JUPITER, Fla. — There were more standing ovations than hits in Nolan Arenado’s spring training debut with the Cardinals.
Playing in front of fans, even a limited number, for the first time since last March, Arenado said he definitely heard the cheers when his name was announced as part of the starting lineup, when he took his position at third base in the top of the first and when he came to bat for the first time in the bottom of the inning.
“I definitely saw it and I definitely heard it and it was awesome,” Arenado said. “Obviously I was trying to stay locked in on the at-bat and it wasn’t a great at-bat in that situation. These fans are great, I’ve always had a lot of respect for them from the other side but now to have them on my side is a pretty unbelievable feeling.
“My family was pretty stoked. I got a lot of texts about it. It was pretty cool.”
The bases were loaded when Arenado came up in the first, before a wild pitch scored a run. He struck out on a checked swing, leaving runners at second and third. In his second at-bat Arenado flew out to center before coming out of the game.
“There is jitters and a little nerves here and there,” he said. “It’s hard to explain, you go into those games and you want to be ready to go but spring training a lot of us aren’t ready to go and my timing’s not there yet. It’s going to take some time.
“But when you get a standing O and you want to do something for them, stuff like that, you miss some pitches and my timing was just a little off. It was just fun to be back out there. That’s what spring training is for, to get back in game mode.
“I wasn’t happy about it, I wanted to drive him in.”
Manager Mike Shildt was happy – just to see Arenado in a Cardinals uniform.
“I told him that, just great to see you on our side,” Shildt said. “To see him take the field as a Cardinal is hopefully something he doesn’t forget. Clearly he will have more moments especially when we open up on April 8 but it was nice to see fans there to appreciate it. I know it was a special moment for Nolan.”
Here is how Sunday’s game broke down:
High: Alex Reyes needed just nine pitches to retire the three batters he faced in the sixth inning, all on fly balls. Eight of his nine pitches were fastballs and between 96 and 97 miles per hour.
Low: It was a tough spring debut for opening day starter Jack Flaherty, who retired only one of the eight hitters he faced, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks.
At the plate: The Cardinals trailed 4-2 going to the ninth but a single by Austin Dean and a two-out double by non-roster infielder Max Moroff put runners on second and third before a Washington error allowed both runners to score and tie the game … The Cardinals had only one other extra-base hit, an RBI double from Harrison Bader … The Cardinals were 2-of-10 with runners in scoring position.
On the mound: Flaherty described his start as “terrible” and “horrible.” The only batter he retired was the first batter he faced, and he threw 39 pitches, only 17 of them strikes, The first inning ended after 23 pitches when the Cardinals stopped the inning – another rules change for spring training – instead of letting Flaherty face Kyle Schwarber with the bases loaded. A call on a borderline 3-2 pitch resulted in the rollover inning, when the Cardinals thought they has a strikeout-caught stealing double play … Flaherty then gave up two hits, threw a wild pitch, allowed another hit and a walk in the second inning before Tommy Parsons took over. “It was a bad way to set a tone for spring. I was just terrible … I had a horrible day,” Flaherty said … After Parsons got out of the inning, striking out two, John Gant worked two scoreless innings, pitching around two walks … The last Washington run came off Genesis Cabrera.
Worth noting: Because of the health and safety protocols in place for the spring, the Cardinals had to limit the number of players who were in the dugout and the bullpen during the game. The starting lineup and the first planned reserves were in the dugout for the start of the game and as the starters left, more reserves were allowed. The other starting pitchers left when Flaherty came out of the game … For some of the minor league players in camp, they were not allowed inside the stadium but instead got extra work with minor league instructors. “Not everybody in camp will be at the game,” Shildt said. “We treat it kind of historically like a road spring training game where we are pretty streamlined in who we take.” … Another change, Shildt said he does not “write” the lineup anymore; everything is automated. “I do write it, but it’s not the official entry,” he said. … The paid attendance was 1,204, the first fans to attend a Cardinals game since March 12 of last year.
Up next: The Cardinals will have the first of their six days without a game on Monday but are planning a simulated game featuring mostly their younger players. Miles Mikolas had originally been scheduled to pitch but his next outing will be delayed in a precautionary move as he begins his comeback from last summer’s arm surgery … Adam Wainwright is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game against the Marlins.
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