CINCINNATI -- Despite scoring one run in their first 18 innings this season, the Cardinals are not pointing to the lack of recent game play as contributing factor to the slow offensive start.
Heading into Thursday, the Cardinals had played just twice since wrapping up Grapefruit League play a week ago. An exhibition game in Memphis was rained out, and the team had three scheduled days off in Cincinnati. Adding to the down time was a near three-hour delay on Wednesday and a lengthy rain delay on Thursday.
"You don't expect to have delays and rainouts right from the top," Matheny said. "And you have to keep coming back to the fact that this kid, [Tony] Cingrani, gave us a lot of trouble last year, even when the guys were playing every day for a long part of the season. And [Johnny] Cueto, the way he was throwing the ball, he's going to give anybody fits. There are just going to be those days where you have to scratch and claw, and they scratched a little better than we did [Wednesday]."
Matheny also made the point that many of his starting position players were not playing in games daily for most of Spring Training.
The Cardinals have held workouts on two of the three off-days and have offered hitters extra time in the batting cages for those who would like to take additional swings.
"I think we have more of the guys still looking and still searching a little bit," Matheny said. "But overall, going in there and swinging yourself silly doesn't normally equate into productivity."
The Cardinals were not sour about the delayed start on Wednesday, Matheny said, preferring to start the game late rather than reschedule it for later in the season. They were also aware of ominous forecasts for Thursday and did not want to run the risk of having consecutive games postponed.
"We want to play. I want to watch these guys go," Matheny said. "It's been like having this caged animal that I couldn't watch take off and do their thing. We've been reigning them, letting them go, reigning them in. I just want to watch them run."
Motte's progress continues at extended spring camp
CINCINNATI -- Jason Motte continues to move forward with his throwing program, but that program will preclude him from being able to travel to St. Louis to take part in the home opener festivities on Monday.
Motte estimated that he threw 20-25 pitches in another simulated game on Tuesday. He said the organization plans to have him pitch in an extended spring training game on Saturday, another one next Tuesday and then a third later in the week. Though he will not be at Busch Stadium on Monday, Motte will make a quick trip to St. Louis to take part in a 'Homers for Health' charity game show event on April 10.
Motte, along with Allen Craig, Matt Holliday and Adam Wainwright, stepped up this season to be spokesmen for the "Homers for Health, Ks for Kids" initiative, which raises money for the Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation.
The Cardinals have not announced projected rehab assignment plans for Motte, who will likely be ready to head out to a join a Minor League team in mid-April. He is currently 11 months removed from undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Matheny keeping an eye on replay challenges
CINCINNATI -- Two games into the 2014 season, the Cardinals have yet to witness Major League Baseball's expanded instant replay for themselves. That has not, however, stopped manager Mike Matheny from further study of how the system is working.
Though neither Matheny nor Reds manager Bryan Price has challenged a call during this series, Matheny said he has been reviewing video of every call that has been challenged elsewhere. The Cardinals' video coordinator has collected those tapes for Matheny, who has used the exercise as a way to better prepare for circumstances and plays that may arise this season.
"We're seeing how crazy stuff is going already," Matheny said. "I think we've spent most of the spring thinking we're prepared for it, but we're seeing stuff happen this season already that nobody anticipated. I doubt that's going to change. It seems to be a hot topic for baseball to break this down and try to decipher how this is going to play out. I still think it's going to be for the best in the long run, but I think we've got some bumps that are going to happen along the way."
Among those early issues are some long review times and an instance in which replay couldn't be used to review a call at home plate. In that latter case, Giants manager Bruce Bochy had already used and lost his challenge, and because the play happened before the seventh, the crew chief could not unilaterally request an instant-replay review. The Giants lost the game by one run.
Matheny, who challenged three calls during Spring Training trial runs, said he intends to continue watching all reviewed plays this season.
"It's going to be interesting how the conversations go," Matheny said, "because I think they have gone in the direction they didn't want it to go, which is why doesn't something just be done to get the call right and not for putting the managers here on the seat?"
Miller to get chance to start off on right foot vs. Bucs
CINCINNATI -- Manager Mike Matheny said the scheduling wasn't intentional, but in lining up Shelby Miller's season debut on Friday, he gives the 23-year-old Miller an immediate chance to face the team that gave him fits a year ago -- the Pirates.
Miller's start in Pittsburgh-- one the Cardinals kept from happening in the National League Division Series -- comes at a ballpark where he posted a 6.10 ERA in two starts last year. Overall, Miller went 0-4 with a 5.32 ERA against Pittsburgh, which batted .319 off of him. He lost only five of his other 27 season starts.
"I just made mistakes against them," Miller recalled. "It's not really that I pitched badly. It just didn't go the way I wanted it to. … I'm not worried about who I face first. If it was Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Miami Marlins, it's not a big deal to me. I'm just happy to get back out there and start pitching in games that count and try to help the team win."
The Cardinals had some flexibility in ordering their rotation out of Spring Training and could have opted to start Miller against the Reds instead. But the Cardinals, believing that last season's struggles will eventually be seen as an outlier, didn't see the necessity to tweak the schedule as such.
"It was really at the point of trying not to get too creative as much as trusting that these guys are making some of the adjustments that they need to make," Matheny said. "I think this short representation of what he's done against a particular team, it doesn't necessarily line up that he shouldn't do better. And we're not going to run away from teams at this point with limited amount of exposure."
• After starting Peter Bourjos in center field for the first two games of the series, Matheny inserted Jon Jay into the lineup for Thursday's series finale. Jay is a career 7-for-25 against Reds starter Homer Bailey and enters the season carrying over a 14-game hitting streak.
• The Cardinals' top four Minor League affiliates begin their season on Thursday night, though three of MLB.com's Top 20 Cardinals prospects will not begin the year on one of those rosters. Left-hander Rob Kaminsky, ranked as the Cardinals' No. 4 overall prospect after being a first-round pick in 2013, will begin the year in extended spring training.
Jordan Swagerty (No. 13) and Tyrell Jenkins (No. 16) both continue to rehab from arm injuries. Jenkins, according to director of player development Gary LaRocque, is throwing long toss right now with an eye on a late May return. Swagerty, LaRocque said, is expected to begin his throwing program this week. He, too, is projected to begin his season in late May.
• Yadier Molina's has been the fourth-most popular jersey since the end of the 2013 postseason. Adam Wainwright came in at No. 17 on the top 20 list.
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.