Notes: Cards protect their hand

Notes: Cards protect their hand

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Because of when and where Braden Looper didn't pitch, the Cardinals began to tip their hand as to when and where Looper will pitch.

Looper was held out of a scheduled start against the Mets on Friday, instead pitching in a Class A game at the Cardinals complex at Roger Dean Stadium. Matt Ginter started in his place against New York at Tradition Field. The Cards changed Looper's assignment because he will be pitching in the opening series of the regular season, also against the Mets, at Busch Stadium in less than two weeks.

"That first series is not that far away ... and to have him out there competing against them today might give them a little bit of an advantage against him in that series," said pitching coach Dave Duncan. "So in the event that that holds true, we just decided to avoid it."

It had previously appeared that Looper would not start in the opening series, and would instead make his first career Major League start on St. Louis' opening road trip to Pittsburgh and Houston. Chris Carpenter will start Opening Day, and Kip Wells is on turn to pitch in the first series as well.

The Cardinals will likely announce the full setup of their season-starting rotation on Saturday or Sunday, after the pitchers themselves have been notified of their assignments.

"You try to work it out through the first month of the season," said Duncan. "If you see advantageous matchups you can create by adjusting one guy or another somewhere during the month, then that kind of helps you set the order."

Gary Bennett stayed back to catch Looper in Jupiter. Bennett had initially been left off the travel roster to Port St. Lucie due to recent headaches. He was added on Thursday afternoon when he was physically cleared, then removed again in order to catch Looper.

Narveson sent out: One worry has been erased for the Cardinals. Chris Narveson has cleared waivers and been sent to Triple-A Memphis. Narveson remains an intriguing prospect. However, because he was out of options, he had to be passed through waivers in order to be sent to the Minor Leagues.

Injuries have slowed Narveson's development to some extent, but despite spending seven years in the Minors, he's still only 25. The Cardinals would like for him to spend a full, healthy year starting at Memphis.

"We see Narveson as a developing player," Duncan said. "He has limited experience at Triple-A, so we feel like it's not good for him to sit around here and get a minimal number of innings when he could be pitching on a regular basis."

Marrero scratched: Eli Marrero was scheduled to make his second straight start behind the plate for the Cards on Friday, but he was a last-minute scratch due to soreness in his right elbow. With Yadier Molina taking the day off and Bennett staying back at camp, Brian Esposito started in Marrero's place.

"I've done a lot of throwing," Marrero said. "Hopefully it's no big deal. I'll see the doctor tomorrow and see what he says."

Ginter holds his own: Ginter, who wasn't sure until Friday that he would make the start, held his own against New York. He allowed a hit and a walk in four scoreless innings, retiring the last 10 batters he faced. Ginter benefited from a stiff wind blowing in from right field, but nonetheless turned in a solid outing.

"He did a good job," manager Tony La Russa said. "He handled himself well."

Ginter was notified earlier in the week that he would probably pitch in Port St. Lucie. On Thursday he was informed that he might be the second pitcher in the game, and on Friday he learned that he was starting.

"I knew I was going to pitch," the right-hander said. "I just didn't know when."

Ginter, 29, is a veteran of parts of six big-league seasons. He last pitched in the Majors for Detroit in 2005. Ginter signed a Minor League contract with St. Louis, with no invitation to Major League Spring Training. He's not in camp with the big club -- he simply got the call to come join them for a day.

"[The Minor League staff] said he's pitching good over there in the Minor League camp and that we should take a look at him since we are not familiar with him," Duncan said. "He could be a guy that somewhere along the line we might be able to use."

Spiezio's all right: The bulk of Scott Spiezio's outfield time this spring has come in right field, and that's by design. Spiezio played a good bit in left field in 2006 and developed a comfort level there, but his outfield time in the early going of the '07 regular season will most likely be in right. Thus, the Cards are playing him there in order to get him familiarized with the position. On Friday, John Rodriguez started in left field with Spiezio in right.

Coach catches: Texas Tech basketball coach Bob Knight, a friend of La Russa's, joined the manager not only in his office but on the field on Friday. While La Russa hit fungoes, Knight put on a glove, stood by his side and caught the throws from the players who were taking infield practice. A few got away, but Knight held his own for the most part.

Weather report: Saturday looks like a beautiful -- but windy -- day at Space Coast Stadium. The forecast in the Melbourne/Viera area calls for a first-pitch temperature of 79 degrees with no clouds and no chance of rain.

Coming up: The Cardinals have their last long bus trip of the spring on Saturday. St. Louis makes the trip up Florida's east coast to Viera for a game against the Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT. Wells will start for the Redbirds against Washington's Shawn Hill.

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