Edmonds slowly works his way into playing form

Sunday, March 14, 2004

JUPITER, Fla. -- One good thing about Jim Edmonds' recuperation from offseason shoulder surgery: It's giving the St. Louis Cardinals a chance to give the multitude of candidates for the left-field job more playing time.

Edmonds, a center fielder, is coming off an early December operation and is taking things one small step at a time this spring. His debut sometime is scheduled for sometime in the next week.

"What we need to do is get him in there so we can pace him properly," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

Edmonds took some batting practice swings earlier in the week and faced a handful of major league pitches for the first time when Woody Williams, recovering from shoulder tendinitis, threw on Friday. So far Edmonds has not been pleased with his progress.

"I'm having a hard time imagining playing right now," Edmonds said. "I just try to come in every day and make progress, and whenever they want me to play, I'll play. I'm doing all right, but it's hard to imagine what game speed is going to take."

Edmonds endured a pain-filled second half of the 2003 season after aggravating a shoulder injury in the home-run derby contest before the All-Star Game. He had 39 home runs and 89 RBI, his second straight year below 100 RBI.

Noteworthyn St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Woody Williams felt fine on Saturday, the day after throwing two hitters for the first time, and his next outing likely will be in a spring training game.

Japanese import So Taguchi, battling for an extra outfield spot, was 2-for-3 with a stolen base and a walk. He's 5-for-8 in his last two games after starting the spring 1-for-12, for a .300 average.

Taguchi is entering the final year of a three-year, $3 million contract and is somewhat confident of his chances.

"I'm just trying to play hard," he said.

La Russa wasn't tipping his hand.

"He's playing well," the manager said. "He's just got to keep playing well."

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