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Spring Training Notes: Jake Woodford Shows Positives And Negatives In First Start

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Jake Woodford (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

JUPITER, Fla. — In a span of two innings Monday afternoon, Jake Woodford showed both his promise and how far he has to go.

The Cardinals' No. 16 prospect tantalized with a stellar first inning and struggled through a difficult second inning in his first spring training start, ultimately taking a no-decision in a 3-3 tie with a Tigers split squad.

Woodford sat 94-96 mph and located both an upper-80s slider and upper-70s curveball in a 1-2-3 first inning. He threw 11 of his 14 pitches for strikes and impressively went right after Miguel Cabrera with two 95 mph fastballs and induced a groundout with a breaking ball on the third pitch.

But in the second inning, Woodford’s velocity dropped to 92-93 mph on his fastball and 84-86 mph on his slider, and he ran into trouble trying to pitch backwards against the bottom half of the Tigers' order. He walked the leadoff batter, gave up two hits—both on sliders—and two runs and needed 24 pitches to get through the inning.

"This camp overall for Woody you feel really good about a lot of execution taking place,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "Bugaboo has been walks. The leadoff walk opened up that inning a little bit. But otherwise I liked his composure, liked his stuff, ball came out good, liked the way he competed. Game didn’t seem to get too fast for him. Lot of positives for Jake today.”

LATE-INNING VELO

Both the Tigers and Cardinals had some impressive young arms appear in relief, chief among them Cardinals righthander Connor Jones.

Jones, the Cardinals second-round pick in 2016, has had an uneven career as a starter but showed immense promise in relief in the Arizona Fall League last year.

He made his first spring appearance in relief on Monday and sat 95-96 mph with sink and an 84-87 mph power slider in a perfect eighth inning.

Jones, 24, averaged 6.3 K/9 as a starter last year in the regular season and AFL, compared to 10.6 K/9 in relief.

"You talk mid-90s with a bowling-ball sinker, that’s nice,” Shildt said. "I enjoyed watching that.”

The Tigers showcased two high-octane arms in relief. Gregory Soto, Detroit’s No. 15 prospect, sat 93-95 mph from the left side and kept everything in and around the strike zone, although he did issue a walk to Randy Arozarena after not missing by much. Righthander Anthony Castro, the Tigers' No. 26 prospect, worked 93-97 mph with a mid-80s slider in a scoreless eighth, although he battled his control with a walk, a hit batter and a wild pitch.

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ODDS AND ENDS

Cardinals' No. 10 prospect Dylan Carlson made an impressive diving catch on a sinking liner in left field late in the game. He played right field on Sunday and left field on Monday, making all the plays comfortably in both spots.

Tommy Edman, the Cardinals' No. 12 prospect, singled home the tying run with two outs in the ninth. He drove a hard liner into right field to score Adolis Garcia from second. Tigers right fielder Jose Azocar’s throw to the plate was accurate and on time, but Garcia slid around the tag of catcher Jake Rogers.

Daz Cameron, the Tigers' No. 5 prospect, went 1-for-2 with a double and a walk. He made loud contact for extra bases, driving an Evan Kruczynski fastball to the base of the wall in left-center, the deepest part of the park.

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