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When Cooney alerted the staff to soreness the day after that outing, the Cardinals, for the second time in camp, adjusted his throwing plans. The pair of slight setbacks ended Cooney's chances at making a push for roster consideration, meaning the focus is building up the arm strength necessary so that he can open the season in the Triple-A rotation.
"It's not how I envisioned it," Cooney said of his spring. "But right now, I'm trying to be as forward thinking as possible. It definitely didn't go how I planned, but if I can learn from it and just keep chugging along, hopefully it will all straighten itself out."
Rated by MLBPipeline.com as the Cards' No. 8 prospect, Cooney entered camp a candidate for a rotation spot (if one opened) or a bullpen job (as a long reliever) after making six starts with the Cardinals last season. His contributions last season likely would have been more extensive, too, had he not developed appendicitis in August.
This time, it was arm issues that slowed him, and that has prompted Cooney to reevaluate his arm care program. He's incorporating more stability exercises and is particularly focused on his form.
"It could almost be a good learning experience where I could prioritize arm health moving forward," Cooney said. "Not that I didn't in the past, but you almost take it for granted when you're healthy all the time."
With his arm feeling right again, Cooney has turned his attention to refining his command and building up arm strength. He was hit hard during live batting practice Wednesday, though that's not entirely surprising given the layoff. As far as the process of building up his pitch count, Cooney has time to get sufficient work. The Minor League season doesn't start until April 7, and the Cardinals are not opposed to letting him finish that build-up process as a part of the Memphis rotation.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.