WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Matt Carpenter is showing the St. Louis Cardinals what they were missing while he was sidelined by a back strain.
A day after making his spring training debut, Carpenter hit a two-run, wind-aided home run off Justin Verlander in the Cardinals’ 3-1 win over Houston on Wednesday.
Carpenter also singled through the right side of the infield in the first inning.
“Great at-bats,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Happy to see where he is right now.”
Carpenter walked twice Tuesday against Miami and has reached base in all four plate appearances.
With Dexter Fowler returning to the leadoff spot, Carpenter again hitting third and newly acquired Marcell Ozuna batting cleanup, the Cardinals are hoping for a revived offense.
With Fowler and Aledmys Diaz struggling in front of him last season, Carpenter hit a career-low .241. He hopes he is protected more in this year’s batting order.
“They don’t want to add somebody on a base for someone who hit 30 home runs last year and drove in 100,” he predicted. “You’re not going to see that.”
At a time where many ballplayers are trudging through the drudgery of spring training, Carpenter remains fresh.
“Physically, I feel like I’ve got a ton of energy,” he said.
Baseball’s equivalent of a gym rat, Carpenter arrived early at camp but got hurt.
“If we were in the season, that’s when I could have gotten a shot or done something to where I’d be out there that next week,” Carpenter said. “But I sat out another 3 1/2 weeks after that. Part of that was just making sure we didn’t have the flare-up.”
The versatile Carpenter will spend most of his time in the field at first base, but he also expects to play second and third. With less than two weeks remaining before St. Louis heads north, Carpenter isn’t concerned about having enough time to prepare for the season.
“I’m a guy that doesn’t need a ton of time to get ready,” he said.