The Cardinals had their first full-squad workout today at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, and here are five quick things we picked up on in The Fast Lane’s first day of broadcasting from Spring Training…
1) Manager Mike Shildt is taking the fundamentals back to ground zero: I asked Shildt about this because the fielding and baserunning were so good last year, among the best in baseball. So with what the players know, does he need to teach fundamentals THIS spring? Yes. Shildt noted that the veteran players know the language and what everything means. But there are new players here, and young players, and not everything sticks with every player during the off-season. So in practicing double plays, or wheel plays, or throws down to second base…every player starts from the bottom and works their way up. Same with pitchers fielding bunts and throwing home or to first. Every little thing is re-learned and practice, which imbues a team with knowledge of what’s expected of them when a play occurs. Assuming that everybody is enthused, the fundamental play should be good again.
2) Matt Carpenter is working on taking the ball to left field: We watched Carpenter in BP on a back field, and there was a concerted effort on his part to hit the ball to the left side when he was in the box. Carpenter became pull-happy over the last couple of years and spent considerable at bats hitting into the shift. His desire to hit the ball the other way would seemingly help him get back to the form that allowed him to hit 55 doubles in 2013, 33 in 2014 and 44 more in 2015. Carpenter can be a better overall hitter if he goes the other way, so the early desire to do so is a positive.
3) If healthy, the bullpen will be deep and talented: With Carlos Martinez seemingly returning to the rotation, there’s going to be plenty of competition to sort out during spring training. Who’s the closer? Who gets the eighth and seventh inning? Is there a swing man? A long man? Working from the closer back, it would seem Geovanny Galllegos, Ryan Helsley and Andrew Miller would fit the bill for those roles. You’re going to have John Brebbia, John Gant, Kwang Hyung Kim and either Tyler Webb or Genesis Cabrera down there. Plus, if he’s healthy, Alex Reyes. If Reyes isn’t healthy (not out of the question) it could be a bullpen with more lefties, or people like Daniel Ponce De Leon or Angel Rondon could join the mix. If Miles Mikolas’ injury is worse than expected, KK could find himself in the rotation and upend the composition of the ‘pen.
4) Players are responding to Adam Wainwright’s leadership: Waino told us that multiple players have come to him for advice as they traverse their early major league careers or try to make it to The Show. Wainwright has always taken it upon himself to help kids, but they seem to be more receptive this year. He said when he was in one of his first camps with the Braves, he showed up around the scheduled reporting time, and ran into Greg Maddux in the gym on the leg extension machine. Maddux…whom Wainwright adored as a youngster in Georgia…said “Adam, I’m here every morning at 6:00 if you want to talk pitching.” The youngster walked away and thought “this is going to be awesome,” then thought to himself “6:00?” He never did take advantage, and regrets it. He wants to impart his knowledge to Cardinal youngsters.
5) There are some young guns on the way: The Cardinals traded for Matthew Liberatore during the off season. He joins Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman as MLB top 100 prospects. Add to that list pitchers Rondon, Zach Thompson, Johan Oviedo and Kodi Whitley. Catchers Andrew Knizner, Ivan Herrera and Julio Rodriguez have all caught the club’s eye. There’s more youth that the organization likes on the way, and you’ll get on opportunity to see most of them during games this spring.
Brad Thompson, Chris Rongey, Brad Barnes and I will be on from 7-11 in the morning every day this week. Join us on the radio for more Cardinal Spring Training Coverage on 101 ESPN.