clean. Lot to like in his debut.”

The runs allowed by the relievers on Wednesday other than Fernandez were against Tommy Parsons (unearned) and Connor Jones. The run allowed in the first game of the spring came off Genesis Cabrera.

Here is how Wednesday’s game broke down:

High: John Nogowski, starting at first base in place of Paul Goldschmidt, hit the Cardinals’ first home run of the spring, a three-run shot in the second inning. The offense provided 14 runs in the win.

Low: For the second time in the first three games, the Cardinals starting pitcher struggled. Kim retired only two of the eight hitters he faced and was pulled from the game in both the first and second inning.

At the plate: Nogowski reached base in all three of his plate appearances, also walking twice … Andrew Knizner had two hits, including a two-run double … Non-roster infielder Jose Rondon also drove in three runs with a triple and a two-run homer … Ali Sanchez, expected to be one of the catchers at Memphis, also hit a two-run homer … Nolan Arenado drove in his first run of the spring with a single in the first inning following a leadoff double by Tommy Edman.

On the mound: Kim got one out and gave up three runs in the first inning, coming out after 27 pitches. In another spring training rules change, he was allowed to re-enter the game to start the second and faced two more batters, recording a strikeout and allowing walk, which later came around to score. He was charged with four runs (three earned), giving up four hits and walking two … Other than Quezada, the other relievers working scoreless inning were Seth Elledge, Roel Ramirez and Jesus Cruz.

Worth noting: John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, said the Cardinals are going to take about a week to decide where to hold their alternate site camp. The team is exploring options closer to St. Louis than Springfield, where the camp was based last summer, in part because the Cardinals share that stadium with Missouri State and the Bears are currently in the middle of their season… MLB announced Tuesday night that the start of the Triple A season will be delayed about a month, until early May, in favor of having players at an alternate site in case they are needed at the major-league level. “I think the alternate camp is going to be used really as insurance for our major-league club,” Mozeliak said. “Ultimately by the time you get to May hopefully you will be in full swing with the minor leagues going. As I look at the alternate site roster it’s really about making sure we have protection for our major-league team.”

Up next: The Cardinals play their first road game of the spring on Thursday night, and the first of their eight night games, against the Astros in West Palm Beach. Carlos Martinez is the scheduled starter.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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