JUPITER, Fla. -- With almost all of their pitchers having thrown three side sessions, the Cardinals are ready to incorporate live batting practice into their workout rotation on Thursday.
Live batting practice gives pitchers the opportunity to test their command and crispness with someone standing in the batter's box. For hitters, this is their chance to track pitches. If also marks the final step for pitchers before they are ready to make game appearances.
The Cardinals have already drawn up their pitching plans for the early slate of Grapefruit League play, but they haven't made those public yet. Starting pitchers could make as many as six spring starts (depending upon how the Cardinals use the schedule), though it has already been decided that veteran Adam Wainwright will make just five.
Wainwright pitched in six spring games a year ago in an extended schedule. He then went on to throw a Major League-most 276 2/3 innings, including the postseason. Wainwright is in line to make his second straight Opening Day start.
The Cardinals have another eight days before their first exhibition game, and manager Mike Matheny intends to guard against monotony by adding a few wrinkles into the daily schedule between now and then. That will include situational hitting and defensive "competitions." The bunting tournament that Matheny introduced last spring is also likely to reappear.
The team does not anticipate holding an intrasquad game.
"The one thing we'll be fighting more than anything is just the routine and making sure guys aren't getting bored," Matheny said. "We've thought about that well in advance, and thought about different competitions we can do to challenge them. More than anything, we just keep a pulse on how the work is going. We have a young group, so energy shouldn't be an issue this year."