Notes: Marrero making case for spot

Notes: Marrero making case for spot

JUPITER, Fla. -- It took Eli Marrero about two innings to get used to catching in a game once again. Then he realized what he had to work with, and things got better quickly.

It's hard to go wrong catching 2005 Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter, so once Marrero and Carpenter got on the same page, things went very smoothly between the two.

"The first couple innings, I felt a little bit uncomfortable, trying to get used to Carp, the way he likes to pitch," Marrero said. "He's aggressive. He likes to go after guys with a lot of fastballs. ... Once I got comfortable with that, we just kind of rolled with it. I felt real good out there."

Marrero, trying to make the Cardinals as a third catcher and utilityman, made his first start behind the plate this spring on Thursday. He threw out two runners trying to steal and guided four Cards pitchers to a six-hit, two-run performance.

He knows he's a long shot on a team that already has more bench players than spots for them. But Marrero is getting at-bats in the final third of the spring, which means he's under consideration. He's 7-for-24 (.292) at the plate with eight RBIs, five walks and only one strikeout.

It's been a challenging camp for Marrero, who is working with the catchers while also playing at other positions. He came through the Cardinals system as a catcher in the 1990s, then morphed into more of a catcher/utility type.

The versatility helps, but Marrero will have to catch to make the Cardinals.

"That's where I feel most comfortable," he said. "It's like second nature to me. When I first got here, it was a little awkward because I hadn't done it in a while.

"But I came early a couple times and worked with [Minor League catching instructor Dave Ricketts], and he got me back to the fundamentals. I worked with him when I first came up with the Cardinals, so he kind of took me back to the basics, nice and easy. You get the muscle memory and it happens naturally."

The most likely destination for Marrero at season's start is Triple-A Memphis, and he's willing to go there.

"If I've got to go to Triple-A, that's better than going home and doing nothing the rest of the summer," he said. "It's not a punishment. It's a way of staying in the game, staying in baseball. If I go home, I won't play the rest of the year. Because if I don't play for two weeks, nobody is going to call me.

"I'm not going to say never, because you never know what can happen. Maybe somebody calls. But if it doesn't work out and I have to go to Triple-A, what are you going to do? I'll go to Triple-A, work hard, stay in the game and have a chance to get back up in the big leagues."

Bennett banged up: Gary Bennett was a late addition to the travel roster for Friday after initially being left off. He was bothered by something of a headache on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday. Bennett believes the condition resulted from taking a foul tip off his helmet on Wednesday.

Shortly before Bennett left Roger Dean Stadium on Thursday, he was added to the travel roster for St. Lucie.

Carp cruises: With one Spring Training start remaining, Carpenter looks ready to start the season. Carpenter got through six full innings on 73 pitches on Thursday, allowing a run on four hits with six strikeouts. He said he doesn't expect to need any more sharpening or fine-tuning. At this point in the spring, he simply wants to get his pitch count up and stay healthy.

"My stuff's good, so I'm not concerned about that," he said. "I'm throwing everything for strikes, so my location's good. So, really, my concern for this one and the next one is to get my pitches in and don't do anything stupid to get hurt."

The biggest negative for Carpenter on Thursday may have come before he even threw his first pitch. He was introduced over the public address as "Scott Carpenter" not once, but twice -- as he was warming up, and again when he took the mound.

"I guess he had Scott on his mind," Carpenter quipped. "Is there such thing as a Scott Carpenter?"

Duncan OK: Outfielder Chris Duncan took a spill chasing after a ball in the outfield late in Thursday's game, but he's expected to be OK for Friday. Duncan is on the travel roster to go to Port St. Lucie to play the Mets.

"I think he's just scratched," manager Tony La Russa said. "Battered and bruised, but he'll play tomorrow."

Duncan leads the Cardinals in at-bats, hits, runs, RBIs and home runs this spring.

Weather report: It's looking like more of the same on Friday, with warm weather, a few clouds and plenty of wind. The first-pitch temperature should be about 81 degrees, with a 30 percent chance of scattered showers and winds pushing 20 mph.

Coming up: The Cardinals are back on the road again on Friday with a trip up to Port St. Lucie. Braden Looper will start for St. Louis, while ageless Orlando Hernandez will take the mound for New York at 12:10 p.m. CT. It's the last of four meetings between the clubs this spring. The next time they play, the game will count -- April 1 at Busch Stadium.

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