Goldschmidt, Cards bats, heating up at right time

CHUCK KING (Associated Press)
The Associated Press

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -- Paul Goldschmidt's solo homer in the first inning of St. Louis' Grapefruit League finale against Miami is indicative of what manager Mike Shildt has been saying all week.

The Cardinals' offense is ready to start the season.

''That was nice,'' Shildt said of the drive that caromed off an ambulance idling outside the Marlins' side of the Roger Dean Stadium complex. ''Park at your own risk.''

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The shot over the wall in left was Goldschmidt's third of the spring, all coming in the past week.

''Stats don't always tell the whole story, but you go out there, you see good at-bats, see guys hit the ball hard and keep improving every day,'' Goldschmidt said.

Rebounding from offseason shoulder surgery, Marcell Ozuna's average hovered around .150 much of the spring before a late surge raised it to .230. Both of his homers came in the past three days.

''No, I didn't worry about it,'' Ozuna said. ''I knew it was coming.''

For the first time all spring, Shildt used a lineup representative of what he expects to employ on Thursday when the Cardinals open the season at Milwaukee.

Matt Carpenter, who hadn't played since March 15 because of back tightness, led off, striking out in his lone plate appearance before heading to the back fields to get extra at-bats in minor league games.

Goldschmidt hit second, followed by Paul DeJong, Ozuna, Yadier Molina and Dexter Fowler.

''I like the flow of it,'' Shildt said. ''Excited to see it on Thursday.''

Shildt had hit Carpenter and Fowler back-to-back at the top of the order much of early spring.

St. Louis scored two runs or fewer in 13 of its 31 Grapefruit League games. But it reached double digits twice over the final week.

Goldschmidt doesn't believe teams can ''flip the switch'' offensively once the season starts without having prepared properly throughout spring.

''There's something different when the regular season starts,'' Goldschmidt said. ''If you haven't put the work in in spring training, it's going to be tough for that to transfer over. Spring training is important but the regular season is different.''

St. Louis broke camp without utilityman Jedd Gyorko, who will begin the season on the injured list because of a calf injury. Shildt said the Cardinals are targeting their April 4 home opener against San Diego for Gyorko's return.

Shildt also officially revealed that Jack Flaherty will start that home opener.

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