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Oliver Marmol returns Tyler O’Neill to lineup, ready to see ‘next step’: Cardinals Extra

MILWAUKEE — Whatever noise and criticism swirled outside the clubhouse about the comments he made about Tyler O’Neill’s baserunning, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol agreed Friday afternoon there was another message to send when he made out the lineup for the first road game of the regular season.

It was important for O’Neill to be in it.

“One hundred percent, yes,” Marmol said.

Three days after Marmol publicly questioned O’Neill’s effort on a pivotal play Tuesday night at Busch Stadium and one game after O’Neill did not appear in the lineup, the Gold Glove-winner was back in center field and batting sixth. There was more to the decision than O’Neill’s four hits and three homers against Milwaukee starter Brandon Woodruff. There was more than moving on, too. The whole goal, the manager explained, was moving up.

“I think he’s one of the most talented players in that clubhouse,” Marmol said of O’Neill. “There’s a next step for Tyler in his career, and my job is to get him there.”

In the seventh inning Tuesday night, O’Neill was thrown out by several strides at home plate. He appeared to slow rounding third, and Statcast data clocked him at slightly slower than his average speed of last year, which ranked elite in baseball. O’Neill acknowledged that he needed a better jump, but he pushed back on Marmol’s criticism of his effort. When asked by reporters about that specific play, Marmol called it “unacceptable.” He had shared that description first with O’Neill after checking if the outfielder was injured.

Both spoke to the local media about their views of the play.

Marmol received criticism from some national media for making such a comment publicly and not keeping it within the clubhouse. O’Neill said he wished the criticism had not been “loose” publicly. He has said he is eager to respond the best way he knows — pushing beyond the exchange with production.

For Marmol, the decision to share what he had told O’Neill stretched back to meetings he had with players during or even before spring training. He engaged each player to learn what their expectations were of themselves and the team for the season, and then he discussed how he would hold the players accountable to them. He asked them to do the same with him.

“There’s a difference between holding a grudge and holding someone accountable,” Marmol said. “Those are two completely different things. Holding a grudge is holding onto something once you’ve already made your point. Holding someone accountable is very different. It’s your ability to sit down with a player before the lights come on before the stadium is packed and ask them what they want for themselves and what they want for the team. And allowing them to articulate that and then asking for permission to hold them to that. And when it doesn’t look right, you hold them to that.”

Before entering the press conference Tuesday night, Marmol had already spoken to O’Neill, already shared his criticism personally with the outfielder, and the two would talk again after their public comments. Since being named manager in October 2021, Marmol has said he prefers direct questions from the media because his preference is blunt, direct answers. He had his answer ready before meeting the media.

“I’m very aware of what to keep in-house,” Marmol said Friday.

And he said that bluntly.

Steps ahead for Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright, out since the final week of spring training due to a strained muscle near his hip, is using his time on the injured list to address more than the injury. Wainwright completed a 28-pitch bullpen session Thursday at Busch Stadium, and he will repeat the same workout Sunday by simulating two innings of about 15 pitches.

The Cardinals will determine Monday if he increases the number of pitches he throws in a bullpen session Wednesday, and that could be the trampoline that sends him into a rehab start with a minor-league affiliate.

Along the way, Wainwright has been working to address a weakness he felt early in spring training. The veteran right-hander described how he felt his velocity sag because he was not getting the same drive from his legs and that he and the team had identified a need to strengthen his glutes and legs. The recovery from the current injury is giving him that chance.

“I think it’s a very good opportunity for that,” Marmol said. “And he says he’s going to take full advantage of him doing it all at once.”

Uniform blues, injury updates

The Cardinals will not wear their victory blue jerseys Saturday against Milwaukee because the uniforms have not been delivered by their manufacturer, Fanatics. This is the second consecutive season that the Cardinals have not had a full complement of their jerseys to start the season due to the manufacturer falling behind on deliveries. … Lars Nootbaar (thumb) traveled with the team so that he could begin a hitting progression. Eligible to return from the injury list during the two-city trip, Nootbaar will test his thumb Monday at Coors Field, and the team will determine if he’s set to return soon after. … Paul DeJong (back) went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a strikeout in the first game of his rehab assignment with Class A Palm Beach. DeJong started at designated hitter, and playing the field will be a significant step because his sore back has been its most ornery when fielding grounders. … Wilking Rodriguez (shoulder) has not yet advanced to throwing off a mound, though the Cardinals expect him to do so at Busch Stadium while they’re on this road trip.

St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Tyler O'Neill takes batting practice at the Cardinals spring training complex in Jupiter, Fla., on Tuesday, Feb, 14, 2023. 

St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Tyler O’Neill takes batting practice at the Cardinals spring training complex in Jupiter, Fla., on Tuesday, Feb, 14, 2023. 

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O'Neill (27) is tagged out at home plate by Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy (12) during the seventh inning on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. 

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill (27) is tagged out at home plate by Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy (12) during the seventh inning on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. 

Derrick Goold

@dgoold on Twitter

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