St. Louis Cardinals' Kolten Wong bats during an intrasquad practice baseball game at Busch Stadium Thursday, July 9, 2020, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

When catcher Yadier Molina arrived at the Cardinals’ clubhouse on Sunday, he greeted most of his teammates, who were dutifully spaced around the room, but had nothing of the sort for Miles Mikolas, the pitcher said.

Molina gave him a look that didn’t hide its meaning.

“I’ll get you today,” Mikolas translated.

Of the many new, often strict procedures players must follow to be ready for Major League Baseball’s shortened 2020 season — social distancing in the clubhouse, no high fives, individual rosin bags, no spitting except into a tube for the perpetual COVID-19 testing — an on-field twist is how often teammates have to face teammates.

With all 30 clubs self-contained at their ballparks for the first few weeks of “Summer Camp,” the competitors are more familiar than the competition. On Sunday at Busch Stadium, rather than catch Mikolas against an opponent, Molina faced Mikolas as the opponent.

In the five-inning intrasquad game Sunday at Busch Stadium, Mikolas pitched 2 2/3 innings to get ready for opening day while also facing teammates, like Lane Thomas, who are trying to win roles for opening day. Ryan Helsley and Jacob Woodford, two candidates for the opening day bullpen, faced hitters like Tyler O’Neill and Rangel Ravelo trying to secure their spots on the opening-day roster.

“It’s different — in that I get to immediately trash talk or not trash talk to them,” Mikolas said. “My mentality is the same. I’m going out there and I’m trying to get guys out. If I’m going fishing with (Kolten) Wong on the off day, I’m still looking at him as Public Enemy No. 1 when he gets in that box. It’s an instrasquad and we’re teammates but that short amount of time I’m not trying to be a friend. I’m trying to get ready for the season.”

The Cardinals have tinkered with elements of the intrasquad games to break the monotony while not sacrificing the preparation.

Sunday’s game ended in a 3-3 tie, though each team benefited from a “rollover run.” Early in camp, during the daily clubhouse “Ball Talk,” the Cardinals discussed ways to compensate the offense when an inning is cut short because a pitcher has reached his pitch count. What they agreed was that any inning ended with two outs would net one run, and any inning that ends with fewer than two outs would mean two runs. Manager Mike Shildt agreed that there had to be “a little bit of a reward” for the offense that sees an inning end abruptly.

The Cardinals also played three innings as if starting a game, and then the final two innings Sunday were considered the eighth and ninth to create high-leverage late game scenarios for Woodford and reliever Andrew Miller.

Miller struck out teammates Matt Carpenter and Wong to preserve the tie, and then went to the same dugout and eventually the same clubhouse.

This ain’t the Grapefruit League.

“We’re all buddies in this clubhouse. We have great chemistry,” O’Neill said. “It’s definitely a different mentality that you have to take into it. You have to get up a little more for it. I am still learning that. It’s weird facing Cardinals pitchers and seeing Cardinals fielders out there. I feel you have to really dig deep down. You’ve got to stay locked in.”

Shildt stressed that he didn’t worry about the doldrums setting in for the Cardinals as they finished their ninth workout and reached Monday, their scheduled off day. They still have more than a week of only seeing each other, and the team that drills together, takes COVID-19 tests together, is still the team that has to play against each other. The tie had its sloppy moments with Mikolas’ last inning ending after more infield errors (three) than (outs). The Cardinals’ Blue team committed four errors, two by Ravelo at first. Situational hitting came unraveled later before Harrison Bader’s two-out RBI single tied the game in the top of the simulated ninth.

The manager said he doesn’t expect the intrasquad games to soften any competitive edges, to drop players into cruise control because the sameness of the opponent.

Mikolas said he learned that his first time out.

Somewhat hesitant to pitch inside on a teammate during his live batting practice rounds, Mikolas gave up a long ball hit over the fence. He resolved not to let that happen Sunday.

“I didn’t want to throw it too far inside,” Mikolas said. “I don’t want to hit any of our players, but I knew that I had to commit to an inside fastball. It slipped (Sunday) and I hit a guy (Ivan Herrera). It is what it is. I guess I’d rather hit someone than give up a home run. I think that was looking at the game where I held back a little bit because they were teammates and, now, get off the plate.”

Originally, the Cardinals did not plan on having an exhibition game against another team, with veterans telling the front office they could get their work through intrasquad games. That thinking has shifted. The Cardinals are trying to finalize an exhibition game against Kansas City for July 22 at Busch Stadium. Mike Matheny’s Royals will be on their way to begin the season in Cleveland; the Cardinals awaiting Pittsburgh for a July 24 opener.

“It would be nice to play outside competition,” Shildt said. “An exhibition game is good for a lot of reasons. The hope is that it will be televised and people kind of get the feel and see it. From our perspective, probably the biggest benefit outside of playing other competition, it will also give us a little dress rehearsal — just how everything flows on a game day.”

That still leaves more than a week of intrasquad games, which resume Tuesday. The games will gradually increase in length, but always have that informal aspect that an inning could end or a player could swap teams — things that don’t happen during Grapefruit games.

As that happens, and as some players have to elbow their way past teammates into roles or roster spots, the tone could change, and not veer toward repetition.

“I think we’ll see even more of an edge,” said Mikolas, who got a groundout from Molina the one time they faced each other. “Maybe see more trash talking and guys getting a little bit more gritty.”

Mikolas then volunteered an example: “It’s fun to pitch against Lane Thomas. He’s a good hitter. It’s fun to get him out.”

Thomas was standing nearby, off camera the entire time.

“I absolutely heard every second of that,” Thomas said. “We’ll have to take that into the next time we face each other.”

Just as Mikolas predicted.

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