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Stephen Piscotty working to get strength back after illness

JUPITER, Fla. -- The St. Louis Cardinals played their annual intrasquad game Monday afternoon and, with a coach throwing batting practice and a stiff breeze blowing out, it was a high-scoring affair even if nobody seemed to bother to keep score.

The two young outfielders the Cardinals are counting on this season were among those who hit home runs. Randal Grichuk hit two. Stephen Piscotty hit one.

That Piscotty was able to muscle up is welcome news considering he missed two days of workouts last week with what was diagnosed as the stomach flu. Piscotty said he lost seven pounds, but is working to put the weight back on.

"It's just starting to come back," Piscotty said. "It probably put me behind a little bit, but you'd rather it happen early in camp than later or even during the season."

The Cardinals are gradually ramping up the competitive environment. After a day off Tuesday, the team will play Florida Atlantic in an exhibition game Wednesday. That game will be started by young left-hander Austin Gombers, who attended FAU in nearby Boca Raton. On Thursday the Cardinals play the Marlins in their Grapefruit League opener.

Manager Mike Matheny said the team tries to encourage as much competition as possible, even in camp games. The stakes of the intrasquad game were that the losing team had to serve as clubhouse attendants. Pitchers Carlos Martinez and Seth Maness and first baseman Matt Adams spent part of the afternoon cleaning off the winning team's cleats.

"My favorite part is that every single year, the team that is into it the most wins the thing," Matheny said. "It's a valuable lesson to us, because there are a bunch of unhappy guys in there right now. From the toilets to the showers to the shoes to the dishes to the vacuuming. You name it. They have to do it all."