JUPITER, Fla. -- Inviting former players to serve as guest instructors has long been a feature of Cardinals Spring Training. Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Whitey Herzog are among those who have made regular spring trips to Jupiter for years.
This year, though, there's a new face in the bunch, as the organization finally convinced Hall-of-Fame closer Bruce Sutter to return to uniform as an extra coach. It is the first time Sutter, who finished his 12-year career in 1988, has been in uniform for Spring Training since he was a player.
"It took a lot of coaxing, but we got Bruce here," manager Mike Matheny said. "He was in here this morning sitting in the dark when I walked in at about 6 o'clock and we sat down and started talking shop. We love doing that. He was saying a couple things that he noticed. The guys will appreciate some of his viewpoints. He's got a great baseball mind."
Sutter joined the team on Thursday and spent part of the game conversing with current Cardinals closer Jason Motte in the dugout. The two have formed a friendship in recent years, and Motte was among those who reached out to Sutter during the offseason to encourage him to participate as a coach during Spring Training.
On Friday, Sutter, who saved 300 games during his career, observed Jake Westbrook as he threw a side session. He then followed Westbrook out to another field, where the two continued to talk pitching.
"If one thing that Bruce says helps out someone in here, his trip down here has been well worth it," Motte said. "He's kind of a low-key guy and said he didn't want to be in anyone's way. I said, 'I'm pretty sure you won't be in anyone's way if you come down here.' It's great to have a guy like that down here -- a guy who knows the game, who has played the game. He has a lot of knowledge that he can give to a bunch of people, me included."
Sutter, who declined a media request on Friday, is expected to remain in camp until the middle of next week. The Cardinals expect Herzog to arrive next weekend, Matheny said.
Wainwright officially tabbed to start Opening Day
JUPITER, Fla. -- It's long been assumed that the assignment belonged to Adam Wainwright, but on Friday, manager Mike Matheny finally made the news official: Wainwright will start the team's season opener on April 1.
The Opening Day start will be the third of Wainwright's career, though only one of the previous two actually went in the books. He started the team's opener in 2008, but none of the statistics count because the game was rained out before it became official. A year later, Wainwright earned a no-decision in the Cardinals' season-opening loss to Pittsburgh.
"It's a huge honor," Wainwright said. "An Opening Day starter for a big league ballclub and a world championship team in the St. Louis Cardinals, I think it's a tremendous honor. It's not something I take lightly. I'll be very motivated, very excited to make that start."
Matheny had informed Wainwright before camp opened that the right-hander would get the Opening Day nod but waited until the day of Wainwright's fourth spring start to make the news public.
"That's something that he certainly deserves," Matheny said. "He's the leader on our pitching staff."
Assuming the Cardinals maintain the rotation order they've been using throughout spring, Wainwright will be followed, in order, by Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook and either Joe Kelly or Shelby Miller. That would line Garcia up to start the home opener, unless the Cardinals use a scheduled off day to skip the fifth spot in the rotation during that first week.
Wainwright will make two more Grapefruit League starts before the regular season, and he seems to have little left to accomplish. The righty allowed one run on three hits and threw what the Cardinals estimated as 60 pitches in six innings on Friday. Over his last 10 2/3 innings, Wainwright has been scored upon only once.
That dominant stretch follows changes he made to lengthen his stride during the delivery.
"It's made a huge deal," Wainwright said. "It gives my pitches more life. I found that happy zone where I'm not extended too far and my ball flattens out, but I'm a little bit closer to the plate now and I'm able to get on top of the ball. I'm getting better downhill plane. There's a little bit more life involved. It's really been an adjustment that has helped in all aspects."
Rzepczynski cleared to pitch Saturday
JUPITER, Fla. -- Marc Rzepczynski received clearance from an eye doctor on Friday to resume pitching in games, and the Cardinals intend to waste little time getting the left-hander back in action. Manager Mike Matheny said that the club plans to pitch Rzepczynski in Saturday's game against the Marlins.
"That was the best news I've heard all week," Rzepczynski said. "I'm glad to be able to start my Spring Training again."
Rzepczynski is still not able to wear his contacts because of some lingering inflammation in his left eye. He said, though, that he expects to have no issue pitching without contacts in a day game. He hopes, too, that the inflammation is gone by the time he visits the eye doctor again next Wednesday.
If Rzepczynski gets on the mound this weekend, that will give him two weeks to prepare before the start of the season. He has already missed a week of games from this eye injury. Earlier in camp, he sat a week while nursing some soreness in his left biceps.
Those two interruptions mean that Rzepczynski has only logged four innings of work in Grapefruit League play. He has given up five hits, three runs (one earned), walked two and struck out three. Rzepczynski has thrown twice off the side mound since being hit in the eye by a piece of debris while he was playing golf last Friday.
• A day after informing the players of the moves, the Cardinals officially announced that they had reassigned Michael Wacha to Triple-A, optioned Victor Marte to Triple-A and optioned Eduardo Sanchez to Triple-A.
While Marte and Sanchez are expected to begin the year in Memphis' bullpen, Wacha's assignment is still to be determined. He will start in either the Double-A or Triple-A rotation, though manager Mike Matheny hinted toward the latter being the more likely destination.
"We believe," Matheny added, "that his talent has shown that he's not far."
• Wanting to get extra at-bats for position players, the Cardinals reverted back to using the designated hitter on Friday. Matheny said the club is nearing the point where it will eliminate the DH use permanently.
• Team USA and Team Puerto Rico are scheduled to meet in a World Baseball Classic elimination game on Friday night in Miami. That means that the Cardinals are about to get at least one of their players back in camp. Either Mitchell Boggs (USA) or Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico) will be returning to Jupiter this weekend.
"I never want to root against our guys," Matheny said, "but it will be nice to have some of the other players back."
The winner of Friday's Classic game advances to the championship round in San Francisco.
• Football legend Joe Namath threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Roger Dean Stadium before the start of Friday's game.
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.