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Goldschmidt has rare missed start with back stiffness; Busch adds humidor to regulate baseballs
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Goldschmidt has rare missed start with back stiffness; Busch adds humidor to regulate baseballs

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Cardinals welcome fans for 2021 home opener

St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Dylan Carlson (3) makes an over the shoulder catch in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Thursday, Apr. 8, 2021. This is the Cardinals home-opener for the 2021 season. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

At some point between Miami and St. Louis on the Cardinals flight north for the home opener, Paul Goldschmidt’s back seized on him and did not relent by Thursday afternoon.

The Cardinals’ first baseman, who appeared in all 61 of the Cardinals’ games in 2020 (including playoffs) and has not missed more than seven games since 2014, was a late scratch before the celebrations began at Busch Stadium. He was unavailable to pinch hit during the game or to participate in any baseball activity because of tightness in his lower back. The Cardinals consider him day to day headed toward their next game, on Saturday.

“I know he was bothered by the fact that he wasn’t in there,” manager Mike Shildt said. “That hurt him because he loves to play, and I know he wanted to participate in opening day.”

Matt Carpenter took groundballs at first base early Thursday morning before batting practice to prepare for a possible start at his former position. Carpenter was already in the lineup at second base — but Goldschmidt’s absence meant a quick rewrite a few hours before the Clydesdales took their tour. Carpenter slid to first, and moved up to Goldschmidt’s No. 2 spot in the order to keep from rearranging other places of the lineup, Shildt said.

Carpenter had a diving stop in the second inning on a grounder and reached base when he was hit by a pitch in the Cardinals’ 3-1 victory.

Shildt learned of Goldschmidt’s soreness after the team’s flight from Miami landed in St. Louis. Goldschmidt’s mobility and comfort did not improve by morning, nor did it loosen after treatment at Busch Stadium.

The Gold Glove-winner did not participate in the parade of trucks that brought his teammates to home plate for introductions, popping up instead from the dugout and walking to be the last player introduced even after the starting lineup Thursday.

“We made good adjustments and then fired the lineup out we fired out,” Shildt said. “He’ll let us know (Friday) how he’s feeling. Clearly we want him back in there, but we’re not going to rush it just for the sake of getting him back.”

Humidor for baseballs

The Cardinals are one of several teams that added a humidor at the ballpark to store baseballs in a consistent atmosphere throughout the course of the season. The practice, first hatched in Colorado as a counter to the thin, dry air at altitude, has spread to ballparks dealing with conditions as varied as Arizona and Miami.

The Cardinals’ goal is to keep the conditions for the baseball stable regardless of what the weather, temperature, and humidity do during a St. Louis summer.

“We see (it) as working both ways,” said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations. “When we are in a drier time of year, it will work as a humidor. When we are in a humid time of year, then it will work as a dehumidifier. So, in the end we are just trying to have a consistent baseball throughout the season.”

Major League Baseball and its official baseball manufacturer, St. Louis-based Rawlings, took steps this season to reduce the liveliness of the ball after several years of swelling power numbers. The Rockies saw the behavior of the baseball become more predictable, closer to sea level through their use of a humidor, and the goal Colorado officials said was to keep the baseball as close as possible to the conditions where it was stored before delivery: Missouri. The settings for the humidor in Colorado are set to closely reflect those of Washington, Mo.

The Cardinals will begin using baseballs stored in the humidor during the next homestand, as they must be in there for two weeks before use.

Sauget site stirring

Top pitching prospects Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson threw Wednesday at the Gateway Grizzlies ballpark in Sauget, the Cardinals’ official alternate-site camp.

During the intake process for that camp this past Saturday, the COVID-19 vaccine was made available to any players interested in receiving it.

During its runtime through April, the site will be a place for the Cardinals to have center fielder Harrison Bader (forearm) and starter Miles Mikolas (shoulder) get game-speed conditions like spring training without the travel to Florida.

Otherwise, even with too few players to have scrimmages, the task for Class AAA Memphis manager Ben Johnson and his staff at the Sauget site will be, in Mozeliak’s words, “really it’s just readiness — being prepared.”

Kim update, Jack’s books, etc.

Encouraged by how lefty Kwang Hyun Kim (back) recovered from an extended simulated game Tuesday in Florida, the Cardinals plan to have him increase his pitch count in another sim outing as early as this weekend and possibly rejoin the active roster on the upcoming road trip. … Before the home opener, Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty, as part of his growing work with Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, donated thousands of books to the clubs — all of them purchased from University City’s EyeSeeMe bookstore, which specializes in a diverse range of children’s books and offers one of the largest selections of African-American youth literature in the country.

Derrick Goold

@dgoold on Twitter

dgoold@post-dispatch.com

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