LaRue returns; Molina remains out
Backup could start opener with regular backstop uncertain
MINNEAPOLIS -- Only one question remains on the day before the Cardinals are required to set their Opening Day roster. Jason LaRue and Blake Hawksworth both played in Saturday's exhibition finale against the Twins at Target Field, leaving only Yadier Molina's status uncertain in advance of Monday's opener in Cincinnati.
LaRue, who suffered a bone bruise on his left hand on Tuesday, was not originally listed when manager Tony La Russa posted the Cardinals' lineup on Saturday morning. But after LaRue took batting practice on the field at the new Minnesota ballpark, he was cleared and took Matt Pagnozzi's place in the starting nine. LaRue went 2-for-2 with an RBI and played six innings.
"He did a good job," La Russa said. "Swung the bat well. One of the highlights."
Hawksworth, meanwhile, had expected to pitch Saturday after throwing a bullpen session on Thursday. He has been dealing with right groin soreness. He allowed a run on three hits, but came through the outing without incident.
Molina has not played since March 24, when he suffered a strained right oblique muscle. Like LaRue, Molina took batting practice on the field on Saturday for the first time since he got injured. He also caught a bullpen session on Friday, and signs point toward him being on the active roster on Monday -- if not necessarily available to play.
"Everything went great, how I expected," Molina said. "I took hitting outside, running, throwing, everything felt good. Hopefully tomorrow when I wake up, it will feel good."
If it appears Molina will be unavailable for only a few days to start the season, the Cardinals would be willing to place him on the active roster and use Nick Stavinoha as the backup to LaRue. Stavinoha caught in college and has arrived early and worked out with catchers the past two springs.
Garcia rebounds from mistakes
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jaime Garcia's dress rehearsal went OK on Saturday. Not great, not bad, OK.
Garcia acknowledged that he made some mistakes in the Cardinals' exhibition finale, an 8-3 loss to the Twins at Target Field. But on the whole, he wasn't too displeased with his first outing since he was formally named the Cardinals' fifth starter.
"I felt good," Garcia said. "I felt like my pitches were working good. I didn't feel like I wasn't sharp. I didn't walk anybody. A couple mistakes, I threw a couple balls up in the zone and they hit the ball. ... I felt like everything was pretty good. Couple mistakes ... only thing I can do is learn from that and keep working hard."
Manager Tony La Russa graded Garcia on something of a curve, saying that while the young lefty wasn't at his best, it was a credit to him that he made the most of things. Garcia allowed four runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he struck out four with no walks and got nine groundouts.
"It's a good sign, because he didn't give up a whole lot, but he was kind of rushing, probably a little excited or whatever," La Russa said. "Made more mistakes today than he had been. He handled it all right, got something out of it."
Cards close out 'above-average spring'
MINNEAPOLIS -- The regular season is arriving, and not a second too soon for the Cardinals.
St. Louis committed three errors in Saturday's 8-3 loss to Minnesota, the third less-than-sharp game in the past four days for the Redbirds. That may well be an indicator of waning focus at the end of a 6 1/2-week Spring Training.
"I'm glad Spring Training is over," said closer Ryan Franklin. "I think everybody is. The last week, guys are ready to play for real, for everybody to get into our routine for the season."
The Cardinals finished the preseason with a winning record, and with the vast majority of their roster in good health. Only catcher Yadier Molina's availability is in question as Opening Day approaches, and it appears likely that Molina will be on the active roster even if he's limited for the first few days.
That combination means that as the Cardinals packed up to go to Cincinnati, manager Tony La Russa was pleased with how things went on the spring.
"All things considered," La Russa said, "it was an above-average spring."
Walters' infant daughter passes away
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Cardinals announced on Saturday that Annabelle Faith Walters, the infant daughter of pitcher P.J. Walters and his wife, Brittney, passed away on Friday night.
Brittney Walters, gave birth to the baby girl on Feb. 10 -- 14 weeks premature. The child had a heart problem that necessitated immediate delivery. As a result, P.J. Walters stayed back with his family in Alabama at the start of Spring Training and joined the club on Feb 22. He kept as close tabs as possible on the progress of his wife and daughter, and once returned home to visit them during camp.
Members of the Cardinals were informed of the baby's passing prior to Saturday's game at Target Field.
P.J. Walters was optioned to Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday.
The club issued a statement that reads as follows:
"The St. Louis Cardinals organization was saddened this morning to learn that Annabelle Walters, the newborn daughter of Cardinals' pitcher P.J. Walters and his wife, Brittney, passed away last evening. The entire Cardinals organization extends its heart-felt condolences to the Walters family during this difficult time."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.