JUPITER, Fla. — Willson Contreras made the decision to skip playing for his native Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic so he could have more time to get to know the new pitchers he will be working with this season.
Another benefit to Contreras remaining in the Cardinals’ spring training camp has been having a front-row seat to watch the performances of Masyn Winn and Jordan Walker.
He got to see more of the show on Friday as Winn went 3-of-4 driving in four runs and Walker contributed a two-run double in the big win over the Marlins.
Staying in camp also has allowed Contreras to work on his own offense and he got two hits on Friday – in the same inning – as the Cardinals scored nine runs in the second inning. His second hit was a bases-loaded double.
“I’m working on the timing and the rhythm,” Contreras said. “Today it felt good. The timing will get better as I play more days in a row. I hope to keep having good at-bats.”
He also hopes to be seeing more of Winn and Walker, the pair of 20-year-old prospects who Contreras knew only by name, and reputation, before this camp began.
“Masyn is a great player,” Contreras said. “I love the way he plays and his work ethic. He’s a quiet guy but he knows what he is doing. I really like him, just like Walker.
“To be that big of a guy (Walker) with that much power and recognizing the strike zone as well as he does is really impressive. He will get better with experience, but that’s another guy who is eye-opening.”
Contreras has had no regrets about his decision to skip the WBC, even as Venezuela prepares for its quarterfinal game on Saturday night against the United States.
“It wasn’t an easy decision because I wanted to represent my country,” Contreras said. “I also know my job, and getting to know the whole new staff takes a lot of work. Staying here also will help me be ready for the season.
“I’m glad I stayed here and I’m glad my team (Venezuela) is doing well.”
Here is how Friday’s game broke down:
High: The two hits by Contreras raised his spring average to .318.
Low: Two of the outs in the second inning were both made by Andrew Knizner, who did get a single later in the game
At the plate: The Cardinals sent 13 hitters to the plate in the second, also getting RBI singles from Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman, and taking advantage of four walks and a hit batter … Winn’s fourth RBI came on a double in the third and he later singled in the fifth, raising his spring average to .338 … Walker’s double was his 17th hit of the spring and his seventh for extra bases. He is hitting .378 … Carlson and Gorman each had two hits and Carlson had 2 RBIs.
On the mound: Steven Matz allowed one run on four hits over five innings. He struck out three and didn’t walk a batter … Ryan Helsley got all three of his outs on strikeouts for the third consecutive game, although this time he also walked a batter … Jordan Hicks gave up a home run and walked one in his inning of work.
Worth noting: Tyler O’Neill was back in camp after Canada’s elimination from the WBC. He likely will work out for a couple of days before returning to the lineup … Genesis Cabrera (Dominican Republic) also returned from the WBC, and Miles Mikolas also went through the pre-game workout on a day off for the U.S. team.
Up next: Matthew Liberatore will get the start in Saturday’s game against the Tigers in Jupiter.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
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