Pitchers work around rare rain; Ponson shows complete arsenal

Sunday, February 26, 2006

St. Louis' new addition to the staff pitched batting practice to Pujols, Encarnacion and Ankiel among others.

JUPITER, Fla. -- After nine straight days of beautiful Florida weather, the St. Louis Cardinals experienced scattered showers during Saturday's practice.

Sidney Ponson and Anthony Reyes were scheduled to pitch back-to-back live batting practice sessions to catcher Gary Bennett, following Jason Marquis and Brian Falkenborg. Rain made Falkenborg start and stop his session.

Ponson seemed unfazed by the conditions and battled through the elements to throw 35 pitches, five short of his pitch count.

"My arm feels good," said Ponson. "It was raining, the ball is slippery, you have a lot of things going through your mind. You don't want to slip and injure yourself. You don't want the ball to get away from you and hit one of the guys."

Ponson threw every pitch in his arsenal to a hitting group that included Albert Pujols, Juan Encarnacion, Rick Ankiel, Larry Bigbie, So Taguchi and Michel Hernandez.

"I threw everything today," Ponson said. "Sinker to both sides, slider both sides, changeup. You have to start working on it. The games are right around the corner next week."

Reyes was forced to throw 40 pitches inside the batting cages because of the rain.

After the rain subsided, Jeff Nelson threw live batting practice for the first time this spring.

"I think if I stay healthy, I'll be OK," said Nelson. "Now that I don't throw 94 or 95 miles per hour anymore, my slider is basically my best pitch. They pretty much know I'm 39, so I'm not a young guy anymore."

Nelson appeared in 49 games last year with Seattle, compiling a 1-3 record with a 3.93 ERA and one save in 36 2/3 innings.

"That's why he's here," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said. "There's potential there. We got a veteran, so he knows himself better than anybody, especially us."

Jim Edmonds was not in camp Saturday, but was expected to return Monday. He was attending to family matters in California.

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