JUPITER, Fla. -- Allen Craig and Patrick Wisdom grew up in neighboring towns in Southern California, though the seven-year age difference between the two never offered them much opportunity to cross paths in baseball circles. Their introductions actually came some 2,600 miles away from home in the Cardinals' clubhouse last spring.
Time together followed over the winter.
That was initiated by Craig, who reached out to Wisdom after the 2013 season to see if he would like to join him a few times each week to work out. Wisdom, having just finished his first full professional season, embraced the invitation.
"We kind of grew up in the same town, same area, so we're familiar with the same scenery," Wisdom said. "We have this connection of where we've been so far, and so we can kind of relate. I don't want to step on his toes or anything. He has his own process, his own regimen. I just like to be there and watch him and learn from him and pick his brain."
"I think it's pretty clear that he's got a lot of talent, a lot of physical tools," added Craig. "He's a good guy. He works hard. Obviously, it was fun to be around him, just talking the game. It was casual, hanging out, talking about baseball."
The two found connections beyond proximity, too. Wisdom had played baseball with one of Craig's cousins. They were both drafted out of college, with Craig having gone to the University of California, Berkeley and Wisdom to St. Mary's College. Those campuses sit about 12 miles apart.
Wisdom was the higher Draft pick (No. 52 overall in 2012) out of college, though Craig has the credentials Wisdom envies. Wisdom split 2013 between two Class A clubs, with which he established himself as one of the best infield prospects in the organization. Craig solidified his spot on the national radar last season with one of the best "clutch" seasons by any Major League player in the past four decades.
It wasn't so much that success but the journey to it that Craig wanted to share with the 22-year-old third baseman.
"We live in a somewhat large town, but it's a small town in terms of the baseball community," Craig said. "He's fairly young in his professional career, and he has a lot of talent. There are some struggles that I had coming up, and obviously, he's a pro and he knows exactly what he's doing, but if there is any little type of message from just talking the game and communication back and forth that can help, then I'm all for it. There are things that I learned from him, that he learned from me. That's the best type of baseball relationship you can have -- just talking the game and getting better."
It is also, manager Mike Matheny said, another component of the oft-recited Cardinal Way.
"That's what makes this place special," Matheny said. "These guys are constantly doing things like that. You have to have talent, too, and obviously, he has some."
Bold Lynn wants to come up big for Cards
JUPITER, Fla. -- Lance Lynn made a bold assertion after throwing two scoreless innings against the Marlins in his spring debut on Saturday:
"This is the best I've felt arm-wise, ever," Lynn said. "I've been able to work and not worry about some things that I've had to worry about in the past."
That insistence comes after he threw a career-high 201 2/3 innings in the regular season and another 17 1/3 in October. One to get stronger the deeper he pitches into a game, he thinks there could be a similar benefit with the more innings he puts on his arm.
Lynn was one of two Cardinals pitchers (Adam Wainwright being the other) to reach the 200-innings benchmark in 2013. Carrying a rotation still dotted with youth, the Cardinals target having Lynn surpass that number again. Being a reliable workhorse is also among his primary goals.
"When you're coming up in the Minor Leagues, that's what you want to hear -- that you can be a guy who goes deep into games and throw 200 innings," he said. "When I first got here, that's what everyone prided themselves on, being a 200-innings guy and saving the bullpen. We had some guys who did that before when I came up and my first couple of years here. Hopefully, I can be that guy from here on out."
The spring schedule is long enough for Lynn to get a healthy amount of innings under his belt before the season even starts. He has time to make six starts before April, though manager Mike Matheny said it is still a possibility that the 26-year-old right-hander will stop at five. The Cardinals have not yet promised Lynn a spot in the rotation, but he is expected to be among the five the club carry out of camp.
Matheny not ready to settle on a batting order
JUPITER, Fla. -- Jhonny Peralta got his Cardinals debut out of the way on Saturday, going 0-for-2 in three innings as the cleanup hitter. Now speculation turns to where he'll fit in the batting order once the games actually count.
Manager Mike Matheny admits to having written several potential lineups, but he has chosen not to settle on one just yet. The batting orders he is crafting in these early spring games don't provide much insight into what he could be thinking in the long term, either, because of the unique variables in play now.
In using Carlos Beltran as his No. 2 hitter regularly last season, Matheny displayed his preference for filling that spot with a run-producing bat. Peralta would seem to fit that mold in Beltran's absence, even though the new shortstop has little experience hitting in the top third of the order.
"I know that has been a hot topic, really, all winter, and everybody wants to get to the end of it," Matheny said. "I think we do ourselves a favor by just continuing to watch how this unfolds and how guys take their at-bats, realizing that the thing that means the most to us; we need those first two guys to get on base. Now the second guy, obviously, may have some more opportunities to drive in runs, so that's a criteria. But it is guys who are grinding out those at-bats to get on base for three-four-five [hitters]. That's going to be what it comes down to."
The Cardinals did maximize production out of the two-hole last season, leading the National League in average (.304), home runs (24) and RBIs (95) from that spot. The club's on-base percentage from the position was .350, second highest in the league.
The Cardinals hit nine players second last season; Beltran, Jon Jay, Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina all had at least a dozen starts there.
"If we go into Spring Training saying, 'This is our guy to bat second,' we're not open to see what could possibly be best for our club. And I don't think that's the right way to go about it," Matheny said. "We're going to keep our eyes open, just give everybody the opportunity to go out and show what they can do, then trust that we're going to try and do what's right as far as how they go in their order."
• Matheny reported that Trevor Rosenthal (strained right groin) is improving and has increased the intensity of his workouts. It has not yet been announced when Rosenthal will make his Grapefruit League debut. Rosenthal, who last pitched on Tuesday, will need to throw on the side before the Cardinals will allow him to make that first game appearance.
• In advance of his first spring start, on Thursday, Adam Wainwright threw his third batting-practice session of the spring on Saturday. He simulated two innings of work by taking a rest halfway through. The Cardinals plan to have Wainwright start five Grapefruit League games before he takes the mound on Opening Day.
• Peralta's next spring appearance will be on Monday, when the Cardinals travel to Lakeland, Fla., to face the Tigers. Peralta spent four seasons with Detroit before signing as a free agent with St. Louis in November. Matheny has already discussed those travel plans with Peralta, who agreed to the assignment.
• Infielder Greg Garcia exited Saturday's game in the seventh inning with a cramp in his left hamstring. Matheny noticed that Garcia looked uncomfortable on defense in the sixth and again when he reached first in the seventh after being hit in the back by a pitch. After advancing to second, Garcia was removed for a pinch-hitter.
"It was just something that was kind of out of whack," Matheny said. "The trainers seemed to be able to line him up a little. It feels better already. ... He's put together some tough at-bats. He'll scrap in there at the plate. He plays good solid defense. He's a very diverse player."
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.