Cardinal Love Letter: The Pitching Staff

Dear guys,

Now that the Super Bowl is over, next up — finally — is baseball. It’s just over a week now until you’ll all be in Jupiter, Fla., with Yadi and Tony Cruz and the minor league catchers and the St. Louis Cardinals will finally start moving toward the 2013 season.

Ah … Last October seems like forever ago, so it’s good that our countdown is in the single digits.

As if that alone isn’t enough to get me excited, the season preview articles I’ve read in the past couple days just up my admiration for you collectively all the more. There was this in USA Today last week, “Healthy staff generates optimism in St. Louis,” and a Yahoo Sports preview too. And Jenifer Langosch wrote the “Cardinals boast remarkable depth in rotation,” which of course doesn’t mention all of you in the bullpen who also are a strength of the team.

Pitching, and pitchers, have fascinated me for years, going back to my own very brief and ill-fated softball pitching career. Because you don’t realize, or at least I didn’t, the power the pitcher has over controlling the game. The pace, the momentum, the outcome — it’s all right there, resting on you and when you decide to throw that ball and set the next play in motion.

(And when you walk batter after batter after batter, and your coach ignores your frantic glances to the dugout as you internally plead for him to take you out of the game, so you keep walking batter after batter … well, it stays with you for a very long time. Obviously. Plus, way back in 2000, my own experience made me want to hug Rick Ankiel. And, more recently, made me feel sorry for Ryan Franklin. But enough of that …)

The mix of experience and youth in both the starting rotation and the bullpen is what’s so exciting, because there’s such great possibility there. Of course it’s amazing to at last, for the first time since 2010, have Chris and Adam healthy and ready to go once spring training really starts. I cannot wait to see pictures like this again with both of you together and throwing in the sunshine. (Well, obviously I want to see more pictures of CC than anyone else — but we all know my feelings for him.)

There is still the injury question for Jaime, and seeing you say “We’ll see. We’ll see in April. So far it’s been good,” doesn’t necessarily inspire a huge amount of confidence. So, as you said, we’ll see. If things aren’t good, at least we know there are more-than-capable arms ready to step in.

Jake, it is good to read that you are healed up from the oblique injury and ready to go. Wondering if you and Wainwright spent time crafting more dance routines over the winter too …

Lance, it was terrific to see our little Wolf Pup do so well for much of last season. Yep, you had your ups and downs, but the pluses far outweighed the minuses and I look forward to seeing you back out there again — whether you’re starting or relieving.

Speaking of ups and downs, Shelby, I think it was good your 2012 went the way it did. Not that seeing someone struggle is good, but you learned some lessons throughout that first half in Memphis and, even more importantly, applied what you learned — to great results. Your first big league start on the final day of the regular season is still on my DVR and I’ve enjoyed watching it several times (and your hitting as well). A bigger stage than when I saw you back here in the Quad Cities in 2010, but you’ve earned your way there. And it will be great to see what you can do regularly in the majors.

Speaking of the Quad Cities — Joe and Trevor, my other former Bandits, I could not have been more thrilled for both of you last season. My little guys, there in the big leagues, and me feeling like a proud mom watching you both shine. Joe, it probably surprised us all you were there first but you soon showed us the reason why — as well as your adorableness (or “adorable mess”) and your charm for dealing with a new nickname like “Baby Giraffe.” Trevor, now everyone knows about you and your 100 mph fastball and pitching prowess I had the chance to watch just back in 2011. It will be so exciting to watch you both continue to blossom and grow in the year ahead.

Rzep, I am probably one of the few who can easily spell your last name with no problem given that one of my best friends went from being a Pyszka to a Szymski when she got married. Beyond that, though, here’s to a 2013 that’s more like 2011 than 2012.

Randy, welcome and keep up the LOOGY-ness.

Edward, you were a great addition late last July. Keep owning that seventh inning, buddy, and hopefully we’ll get to see more pictures of you like this.

Mitchell, you’re terrific and it’s good to see your talent recognized. And let it be known that I thought you were worthy of our monthly BAMF award last July (and provided one of those votes for you). Just keep doing what you do!

And, finally, Jason, congratulations on your new deal. You’ve been reliable as a closer, you’re a joy to watch and I think of you often since you’re — or your gnome facsimile — next to my desk at work. (Just one of you, though.) Can’t wait to see you and your beard back out there getting the job done to seal another victory.

Guys, eight more days — only eight more days. I can’t wait, and I really can’t wait for April 1 to arrive when I’ll get the chance to watch and appreciate all that you do both individually and collectively once again. Good pitching stops good hitting, as the saying goes, and we know that the 2013 Cardinals will be filled with a staff full of talent.

Love to you all (and maybe to one more than the rest — if I’m being honest),
Chris


Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email aaronmilesfastball@gmail.com. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.

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