After what surely has been far too much waiting for some players, Cardinals Minor Leaguers begin playing games Wednesday. Actually, they'll start Tuesday with intrasquad scrimmages, and play opponents starting Wednesday.
Naturally, the first opponents are the various Florida Marlins affiliates, so the back fields at Roger Dean Stadium will host four games Wednesday at noon ET (11 a.m. CT): Triple-A Memphis vs. Albuquerque, Double-A Springfield vs. Carolina, Class A Palm Beach vs. Jupiter and Class A Quad Cities vs. Greensboro.
The games on the back fields are free and open to the public, so fans who want to get a look at the Cardinals of tomorrow would do well to come back and take a look.
On the move: Shortstop Brendan Ryan appears ticketed for the Minors, but he's making a solid impression. Ryan has shown a strong arm and excellent speed, and he has taken some quality at-bats. He could be more refined as a baserunner, but Ryan can definitely motor.
On the pine: Outfielder Cody Haerther continues to recuperate from a sore right wrist. Examinations did not reveal any broken bones in Haerther's hand, but he continues to be held out.
Names in the game: Rick Eckstein, the brother of Cards shortstop David Eckstein, is a well-regarded hitting coach who joined the Cardinals organization this past winter. Eckstein coached Team USA in Cuba last year after serving in the Nationals organization. Preaching both preparation and mechanics, Eckstein will be the hitting coach at Triple-A Memphis.
They're No. 1: Outfielder Colby Rasmus' second hit of the spring was also his second double. Rasmus, seeing sporadic time late in games, is playing solid defense and has swung the bat fairly well. Rasmus was a first-round pick by the Cards in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft. Miguel Negron, a former No. 1 pick of the Blue Jays, is 2-for-19 but has drawn six walks, played the outfield and run the bases well.
Class of '06: None of the Cardinals' 2006 draft picks are in big-league camp.
Stat machine: Lefty Troy Cate has pitched four innings, allowing one hit, no walks and no runs. Edgar Gonzalez, in camp on a Minor League deal, has homered twice in just 10 at-bats.
What they're saying: "He's showing that he has Major League talent. He's clearly showing Major League talent. So now it's a question of Major League consistency, Major League toughness, all that stuff. And since he's been getting a chance to play, he's shown all those things. It's an everyday business, so he's got to keep doing it. But he's had a good camp. Really good camp." -- manager Tony La Russa, on Ryan, who will likely be Memphis' everyday shortstop
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.