JUPITER, Fla. -- Inserting incentive into what is a normally mundane drill, manager Mike Matheny is including bunting competitions as part of the team's early workout schedule.
The first to compete were the pitchers, who accrued points based on how many bunts they laid down within a particular boundary line. This happened on Friday and the four top bunters -- Victor Marte, Fernando Salas, Michael Blazek and Trevor Rosenthal -- advanced to Saturday's bunting championship.
With the entire team and full coaching staff watching and hollering, those four pitchers made another 10 bunt attempts in their quest for the crown. Blazek and Rosenthal each started five-for-five, but Blazek took the title with eight successful bunts made.
"When we started the meeting a couple days ago, I asked the guys to evaluate the bunting and I had two of our starters yell out that we stunk," Matheny said. "There's not a better time to start working on it; then to add the competition and put the pressure of your teammates watching.
"[It can] really get them reminded of some of the things [former Cardinals coach] George Kissell taught, some of the fundamentals. I know how much everybody loves the fact that we bunt. It seems to be great entertainment for everybody back home. So I'm glad to appease them."
Matheny said he expects to hold a bunting competition among the position players next week. There might be another pitchers' tournament, as well, as several starters, in particular, wanted another crack at impressing. Third-base coach Jose Oquendo and guest instructor Jim Edmonds were among those who jokingly suggested a coaches' competition should also be in the works.
Cedeno arrives in camp ready to make impact
JUPITER, Fla. -- His visa issue resolved, Ronny Cedeno arrived at the Cardinals' spring complex on Saturday to participate in his first Spring Training workout. With Cedeno in town, all of the team's position players have now reported.
Cedeno, 30, signed with the Cardinals in late January, giving the club an experienced infielder to back up at both shortstop and second. Cedeno said he passed on the chance to return to the Mets in order to latch on with a Cardinals team that had a defined role waiting for him.
"I'm really psyched to be able to play in an organization like this," Cedeno said. "It's a good situation for me here. I'm going to try and enjoy the opportunity. I just want to be healthy all year and be focused on what I want to do this year."
Cedeno comes in as an experienced shortstop, though the Cardinals will also tap into his ability to play second. Having made only 28 starts at second since 2008, Cedeno said it's a position he'd like to get extra work at this spring. The Cardinals will have to get creative in finding that playing time, though, since Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso and Kolten Wong will also be getting work there.
Cedeno comes to the Cardinals after one season in New York. He logged only 168 at-bats, a drastic drop-off after being the Pirates' everyday shortstop the previous two-plus seasons. The sporadic playing time will continue with the Cardinals unless Rafael Furcal has to be unplugged for health issues. If that's the case, the Cardinals are hopeful that Cedeno's defensive ability will be an asset.
"He's got a glove. We know that he can play shortstop for anybody," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think that he has more in there offensively, and I know that he feels the same. It's just the consistency. He can put together a good at-bat, but we know what his main tool is and that is to go out there and play defense."
Garcia's shoulder strong after throwing batting practice
JUPITER, Fla. -- Leading off the Cardinals' string of live batting practices this spring was Jaime Garcia, whose session on Saturday drew widespread attention given the shoulder troubles that slowed him a year ago.
What everyone observed, though, was nothing but further evidence to support Garcia's claim that his left shoulder is strong and that his mechanics are once again sound.
"I definitely feel like I'm where I want to be," Garcia said after the team workout. "I think I'm right on schedule. The good thing is everything feels good."
Garcia will throw at least one more round of live BP before he pitches in a Grapefruit League game. Because of the length of the spring season, Garcia could make as many as six Grapefruit League starts before the start of the regular season.
Though shoulder problems limited the left-hander to 121 2/3 innings last season, the Cardinals do not have Garcia on any sort of modified spring program. He has had several medical exams since the shoulder pain resurfaced in the postseason, and none of those follow-ups has given the Cardinals reason to pause.
With health no longer consuming his thoughts, Garcia has been able to find his way back to more natural form.
"I think when you're not healthy, you're battling a lot of things," Garcia said. "Things start getting off -- your mechanics, your strength. I started having issues with my hips. A lot of things started happening because I started changing mechanics because it was hurting. I'm where I want to be right now. I want to be there for my teammates and my team."
• For the first time since the start of camp, the Cardinals had seven pitchers throw live batting practice on Saturday. Those pitchers included Garcia, Shelby Miller, Kevin Siegrest, Randy Choate, Marc Rzepczynski, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte.
The purpose of live BP isn't so much for the hitter to get work, though they do often find it beneficial to track live pitching. Rather, it's for the pitchers to see the command of their pitches in a setting where a hitter is in the batter's box.
• Matheny said he and non-roster invitee Oscar Taveras have talked about Taveras' comments from Friday about potentially playing in the World Baseball Classic. While the Cardinals support their players participating in the Classic, the club was unaware of Taveras' interest in playing for Team Canada until he mentioned it during a media interview on Friday.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.