Cardinals now embracing elevation

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The Cardinals have, for a while, been known as the ground ball team. Many a pitcher has joined the pitching staff, told to induce grounders, and enjoyed immense success as a result. Joel Pineiro is one example; Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia others. Since 2009, the Cardinals have ranked second, first, first, and and third in ground ball rate by starting pitchers, according to FanGraphs. The ground ball approach was implemented by former pitching coach Dave Duncan and continued by new manager Mike Matheny.

Derrick Goold reports that the Cardinals are evolving, focusing back on the upper part of the strike zone for some of their pitchers.

But during spring training and already during the regular season, manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist have asked several starters to explore a neglected area of the strike zone — the high-rise, where strikeouts happen.

A few are being encouraged to embrace elevation.

“We still preach (low). We’re still all over that,” Matheny said. “But part of that philosophy is when you get two strikes how do we put the guy away right now? What do you do when you’re throwing at the bottom of the zone all the time? You’ve got to have something to put somebody away with. That elevated fastball can help with that. It’s an art. Because you’re flirting with danger. That’s why it’s effective. It’s something they have to practice.”

Last year, the Cardinals threw the fewest percentage of pitches in the upper part of the strike zone with two strikes, under 21 percent. The league average was 28 percent. The Cardinals led in two-strike pitches in the lower part of the strike zone with two strikes at 51.5 percent. The league average was 45 percent.

Mariners sign Mark Lowe

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The Mariners have signed reliever Mark Lowe, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports. The Tigers released him on Sunday.

Lowe, 33, is entering the last of a two-year, $11 million deal signed with the Tigers in December 2015. The right-hander struggled to a 7.11 ERA with a 49/21 K/BB ratio in 49 1/3 innings last season. His performance this spring didn’t do much to inspire confidence.

Lowe began his major league career with the Mariners, breaking out in 2009 with a 3.26 ERA across 80 innings. He has been inconsistent throughout most of his 11-year big league career, however.

Cardinals place Trevor Rosenthal on DL with lat strain

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The Cardinals announced on Thursday that pitcher Trevor Rosenthal has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right lat strain. Sam Tuivailala has been added to the roster in Rosenthal’s place.

The Cardinals’ closer until the second half last year, Rosenthal came into camp this spring hoping to battle for a rotation spot. However, the lat injury killed that dream. When Rosenthal is healthy, he’ll return to the bullpen.

Last season, Rosenthal posted a 4.46 ERA with 14 saves and a 56/29 K/BB ratio in 40 1/3 innings.