Outlook: Only issue for Garcia in '13 is health

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- In Spring Training, you usually only hear about a pitcher "working on things" after an outing that yielded poor results. That was not the case for Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia on Friday, according to manager Mike Matheny.

Making his second-to-last outing before the regular season, Garcia struck out five Astros over six innings and gave up two runs on four hits, a walk and a wild pitch. The lefty said he felt strong enough to keep pitching, and the only thing he needs to do in his final Grapefruit League outing is continue to build up strength.

And yes, he was actually working on his delivery and his pitch sequencing during Friday's game.

"Phenomenal," Matheny said. "He just had a real good tempo to him. He was actually working on a couple things, too. You use that as a great excuse when guys may not have the results, but it was nice to see the results and being able to work on being a little quicker to the plate with guys on base and using some of his different pitches in different counts. It was well executed."

Garcia said catcher Tony Cruz called a strong game, and Matheny agreed that the two seem to have developed a good working relationship this spring -- something that could become a factor in determining when to rest Yadier Molina during the regular season.

"I would give Tony some credit for being creative in how to use his stuff, because you didn't see a lot of shaking going on out there," Matheny said. "They've got a nice little thing working right now. But he had to execute his pitches, and he did a nice job of that."

"I feel really comfortable where I'm at right now," added Garcia. "I'm right where I need to be at this point of the spring."

Beltran's right toe still hampering his game

ESP@PUR: Beltran's double opens up the scoring

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Carlos Beltran hurt his right toe just before leaving for the World Baseball Classic, but a few weeks away from the Cardinals wasn't enough time for that injury to heal.

Beltran said his right pinkie toe, which was hit by a pitch, was better, but still swollen, when he reported back to Cardinals camp on Friday. But it hampered him in the outfield and at the plate during the Classic, and he will have to monitor how he feels over the final weeks of Spring Training.

Beltran said he only felt good in the outfield for about five innings before his foot tightened up, relegating him to mostly designated hitter duty for Puerto Rico. And the ailing toe affected his swing from the right side, when he would have to turn on his right foot.

"But it is what it is," Beltran said. "Whatever I was going to do there, I was going to do here."

Beltran went through a workout back in Jupiter, Fla., on Friday but should return to St. Louis' starting lineup on Saturday at Roger Dean Stadium.

Asked about playing the outfield during the spring, Beltran responded, "We'll see how that goes."

Manager Mike Matheny was also somewhat cautious, but expected Beltran to give it a shot.

"We'll see when he shows up tomorrow what it looks like," Matheny said, "but he knows that if at all possible, he's going to be there."

Matheny experimenting with leadoff spot

MIA@STL: Carpenter plates two with a double to right

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny slotted Matt Carpenter in the leadoff spot for Friday's game against the Astros, a different look atop the order that the Cardinals could experiment with when the regular season rolls around.

Carpenter brings an obvious ability to get on base -- he posted a .365 on-base percentage in the Majors and a .409 OBP in the Minors last season -- for a team that doesn't have many leadoff options outside of center fielder Jon Jay, who batted second Friday.

"I just think that's something that could potentially come up during the season," Matheny said, adding that he'd like to put players in situations they could encounter during the regular season so it's not "foreign" to them at that point.

Matheny said Jay could be an interesting option as a No. 2 hitter given his speed and his ability to move runners over, pointing to the number of times Rafael Furcal would get on base, take second on a bunt from Jay and quickly score.

"Next thing you know, we're sitting 1-nothing in the first. It happened a lot in the beginning of the season, and that was a pretty good recipe for success when you could hit them right in the first," Matheny said. "But Jon also plays the game. He knows how to get guys over, and he takes a lot of pride in that. But in general, I think he could bat anywhere in our order, whether it be first or anywhere else."

Matheny attributed Jay's struggles at the plate this spring -- he is hitting just .208 -- to shifts in Jay's mechanics. Matheny said Jay has been trying to shorten his swing somewhat, and that's been Jay's focus more so than putting up strong Spring Training numbers.

"That's usually a bad way to go about getting results, but we're not so much focused on results as much as the things we need to work on," Matheny said. "This [lineup] isn't necessarily a knock on him as much as just getting Carpenter to that first spot to see how it works."

Wigginton plays in Minors game for extra at-bats

Wigginton gives Cards plenty of infield options

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Manager Mike Matheny almost opted to bring Ty Wigginton to Osceola County Stadium with the Cardinals. But Matheny decided what the struggling infielder really needed Friday was some at-bats -- as many as possible, in fact.

Matheny instructed the 35-year-old veteran, who's batting just .100 this spring and hasn't recorded a Grapefruit League hit since March 7, to stay at the Cardinals' Spring Training complex and get plenty of at-bats -- perhaps one an inning -- in a Minor League game.

"He's going to stay there and get as many at-bats as he wants, however he wants to do it," Matheny said.

Wigginton's plate appearances have been few and far between in Grapefruit League play lately for a few reasons: the return of Allen Craig and David Freese and the phasing out of the designated hitter as the regular season approaches.

Wigginton only made one trip to the plate this week, on Thursday, and it turned into a double play. It's been that kind of spring for him.

"He's had some good at-bats where he's hit the ball hard, just not the results," Matheny said. "That wears on anybody -- I don't care how many springs you've been through -- if you just don't see the hits falling in, especially a guy on a new team who wants to make an impression."

Worth noting

• Manager Mike Matheny said before the game that he wanted to see how lefty Marc Rzepczynski fared Friday after pitching "as good as he's thrown since I've been around" on Saturday, then not as well on Monday. And Rzepczynski answered the call, throwing a perfect seventh inning with two strikeouts.

"I don't think you can ask for any better than that," Matheny said.

• Daniel Descalso appeared to have hit his third homer of the spring in the second inning against the Astros on Friday, lining a ball down the left-field line and over the fence. He trotted around the bases and into the Cardinals' dugout at Osceola County Stadium, only to have the umpires convene, overrule the initial call and declare it a foul ball. Matheny argued the change briefly before returning to the dugout.