As the second day of Cards fan crazy mania came to a close, I found myself seeing this experience go by way too quickly. This has been an amazing experience mixing it up with players, other writers and fans. For Cardinals faithful, this is their comic con. A chance to meet, greet and talk to a few of your favorite players.
In the media room, Sunday saw a flurry of players come across the microphone. Matt Adams got things rolling, and he was followed by Shelby Miller, Shane Robinson, Joe Kelly, Matt Carpenter, Carlos Martinez, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Lance Lynn. A surprise appearance by Tony La Russa gave way to the most candid and laid back discussion with the newly minted Hall of Fame manager I have ever seen. All in all, a wonderful day. Here are some bits to enjoy as we come up on the final day of festivities.
What did 2013 do for Joe Kelly and what did he find out? “That I can be pretty good. Gaining confidence. It’s not a fluke. I carried some swagger and confidence, and proved I can be better than my opponents.”
Are you expecting to be a starter in 2014? “I haven’t really thought about it to be honest. I can’t even remember pitching in the World Series. I had to watch it recently. It’s the same since I was 5 years old. That feeling. It’s hard for ordinary people to understand. It’s not like I say I have earned anything. I will go out there and do what I can.”
Outfield prospect Stephen Piscotty praised the Cardinals player development system and said it helped him and his agent come to an easy decision on where to sign during draft time. “Before I was drafted, my agent went through all the organizations and how they develop players. The Cardinals were at the very top of the list. The coaches at every level. The way the players are treated. This organization seeks out high character guys.”
Shane Robinson didn’t expect anything different this spring as far as proving himself. “Coming into camp, the team knows what I have to offer so I just need to do my job. That’s worked out so far.”
Carlos Martinez seemed ready for any role in 2014 but has his mind on starting(with the help of a interpreter). “Mike told me to keep working on starting, to prepare to fight for a spot because it will be there waiting for me. Which does he find more difficult, starting or relieving? “Relieving is a little bit easier. As a starter, you have to pace yourself a little more. I’ve always wanted to start so that’s my goal.”
Jon Jay got married in the offseason but was ready to fight for playing time this season. “It’s the same as it always is. I will come in and be ready to compete. I have been in the same situation before. It’s one of those situations where you do whatever it takes to win.”
Allen Craig doesn’t have any concerns with his foot going into the spring. “I took a month off after the season, and then I started working out and rehabbing. I feel really good. I’ll be ready for spring training.” Craig has been told he will be playing primarily in right field with Adams moving to first base and Bourjos/Jay/Oscar. He isn’t worried about the additional wear and tear of an outfielder. “It doesn’t matter which position I play, as long I am healthy. I’ve done more running and agility training as well as more long toss.” Craig attributed the team’s hitting with runners in scoring position to being keen communicators and transferring information to each other during a game.
A usually high energy guy and not one to rest for long, Matt Carpenter needed a couple weeks to rest after a long season. At the same time, he is ready to roll now. “I am excited to go back to third base. It’s my home.” Reflecting on 2013, Carp added, “The accomplishment of learning that new position. The fact that when you put your mind to something and to be able to do that, that was pretty rewarding.” Does he feel personal pressure to follow up a strong season? “That’s the goal of every baseball player, to live up to expectations or exceed them. I will continue to do what I’ve always done. Every season, you come in and want to win it.”
Lance Lynn will probably carry a chip on his shoulder every spring training and was his usual blunt straightforward minded self with the media on Sunday. When asked why he stayed in St. Louis to train in the offseason, he pointed out that he had a one year lease to own up to. This past offseason, Lynn didn’t worry so much about weight and instead focused on strength. “I focused on getting as strong as I can be. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh and if you get strong than things will take care of themselves.”
Lynn doesn’t see himself as anything other than a starter and sees the same competition every year in the rotation. “It’s like that every year. 26 players report and compete so this year isn’t any different.” While he has had success in the bullpen, Lynn wants to start. “I’m a starter so that’s it.” Lynn’s answers are short and sweet and while it can be odd and drain the air out of the room, there is an honesty to respect there. When asked about being a veteran on this team, he advised that his 26 years of age didn’t make him a veteran anywhere but that is a sign of how young the team is. Lynn was also proud of reaching 200 innings. “That’s your goal as a starter. Being a guy to go out there and get a quality start.” Lance Lynn will always be a player with something to prove that extends beyond a normal player and for this team, that may be a very good thing or a potentially treacherous terrain to walk across. We will find out.
I will be writing a much longer column on Tony La Russa’s extended media session but here are a few tidbits.
On getting into the Hall of Fame-“I convinced myself it wasn’t going to happen. You prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I was stunned.”
On working with former foes Joe Torre and Bobby Cox-“It used to be seeing them at the winter meetings and then for the most part across the diamond. I dealt with Joe in the MLB for 2 years and he is a prince. Bobby, you see him at meetings and he says hello, but then the game starts and he wants to beat you. Now, with us, it’s basically like the Winter Meetings all year round.”
On the one year anniversary of Stan Musial’s passing-“You don’t forget people like Stan. One of the best things that the ownership has done is remind our players and coaches that they are just a part of history. The greatest example of what a player should be. With Stan, he is the model.”
I will have more insight into Tony’s post managerial activities and his reflections on his greatest and toughest years in St. Louis later this week.
Keep coming back right here for more 2014 Winter Warmup Coverage because I will more insight today on Matt Holliday, Michael Wacha and Mike Matheny.