MIA@STL: Taveras singles, steals second

JUPITER, Fla. -- Though the Cardinals won't trim their roster to 25 until after Friday's final Grapefruit League game, manager Mike Matheny has already informed players not projected to be on that roster of the team's intentions. Among those headed back to the Minors is top prospect Oscar Taveras, who will start the year in Triple-A.

Taveras, 20, has remained in camp this long in case injuries to any of the Cardinals' outfielders left the organization in a spot where it had to push Taveras onto the Major League roster immediately. With Carlos Beltran proving he can tolerate the pain from a fractured right toe, the Cardinals don't have such need.

"I thought it was a terrific learning experience for him," Matheny said of Taveras' first big league camp. "I don't think there could have been a better spring for somebody as far as how much was invested into him. And how he responded is exactly how he should respond. He's got things that he needs to work on and he knows those things."

After spending all of the 2012 season in Double-A, Taveras will face improved competition a level up this season. He'll finish the Grapefruit League season with more at-bats than anyone else in the organization. Through Thursday, Taveras has 22 hits in 74 at-bats (.297 average).

"There are some things he needs to keep doing, and we talked about those," Matheny said. "I think it was just a great step in his maturity and his progress in his career. We've been clear that this is the same player we need you to be in Memphis, and we follow closer than what you think. You never know how this stuff works out. Do what you can do. Control what you can control. And in the end, you'll be where you are supposed to be."

Cardinals extending core group of players

Wainwright and the Cardinals agree to extension

JUPITER, Fla. -- For all the attention the Cardinals have received for their inability to retain Albert Pujols after the 2011 season, the club has since had a string of successful extension negotiations that have positioned the club to retain a core of players well into the future.

The five-year, $97.5 million extension that Adam Wainwright agreed to this week ensures he will be with the organization through the 2018 season. The deal comes just 13 months after the Cardinals successfully stopped catcher Yadier Molina from exploring free agency by signing him to a five-year, $75 million contract. If Molina's mutual option is exercised, he, too, will be a Cardinal through 2018.

In between those two deals, the Cardinals gained some cost certainty and at least one free agency year from Allen Craig, who, earlier this month, inked a five-year, $31 million extension with the club. In January, the Cardinals bought out Jason Motte's last arbitration seasons via a two-year agreement.

"You have to have a core and that core is this group of guys that this organization is committing to," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think you're seeing a common trend. You're seeing some guys that go about it the right way who are very talented, which is important. But these are guys who get it. They understand what this organization is all about. They understand the responsibility of what it means to be a Cardinal and doing it the right way, and the organization is trying to keep those guys so they can keep that environment. That, to me, is a great business move."

If Craig's club option is picked up, he, like Wainwright and possibly Molina, won't be a free agent until after the '18 season. Outfielder Matt Holliday, who signed a seven-year extension after the 2009 season, could be a Cardinal through 2017, should the organization exercise his option. Even starter Jaime Garcia fits on this timeline, as the four-year extension he signed in July 2011 includes the option for the Cardinals to extend the deal through 2017.

"In essence, when we look at a one-year or three-year or five-year window, we are trying to make sure that we retain our top talent that we know we can count on to be a part of the organization," general manager John Mozeliak said. "Then, we believe in what our system is going to produce to augment that."

Lynn utilizing old-school drills to fit new physique

MIA@STL: Lynn strikes out five over six scoreless

JUPITER, Fla. -- Lance Lynn closed out the spring with his strongest start yet, as well as with a clear vision for how he intends to maintain his mechanics and routine throughout the season.

Lynn turned to what he described as some "old-school drills" earlier this spring when he was adjusting his delivery to fit with his new physique. The right-hander entered camp 40 pounds lighter than he was at the conclusion of the 2012 season.

"Nothing else was working, so let's go back to when you first started pitching and things that you have done all through high school and through college and give that a go," Lynn said. "Those are the drills I was doing since I was 12 years old when I first started pitching. Sometimes you have to get back to the basics to get to where you want to go.

"I know for a while there it felt like we were going backwards. But sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards. It has worked out well."

One of those drills incorporated nothing more than a towel, which Lynn uses to simulate the reach and direction of his delivery and release point. He'd augment that with what he described as a bounce-back drill, designed to help him repeat his motion.

Lynn did the drills daily, and he plans to continue the routine into the regular season.

"The routine that I had last year wasn't enough," Lynn said. "I know what I need to do in between starts, what I need to do as the season goes on. Last year, I kind of was just flipping a coin seeing what it was going to be like since I had never really done it before at that level. I'm looking forward to knowing what I'm getting myself into."

Lynn will start the team's series finale in Arizona on Wednesday and could draw the start in the home opener should the Cardinals choose to skip the fifth spot in the rotation next week.

The six-inning start on Thursday was Lynn's longest this spring, though he was efficient enough to go that deep with fewer pitches than he threw his last time out. Lynn finishes Grapefruit League competition having allowed 13 earned runs on 26 hits in 23 2/3 innings (a 4.94 ERA).

"Lance Lynn was nasty," manager Mike Matheny said after the team's 1-0 win. "I thought he got better every single start. He's got a little edge now to him, and a lot of that comes from everybody second-guessing his offseason work habits. Good. I hope he carries it for a long time."

Worth noting

• Third baseman David Freese (lower back inflammation) said that he plans to hit in the batting cage on Friday for the first time since receiving a cortisone shot on Monday. Freese resumed weight lifting on Thursday and described himself as "progressing well." Freese will play in extended spring training games next week while the Cardinals are on their first regular-season road trip. He still hopes to be activated off the disabled list by April 8, the date of the team's home opener.

• Motte will begin the season on the DL but will make the opening West Coast road trip with the team. Motte, who has been shut down due to a right flexor tendon strain, is still not cleared to throw.

• The Cardinals finished Spring Training with a home attendance total of 98,715 in 16 games at Roger Dean Stadium. That average attendance of 6,169 falls just short of matching the Cardinals' average attendance (6,604) in 2012.