The 30-year-old is one of the more intriguing projects in Cardinals camp, given his conversion from outifelder to pitcher last season in the Dodgers organization. Schafer has an extensive minor league career that dates back to 2005, and has also accrued 1,292 big league at-bats over 463 games. However, considering his career .228/.308/.307 line in the majors, the move to pitcher may be his last chance to stick with a team at this level. Schafer got that quest off to a solid start Sunday, and both Lilliquist and manager Mike Matheny look forward to evaluating him for a job as a possible southpaw specialist out of the bullpen later into the exhibition schedule against the likes of Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Christian Yelich. "Early on, the hitters aren't ready," said Lilliquist. "So maybe 10, 12 games into it, they're staying in the game longer and by that time they're getting three at-bats. Then, put him in and see how he matches up."
The 24-year-old right-hander brings a quirky pitching motion, and apparently, a repertoire impressive enough to catch the eye of his new pitching coach in his first up-close look of Gant against hitters. The 6-foot-5 hurler acquitted himself decently over his first 20 major league appearances in 2016, a stint that included seven starts. Gant was only 1-4, but did whiff 49 over 50 innings for the Braves, enduring a near two-month absence due to an oblique injury that knocked him out of the starting rotation. His best chance of breaking camp with the major league club could well be in the bullpen, given the Cardinals' solid starting rotation.
The veteran closer is thus off to an auspicious start this spring, a good sign considering he'll be counted on as the Cardinals' full-time closer in 2017. Oh earned the job last season after successfully converting 19 of 23 save opportunities in the wake of former closer Trevor Rosenthal's multiple DL stints.
Hand had his best season as a professional last season in San Diego (2.92 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 21 holds), something that many pitchers experience when becoming a Padre. It was more than just ballpark factor that contributed to his newfound success, as his strikeout rate (11.2) and FIP (3.12) experienced tremendous growth while the rest of his metrics remained relatively constant. The biggest change Hand made last season was relying on his curveball more than he has in year's past. He threw his bender 31.4 percent of the time last season compared to 15.1 percent the year prior. Hand will look to repeat his 2016 success and should be a decent source of holds in either a seventh or eighth inning role this year.
Butcher was the Padres' best southpaw out of the pen last season, posting a 2.86 ERA and an 11.1 K/9 while collecting 20 holds. He should serve a similar role this season as the team's left-handed setup man and be a decent source of holds in leagues that count them.
Stoffel signed a minor league deal with the Pirates this offseason which included an invitation to spring training. He's being listed as day-to-day with his shoulder discomfort, so the injury does not appear to be overly serious.
The 19-year-old went 8-7 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 122 innings at Low-A Peoria and High-A Palm Beach last season. Fernandez was excellent over his final three starts of 2016, generating an 0.71 ERA. He could open the season at Double-A Springfield after becoming the youngest player in the Florida State League last season.
Travieso is behind other hurlers after undergoing an offseason procedure to repair an impingement caused by his scapula pushing against his right shoulder. The 23-year-old right-hander said he's been finding his arm slot and is expected to push out to 90 feet Sunday. Travieso, Cincinnati's 20th-ranked prospect according to RotoWire, had a 3.84 ERA in 117.1 innings over 23 starts at Double-A Pensacola last season while coping with a couple injuries. Moving up to Double-A, he found hitters more selective and his walk rate jumped. If Travieso doesn't start the season at Triple-A Louisville, he's expected to reach that level at some point in 2017.
Harris did not pitch last season after having the ligament in his right elbow repaired, although contrary to previous reports, he did not require a full reconstruction or Tommy John surgery. The 31-year-old finally made his major league debut in 2015, generating a 2-1 record, 3.67 ERA and 1.59 WHIP over 27 innings. He'd been rehabbing along the major-league pitchers for several weeks, and will now look to demonstrate his readiness for the coming season during spring training.
Familia was a late arrival to spring training due to visa issues, but this absence is expected to be related to an MLB investigation into domestic violence allegations. It's not clear when the league will make its decision, but the reliever is preparing to represent the Dominican Republic in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.