KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It may have come with little fanfare and on the backfields of the Cardinals' spring complex, but Allen Craig reached another benchmark in his return from offseason knee surgery on Tuesday. For the first time since Game 7 of the World Series, Craig took at-bats in an actual game.
Before appearing in a Minor League game on Tuesday, Craig's only at-bats had come during coach-pitched batting practice. Because of the flexibility Minor League games offer, Craig was able to limit his participation to only hitting in Tuesday's game. He batted, but did not run or play in the field.
"I like the idea of having things for him controlled," manager Mike Matheny said. "Certainly it's something to be excited about, him taking another step forward."
Craig, who is expected to begin the season on the disabled list, will continue to get at-bats in Minor League games before working his way into more on-field activity, including playing defense and running the bases. The Cardinals will not consider using Craig in a Grapefruit League game until Craig has hit all those checkpoints.
"I think that timeline is one of those things, once again, that you have to reach those plateaus and see how he feels," Matheny said. "If he feels good, then we move forward. We have to see how his body reacts."
Lohse reverts to old curveball with comfort
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Though he enjoyed the experimentation, Kyle Lohse has abandoned the new curveball he was flashing earlier in camp and reverted back to the one he has thrown for years.
Lohse began tinkering with his curveball when he resumed throwing this offseason, settling on a curve that didn't incorporate as much of an arc. He continued throwing it in his spring bullpen sessions and then utilized the pitch with success in his first Grapefruit League start.
But progress with the pitch didn't really continue, leading Lohse back to his original curveball. When he went back to the old grip, Lohse was in for a pleasant surprise.
"It was sharper and better than I remembered," Lohse said. "I guess putting it in timeout for a while made it act right. That other one I just really couldn't get to work. It just didn't feel as comfortable in a game as it did playing catch all the way up until Spring Training."
Lohse threw some effective curveballs in his five-inning start on Wednesday, though his larger focus was with his changeup. He wanted to throw several inside changeups to right-handed hitters to see how they responded. He also approached the outing hopeful of seeing better fastball command. That, Lohse said, is still a work in progress.
"I'm making good pitches with [the fastball]," Lohse said, "but I'm still missing in spots that I don't like."
One of those missed fastballs was served up to Chris Johnson, who sent it over the fence for his second spring home run. That was the only run Lohse allowed in the game. Lohse, who threw just 34 of his 69 pitches for strikes, has given up four spring homers.
Cardinals trim spring roster to 37
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With 15 days remaining until Opening Day, the Cardinals reduced the number of participants in Major League camp to 37 following Tuesday's game.
Three pitchers -- Chuckie Fick, Sam Freeman and Adam Ottavino -- were optioned to Triple-A Memphis. Another four players -- Trevor Rosenthal, R.J. Swindle, Ryan Jackson and Steven Hill -- have been reassigned to Minor League camp. None of the seven were expected to make a strong push for a Major League roster spot out of camp.
With the cuts, the Cardinals have 15 pitchers still in camp. That means that if Chris Carpenter is able to stay off the disabled list, the club will send only three more pitchers out before the start of the season. Four catchers, 10 infielders and eighth outfielders also remain.
Rosenthal, Hill and Jackson all made appearances in Tuesday's game before learning of their new assignments. Rosenthal completed his successful Grapefruit League showing with another 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts. The 21-year-old right-hander registered triple digits on the radar gun several times and allowed only one run in seven spring innings.
Anderson making most of spring with Cards
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Bryan Anderson's reworked swing has been turning heads during batting practice and cage work all throughout Spring Training. He hasn't had a large number of chances to showcase it in Grapefruit League games, but Anderson continues to make the most of the opportunities he does receive.
One of three candidates to be Yadier Molina's backup, Anderson pushed his spring average to .462 with another two hits in Tuesday's win over the Astros. Anderson is now 6-for-13 with three walks this spring.
"He walked in and it took about five days before I had almost every coach that's interested in the offensive side come up and say, 'Hey, he's made some adjustments,'" manager Mike Matheny said earlier this month. "He's stronger. The ball is jumping off his bat. It just sounds different. I think it's reassuring that he's done the right work over the winter."
Anderson said the work involved several mechanical tweaks. He shortened his swing in an effort to get a more direct path to the ball, and he is focused on doing a better job keeping his head still during the swing. He began the adjustments during the second half of the 2011 season and immediately liked what he saw.
Since then, the timing and rhythm of his swing have only continued to improve.
"So far, it feels really good," Anderson said. "I feel real comfortable, and I feel real good in the box."
The Cardinals have always been intrigued by Anderson's offensive potential, though this spring has only augmented that interest. But what will be weighed most heavily in the Cardinals' decision to keep Anderson on the big league club or send him to Triple-A is how he improves his handling of the pitching staff.
Manager Mike Matheny made two mound trips to visit Eduardo Sanchez in the eighth, both injury-related. The first was to see if Sanchez was OK to continue after cutting his thumb with a fingernail. Sanchez then took a ball off his calf. He remained in the game and pitched a scoreless inning. Matheny said that he anticipates Sanchez taking a few days off to deal with subsequent soreness.
Mark Hamilton, who had been sidelined with a right quad injury, returned to the field on Monday in a Minor League game. Hamilton last appeared in a Grapefruit League game on March 10. Hamilton's absence has opened up more opportunities at first base for Matt Adams.
Kyle Lohse, who made his fourth Grapefruit League start on Tuesday, is on track to get two more starts before the regular season opens. Asked if Lohse would indeed get six, or have his schedule reworked so that he would make only five, Matheny said that is still yet to be determined. Lohse said he expects to get six.
Much to Matheny's liking, the Cardinals were able to employ a designated hitter in Tuesday's game. Matheny had not been able to use a DH on Monday because the Braves wanted their pitcher to bat. Bryan Anderson fit into that DH spot on Tuesday.
The Cardinals have released four Minor League players: Pete Parise, Dan Calhoun, Sean Watson and Jean Mijares.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.