Notes: Rehabbing relievers to return

Notes: The return of the rehabbing roster

JUPITER, Fla. -- Jason Isringhausen isn't the only Cardinals reliever who will make his spring debut on Thursday. Also pitching in the home game against the Dodgers will be veteran right-hander Russ Springer, who has been sidelined due to a strained left oblique muscle.

Springer has been throwing bullpen sessions, and has been cleared to pitch in a game. Although he has yet to face hitters this spring, he worked simulated counts with batters standing in the batters box during his last two throws.

It's the second year in a row Springer was bothered by pain in his left side in Spring Training. Recognizing the condition earlier this time around allowed him to prevent a more serious injury.

With Josh Kinney out for the year, Springer could play a large role in the late innings for the Cardinals bullpen.

Eckstein debuts: David Eckstein made his first game appearance since Feb. 28 when he started at shortstop for the Cardinals against the Twins on Tuesday. Eckstein got his expected three at-bats before being lifted, picking up a double and an RBI despite facing Twins ace and two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana.

Ludwick pulled: Outfielder Ryan Ludwick made the 143-mile bus trip from Jupiter to Fort Myers on Tuesday, then barely played. Ludwick was removed early in the game with a bruised right knee. He ran into a railing at Hammond Stadium in the first inning. The injury was not believed to be serious. Rick Ankiel replaced Ludwick in the outfield.

Schumaker swings: Outfielder Skip Schumaker, who sustained a sprained ankle on Sunday, took some swings in the batting cage on Tuesday and expects to participate fully in morning workouts on Wednesday. Schumaker's ankle sported a nasty bruise, but he said the joint feels much better than it looks.

"I'm going to run bases and take batting practice, kind of do the whole practice, and if I'm good, then that will be it," he said.

While the cat's away: Tuesday was a fun day for the players who stayed back at camp rather than traversing across the state to play the Twins. The morning workout featured a light atmosphere and plenty of laughs as the players got their work in.

Pitchers' batting practice became a particularly light-hearted occasion. Adam Wainwright cracked four home runs in BP, while Anthony Reyes added two more, much to the delight of the fans looking on. Then a batting practice pitcher, former Cardinal Larry Walker, stepped in for a few cuts.

A fan suggested that perhaps Walker might gear up for a late-season comeback with the Cardinals, but he dismissed the notion quickly.

"Maybe in a beer league," Walker quipped.

Chris Carpenter warmly obliged a young fan's request for a photo, turning around and giving a big smile from the batting cage as his picture was taken. And even the Hall of Famers got in the fun, with Bob Gibson doing a little bit of shagging in the outfield during the BP session.

Minor League games to start: Cardinals Minor Leaguers played a pair of intrasquad games on Tuesday, with Triple-A Memphis taking on Double-A Springfield and Class A Palm Beach facing Class A Quad Cities. St. Louis farmhands will start playing teams from other organizations on Wednesday, with games against the Marlins affiliates.

In a change from past years, games on the back fields will start at 1 p.m. ET, rather than noon.

Weather report: A few clouds could hover over Roger Dean Stadium on Wednesday, but it still looks like a very nice day for baseball. The forecast calls for a first-pitch temperature of 79 degrees under mostly cloudy skies, but no chance of rain. Winds could kick up to close to 20 miles per hour.

Coming up: An old friend comes to visit on Wednesday. Former Cardinal Jason Simontacchi, now trying to make the Nationals' rotation, starts for Washington at Roger Dean Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. Reyes will start for St. Louis, and the Cards will also try to get a few innings for Brad Thompson.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.