JUPITER, Fla. (AP) - Lance Berkman played his first game in right field since March 1, and wondered what the big deal was.
Berkman had a mostly uneventful seven-inning stint, fielding a pair of hits on back-to-back RBI singles by Hanley Ramirez and Gaby Sanchez in the third, but had no other chances in the Florida Marlins' 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday.
The 35-year-old Berkman is set to be a full-time outfielder for the first time since 2004, and had been limited to DH duty since March 1 due to elbow soreness.
``I've got almost 1,000 games in the outfield, so I can play the outfield,' Berkman said. ``I came up as an outfielder, I've played a full year of center field in the big leagues. I can play the outfield.'
Berkman said he could understand to a certain extent why he's considered a question mark.
``It's probably the people that are casual observers of the game. They look at your face on TV and they see cheeks, they don't see that you can run and you're a better athlete than people give you credit for,' Berkman said.
Josh Johnson had by far his strongest outing of the spring, working six innings to help the Marlins end a nine-game spring losing streak. Johnson said for the most part he ditched a changeup that was hit hard in his last start.
He also used a sinker for the first time this spring after noticing it was effective while playing catch with Chris Volstad.
``You always try to throw something nasty back to each other when you're playing catch,' Johnson said ``I started throwing it today playing catch and warming up before the game.
``Let's try it out, might as well and it was a huge pitch for me.'
Sanchez had three hits and two RBIs and Ramirez had three hits and an RBI for Florida, which was outscored 71-17 during the slump. Manager Edwin Rodriguez altered his lineup card about three hours before gametime, and Sanchez was among several starters plugged in.
Sanchez said Rodriguez told him, ``'Hey, I'm going to put you guys in there.' We were all like 'Absolutely.''
The moves came a day after owner Jeffrey Loria criticized the team's 5-13 start.
``Wins or losses in spring training, it doesn't really mean anything,' Sanchez said. ``But we definitely want to go out there and make sure we're doing everything right.'
Colby Rasmus hit his second homer of the spring, and second in four at_bats, for the Cardinals.
Jake Westbrook gave up four runs on nine hits in five innings for St. Louis. Westbrook struggled in the third when Florida had four singles with RBIs by Ramirez and Sanchez. Ramirez doubled and Sanchez drove him in on consecutive two-out at_bats in the fifth.
``I felt good. I didn't make any pitches when I needed to,' Westbrook said. ``A lot of two out hits for RBIs, that was the difference in the game.'
The Marlins committed two errors in the second, the latter on Ramirez's high throw from short to first on Gerald Laird's two-out grounder that permitted the tying run to score. Ramirez entered the game with five errors, tied for the most at any position this spring.
Last year, Ramirez committed 16 errors. He also lost control of his bat striking out in the first, the bat ending up in the far end of the Marlins' dugout.
Laird slightly pulled his left hamstring running out the grounder and was taken out as a precaution.
The Marlins' Omar Infante was removed after getting hit by a pitch on his left forearm in the seventh, but Rodriguez said the ball struck Infante's elbow protector. Rodriguez said Infante could play Friday and if he doesn't ``it's because I'm going to rest him, not because of the elbow.'
NOTES: Cardinals managers bridging the gap to 1980, La Russa, Joe Torre and Whitey Herzog, were in the house. Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst, who finished the '90 season after Herzog resigned, is a special assistant to the Cardinals GM. ... The Cardinals wore novelty green hats and green jerseys on St. Patrick's Day. ... Matt Holliday had an RBI double in the seventh and is 10 for 22 during an eight-game hitting streak.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved