Cardinals coach Marmol sidelined with flu; Dickerson starts at DH | Cardinal beat

With the Cardinals having an unusual early-season workload of nine games in nine days starting Saturday afternoon, manager Oliver Marmol said his bench players will have starting chances. But, before the match started, Marmol, who said in his pre-match media briefing that he was not feeling well, was sidelined by team medical officials after receiving diagnosed with the flu and bench coach Skip Schumaker handled the game.

Marmol was tested for COVID-19 and the results were negative.

The first roster change came to the designated hitter Saturday when Corey Dickerson, a left-handed hitter who has been on seven other teams, including Pittsburgh, faced Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller. Albert Pujols, a right-handed hitter, had served as DH in Thursday’s opener in Pujols’ triumphant return after 10 seasons away.

“(Dickerson) is a professional batter,” Marmol said of the outfielder who is a career .283 hitter. “When you look at that DH spot and you can have somebody on the right side like Albert and then Dickerson on the left side…those guys know what it takes. They don’t get away with it. They understand rhythm, so having a veteran in there is key.

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Dickerson, who had four 20-plus homer seasons but not recently, was working to restore his power this spring. “We’re excited about Dickerson and some of the things he’s done with the lower half (of his body) . . . so he can generate a little more juice,” Marmol said.

The rest of the bench – Andrew Knizner, Lars Nootbaar and Edmundo Sosa – played a lot in the spring and Marmol said: “We can mix it up a bit. It’s important, early on, that these guys get out of spring training and get a taste of it.

“Right from the start, it makes more sense to make sure the guys are healthy rather than pushing them through nine in a row. With spring training shortened, not extending guys as much as you normally would, we’ll try to be a little careful.

“It’s a good balance between keeping our starters fresh and our bench sharp.”

Right-hander Miles Mikolas, who has had a strong spring after missing most of the past two seasons with arm ailments, will face Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller, who is 2-0 in his career against the Cardinals and didn’t touch them for six innings a few years ago.

Mikolas could be the first Cardinals starting pitcher to help his team win a game against the Pirates at Busch Stadium after five straight losses, except when Adam Wainwright, Thursday’s winner, was the starting pitcher.

“(Mikolas) is stronger than ever,” Marmol said. “He was effective in his starts in the spring and that’s all we expect today.

Carlson and Vina have something in common

Dylan Carlson was on base two of five plate appearances as a point guard on Thursday. His bloop double was the first off-base hit by a Cardinals first hitter to open the season since 2000, when Fernando Vina hit three-peat.

Ironically, both Vina and Carlson grew up in Elk Grove, California, and Carlson’s father, also from Elk Grove, was a friend of Vina’s.

“(Vina’s) son went to high school right across from mine,” said Carlson, who said he had contact with elder Vina, who was a base thief from the starting point in addition to to be a basic player.

Carlson, who had just two interceptions in 2021 for the Cardinals, said he could do more this year. Having stolen 20 in the minors in 2019, he said: “It’s definitely part of my game. I really haven’t had to demonstrate it that much so far but it’s definitely a part of the game that I would like to develop by myself.

“But, with the guys I have behind me (in the lineup), sometimes you’re in a position to score at first base,” Carlson said.