Notes: Ponson, Reyes compete at camp

Notes: Ponson, Reyes compete for No. 5

JUPITER, Fla. -- Rain ruined the symmetry, but the competition to be the Cardinals' fifth starter remains undimmed.

For the second time in a row, Sidney Ponson and Anthony Reyes were slated to throw to the same hitters, with the same catcher, on the same field on Saturday. Intermittent rain interrupted practice at Roger Dean Stadium, however, forcing Reyes' throwing session into the covered batting cages.

Both men got in close to a full workout, though Ponson's 40-pitch workout ended up being cut to 35. Reyes, the rookie, has more electrifying stuff than the veteran Ponson, but in the very early going, Ponson has showed better location and command.

It is, however, very early.

"My arm feels good," said Ponson. "I'm not going to jump up and down now. It was raining, the ball is slippery, you have a lot of things going through your mind. You don't want to slip and injure yourself. You don't want the ball to get away from you and hit one of the guys. You try to do the best you can with a bad situation. But it's good to get it over with."

Pitching coach Dave Duncan is trying to refrain from judging any of the candidates, from a group that also includes Adam Wainwright, too early. Manager Tony La Russa didn't even watch the last time Ponson and Reyes threw.

Reyes admits he's hoping to catch someone's eye with every throwing session. Ponson, meanwhile, is simply trying to regain the form he showed in 2003, when he won 17 games.

"I threw everything today," he said. "Sinker to both sides, slider both sides, changeup. You have to start working on it. The games are right around the corner next week."

Said Reyes of the competition: "I'm not really paying attention to that. If they put me with him, they say to pitch to these hitters, I pitch. I don't pay attention to anything. I don't think it really means anything just yet. You've got to wait until the games start. I'm just trying to get ready."

Nelson throws: Veteran right-hander Jeff Nelson continued on his steady pace toward the season with his first live batting practice session. Nelson faced hitters on Field 1 after the rain delay, and it didn't go as smoothly as he might have hoped. But he gave himself a mulligan, and more importantly, so did Duncan.

"Going against hitters, you throw against your own guys, your strengths are coming inside and throwing breaking balls, and you want to stay away," Nelson said. "Especially your first time. You're getting a feel, getting your breaking ball down. Fastball is definitely not there yet.

"You want to peak in April. Even though you're a non-roster guy and you want to show them, 'I can make the team.' I think it's pretty much about staying healthy and I think I'll be OK. It's about mid-March when you start feeling good."

Mid-March is right about the time Duncan has in mind, as well.

"My intention with Nelson is to really take it slow in the beginning," said the pitching coach. "I'm not anxious about him at all. I'm not going to pass judgment on anything I see until probably the middle of the month."

More deals: The Cardinals agreed to terms with two more players on Saturday, leaving three players unsigned in camp. Hector Luna and Aaron Miles reached agreement with the club on one-year pacts. So Taguchi, Yadier Molina and John Rodriguez are the only remaining unsigned players. Starting March 2, the Cards may automatically renew the contract of any unsigned player.

More tickets: The first game at new Busch Stadium is a sellout -- and that doesn't mean the first regular-season Major League game. The April 4 exhibition between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis is also sold out, to the tune of roughly 37,000 tickets. The last 11,000 tickets for the game went on public sale Saturday and were gone in 20 minutes. All other tickets were made available to St. Louis, Memphis and Springfield season-ticket holders.

More late arrivals: Luna worked out with his teammates for the first time this year on Saturday, having finally worked out his visa issues. Ricardo Rincon was expected to arrive in the Jupiter area on Saturday and attend camp on Sunday.

La Russa said Saturday that he will ask Rincon to skip the World Baseball Classic, due largely to the southpaw's late arrival in camp.

"I am going to encourage Rincon to not pitch for the Mexican team," La Russa said. "I don't think it makes a lot of sense."

The Cards' other late arriving pitcher, Rule 5 draftee Juan Mateo, will throw for the first time on Sunday. Mateo has not impressed Cardinals brass thus far with the condition in which he arrived at camp.

"I can't say this for sure," said Duncan, "but it appears to me that the only one who might have come in here without really doing a lot of work before he got down here is Mateo."

Bits and pieces: The Cardinals' second Grapefruit League game, on Friday against the Mets at Port St. Lucie, has been changed to a night game. Originally scheduled for the afternoon, the contest will start at 7:10 p.m. ET. ... Sunday's workout will come to a somewhat early end due to a season ticket holders' reception at Roger Dean Stadium.

Quotable: "I don't like watching our hitters against our pitchers. So if you watch our day, that's probably the least thing that I watch. I just don't enjoy it." -- La Russa

Weather report: It could be another rainy day on Sunday. The forecast calls for mild temperatures, with highs in the mid-70s, a healthy wind (pushing 20 mph) and a 60 percent chance of storms during the day.

Coming up: Game days are coming soon, but on Sunday there's another normal workout day. Things should get started around 9:30 a.m. CT. The Cardinals begin exhibitions on Tuesday against Florida Atlantic University.

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