Cards unsure when Furcal will see spring action
Not throwing at 100 percent, shortstop expected to be ready for Opening Day
JUPITER, Fla. -- Though Grapefruit League play begins this weekend, the Cardinals have not determined when shortstop Rafael Furcal will see his first game action.
Furcal, as manager Mike Matheny described it, "still hasn't let it go yet" on his throws. Furcal arrived at Spring Training confident in the strength of his elbow, but there are checkpoints he has to pass before he can feel fully in the clear. To this point, Furcal appears to be throwing at about 75-80 percent effort.
"It's probably going to take some time," Matheny said. "I'm not wanting to push him until he's ready. I think that would make him go backwards. Until he's ready, we have a bunch of guys we need to see."
Despite the slowed schedule, Furcal is expected to be ready for Opening Day, Matheny said. Furcal saw limited game action early last spring, too, as he was working to get back into shape after having an appendectomy. Though his spring results weren't impressive, he got off to a hot start once the regular season opened.
Furcal continues to participate in most of the team's defensive drills. When it comes time to throw, he'll either hold the ball or throw it at less-than-max effort.
Descalso offers Carpenter tutorial on playing second
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals had just wrapped up an exercise in bunt defenses on Tuesday morning when Daniel Descalso summoned Matt Carpenter his way. While other players scattered to other fields for other work, Descalso began his tutorial.
Offering instruction, Descalso said later, is something he perceives to be an obligation, even if Carpenter is the one eyeing Descalso's second-base job. Perhaps surprisingly to some, Descalso doesn't see the two circumstances as mutually exclusive.
"I don't know if they're going to name him the second baseman or if I'm going to win it, but at some point this year, I'm sure he will be out there at second base," Descalso said. "And if he's out there, he needs to know what to do. He needs to help us at second base. I feel like it's part of my responsibility to get him prepared. If he doesn't know something, I feel like that's on me."
Descalso went on to describe how the same courtesy was shown him when he was jockeying for playing time with Skip Schumaker, most recently as last Spring Training.
"He helped me from day one," Descalso said of Schumaker, who is with the Dodgers. "He didn't have to do that. We played the same spot and were always competing. But he did that for me. So why shouldn't I do that for Matt?"
Most of Carpenter's tutorial at second has come with third-base/infield coach Jose Oquendo, who has been focused on the technical parts of playing the position. Meanwhile, Descalso has chimed in with advice that hits on the mental preparation and awareness of the position.
"Stuff as simple as getting with the shortstop and figuring out who has the bag on the steal, that's something you have to do each pitch, not just once an at-bat," Descalso explained. "It's stuff that I take for granted, but that he just doesn't know from not being over there. A question comes up and he might think it's a stupid question, but we talk about it and hopefully he learns from it."
First live BP in the books for all pitchers
JUPITER, Fla. -- By the end of the day Tuesday, all 27 pitchers in the Cardinals' big league camp had thrown their first session of live batting practice. Those sessions covered four days, with Adam Wainwright and Joe Kelly highlighting the group of seven pitchers who faced hitters on Tuesday.
The significance in all this isn't so much that pitchers are throwing to hitters -- that's a normal part of a pitcher's progression each spring -- but that the Cardinals have not had to slow any of their pitchers down due to injuries or not being deemed ready to increase workload.
"It shows the guys really came prepared," manager Mike Matheny said. "For the most part, I think it's been a great team effort with nutrition guys, strength and conditioning guys and our medical team to make sure to put these guys in a position to where they can go out and do what they've been doing."
Some of the Cards' pitchers will throw a second session of live batting practice before making their first game appearance. Others will just continue to throw on the side and see their next hitters in Grapefruit League games.
Matheny said that he plans to announce his pitching plans for the weekend's slate of Grapefruit League games on Wednesday.
Prospect Swagerty moves closer to returning
JUPTER, Fla. -- Just days before he is set to participate in the Cardinals' early Minor League camp, Jordan Swagerty reached one of the final checkpoints in his recovery from elbow surgery, which kept him off the field for the entire 2012 season.
After taking his rehab program to Jupiter last summer to work under the supervision of the Cardinals, Swagerty continued that work in Arizona over the offseason. That's where he was on Monday when, for the first time since the 2011 season, Swagerty pitched to hitters.
"Right now, the medical guys are telling us that he should be good to go," said farm director John Vuch. "Obviously when he shows up, we'll take a look at him first hand. The one good thing is we do have some luxury that if he isn't 100 percent, we don't have to rush him to be ready. But we don't expect any delay."
Swagerty's elbow began to bother him about this time last year, when he was in Major League camp as a non-roster player. He stopped throwing for precautionary reasons, and it was eventually determined that Swagerty would need to undergo two procedures, including Tommy John surgery, to correct the problem.
While visiting St. Louis for Winter Warm-Up last month, Swagerty said that his arm was responding well to his increasing workload. Swagerty enters 2013 as the Cardinals' 15th-best prospect, according to MLB.com.
Vuch said that the organization has Swagerty pegged to return to a starting role, though those plans could change if the medical staff feels fewer innings would be better for the right-hander. By pitching as a starter, Swagerty will have a more consistent schedule.
In 2011, Swagerty made a combined 12 starts and 24 relief appearances in stops at three Minor League levels. He ended that year in Double-A Springfield, where he allowed three earned runs on eight hits in 9 1/3 innings.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.