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Notes: Izzy ready to make spring debut

Notes: Izzy ready to make spring debut

JUPITER, Fla. -- In Jason Isringhausen's first couple of batting practice sessions this spring, he pitched well considering that he wasn't very far along in his season preparations. On Monday, no such qualifier was needed. Isringhausen just pitched well.

"I didn't have to really think about anything," Isringhausen said. "I just went out there and threw the ball and everything was in place where it was supposed to be. It makes things a lot easier when you don't have to be thinking about your mechanics or where you want the ball to go. You don't think and your mechanics just happen and the ball goes where you want it to go."

Monday's throwing session was a natural continuation of his first two times throwing to hitters. In his first time out, six days earlier, Isringhausen had good stuff with heavy movement on the ball, but his command was dicey. Throw No. 2 featured better command but not quite as much movement. On Monday, it all came together, and Isringhausen looked very much like a man ready to pitch to somebody wearing another team's uniform.

Coincidentally, he'll finally get to do that the next time he throws. The Cardinals closer will make his 2007 Grapefruit League debut against the Dodgers at Roger Dean Stadium on Thursday.

"It will be nice to get him out there and get him started up," said pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Isringhausen threw 28 pitches to four different hitters: Rick Ankiel, Eli Marrero, Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Negron. None of the simulated at-bats ended with anything that would likely have been a base hit.

"Hopefully it carries over to Thursday in the game," Isringhausen said. "I don't want to be out there thinking about my mechanics. That's what I did for the last two years. I thought about my mechanics so I would land correctly so it didn't hurt. Now I feel like I can go out there and just throw the ball and concentrate on my location rather than whether it's going to hurt or not. And that's a very big blessing."

Schumaker encouraged: Skip Schumaker's sprained ankle felt better than the outfielder expected on Monday morning, and he expects to participate in drills on Tuesday. Schumaker reported only limited swelling in his left ankle, which he turned while running out a ground ball on Sunday.

"Everything is fine," said Schumaker, who walked with little, if any, limp. "It's a little sore. It's bruising, but that's good because it means it's coming out and it's getting healthy. I feel like I probably could have done something today."

Looper keeps cruising: Braden Looper continues to make starting look easy, even when it's not.

Looper made it three quality outings in three tries with 4 2/3 solid innings against Atlanta on Monday. Looper struck out three, his highest total of the spring, and did not issue a walk. He's walked only one batter in 11 spring innings.

"Today was probably the worst I've felt," Looper said. "But we did a great job of mixing pitches to both sides of the plate, throwing all my pitches and changing speeds. You just call it pitching, I guess. I haven't done a whole lot in my career, but it felt good."

Looper's next start will again come against the Braves, on Saturday in Orlando.

Thanks, coach: Normally, the Cardinals' workout schedule features a perplexing maze of pitching, hitting and fielding assignments, with group numbers and field numbers and times all adding up to a challenging read. Monday morning's schedule included one very easy element to read, however.

9:45 Bill Belichick

The coach of the three-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots addressed the Cards prior to their workout. Among other topics, he discussed the challenges facing a team the year after a championship. The Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years.

"It was real good," La Russa said. "One of the things he talked about was the things they concentrated on after they won the Super Bowl. And they've remained consistent in how they go about it."

Dove still around: Right-hander Dennis Dove has been one of the more pleasant surprises in camp thus far. Dove, 25, made the move from starting to relieving last season, and he put up a big year at Class A Palm Beach before struggling in a late-season call-up to Double-A Springfield.

A hard thrower, Dove got the final three outs on Monday on just 11 pitches, giving him a third straight scoreless outing. Dove remains a long shot to make the team out of camp, but he's making an impression.

"It's a tough assignment," La Russa said of closing out a win. "Tougher than some people would think, being Spring Training or whatever. And he handled it very well."

Cuts announced: The Cardinals finalized their second round of cuts on Monday morning, sending six players to the Minor Leagues. Right-hander Mike Smith and outfielder Colby Rasmus were re-assigned to Minor League camp. Four players were optioned to the Minor Leagues: infielders Brendan Ryan and Travis Hanson, lefty Troy Cate and outfielder Cody Haerther. Haerther was optioned to Double-A Springfield, while the other three were optioned to Triple-A Memphis.

Bits and pieces: Ankiel hit the first Cardinals home run at Roger Dean Stadium this spring, a solo shot off Tyler Yates in the sixth inning. ... Juan Encarnacion took batting practice on the field for a second straight day on Monday but is still reporting some discomfort in his surgically repaired wrist. ... Playing shortstop, Jolbert Cabrera made two excellent leaping catches on line drives during Monday's game. ... David Eckstein remains on track to make his return to the lineup on Tuesday in Fort Myers. Eckstein has been sidelined with a strained oblique muscle.

Weather report: Things are just as lovely on the other side of the state as they are in Palm Beach County. The Tuesday forecast in Fort Myers calls for a first-pitch temperature of 79 degrees, no clouds, virtually no chance of rain and winds around 10 mph.

Coming up: The Cardinals head west on Tuesday for a game against the Twins in Fort Myers. St. Louis will send Kip Wells to the mound in what is expected to be David Eckstein's return from a strained oblique muscle. Minnesota will send two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana to the mound.

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

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