Your post this morning pointed out the main possibility — Yadier Molina missing a significant portion of the season. Most anything else I think the Cards can survive, but Molina going down would be rough.
The Cardinals have depth, but it is young and unproven at a lot of spots. An injury to a key player with little depth behind him could disrupt this team fairly quickly. An injury to a veteran starter and the young arms that have yet to pitch a full season are suddenly going to have to shoulder (pun intended) a lot of the inning load.
The team has the depth in various places to sustain an injury. But young players will have to play up to expectations for the Cards to be able to chug along without a key component. The pitching looks great on paper, but I wonder how hard they will push the young bucks. Time will tell.
With spring training games beginning at the end of the week, we are inching closer to the start of the 2014 season. We know the Cardinals are talented and deep and poised for success again this year, and that was even before learning they have eight of MLB Network’s Top 100 players in the game right now.
Yet there’s one player whose value is indispensable, who presence is invaluable and whose absence — despite the team’s depth — would be irreplaceable.
Of course, right? Yadi puts the bad-ass in BAMF, without a doubt.
Hearing the high praise for him during the MLB Network’s Top 100 Right Now countdown reminded me of that yet again, without hearing Dan Plesac say he’s hands-down the best catcher overall in the game of baseball right now and that the success of the entire Cardinals pitching staff — starters and relievers — is because of Yadi.
And that brings me to my biggest fear for 2014: Yadi getting hurt.
Injuries are unpredictable, as we Cardinals fans know all too well from experience, and an injury to any other member of the Cards is something they could probably handle without missing a beat. Jaime Garcia is having shoulder trouble after coming back from last season’s surgery? If it’s long-term, that just opens up the door for — take your pick — Joe Kelly, Tyler Lyons or Carlos Martinez in the rotation. The team has extraordinary depth in pitching, and certainly enough depth in the outfield and even the infield.
The final day saw a much more calming presence at the 2014 Winter Warmup. The frenzy was dialed down but the passion was there. Players like Peter Bourjos, Sam Freeman, Michael Wacha and Mike Matheny spent time with the media while fans flocked to them for signatures, small moments and a picture or two.
Part of my job here is separating the fan side of my personality from the professional side and being contingent on getting enough quotes from them for a good story and catching a glimpse into the way their minds work. The balance isn’t always easy and one time I was totally swept up in fan zone mania with….Seth Maness. After his session I asked him about his ability to quickly induce double play balls making the other bullpen guys jealous. He may have been on the verge of telling me a huge secret when suddenly I wouldn’t shut up. My rookie status stays quiet for only so long.
Here are some images, bits of info, quotes and other things from Day 3 of the Winter Warmup.
Sam Freeman expects to come into camp ready to compete for a spot in the bullpen. “Executing pitches one pitch at a time and letting everything fall into place. Control everything I have control over and keep it as simple as possible. The competition is something Freeman hasn’t thought about. “Go out there and perform to the best of my abilities.” Freeman does have things he wants to improve on. “Putting batters away. There were times where I had two strikes and let the batter back into the count.” When asked if he lets the situation of moving between Memphis and St. Louis creep into his pitching, Freeman simply said no. “I just let it fly man. Every time.”
Wacha is a confident kid and he gives that aura off every time he speaks, even though he appears very humble. Has he sat back and surveyed the world wind experience? “Yes. It was a heck of a run and gets me itching for it to get going again.” In his mind, the goal is to go out and be perfect, not giving up any hits or runs. Does he feel the pressure to top last year? “I wouldn’t say that. I can’t pay much attention to that. I have my own expectations for myself. The main goal is try not to do too much. Same mentality going into this year.”
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.”
As most everyone else does between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I’ve been thinking much about what I want to see in 2014. As the snow falls and the temps waver from low to high single digits, it’s only natural to think about spring … and baseball … and what I want to see from the Cardinals as the weather warms (both the temperature and my spirits!).
Taking a look back at last year’s New Year Wish List makes me wonder how much will change between now and October, but it’s fun to look ahead and wish, nonetheless.
So, as I watch the end of the college football season and look ahead to 365 days of new opportunities, here are 14 things I’m hoping to see from the 2014 Cardinals.
14. Visits to Busch, complete with a tour of Ballpark Village
We’ve been hearing about BPV for so long. This winter, watching the progress as it becomes a reality, has me yearning for the first opportunity to see it in person. (Like I need another excuse to visit the happiest place on earth!) The legacy that is St. Louis Cardinals baseball deserves a showplace worthy of its history, and here’s hoping the city does it up just right!
13. Chris Carpenter’s developing role
I know “front office guys” don’t usually show up in game recaps or headlines. But, I hope to hear what Carp is up to throughout the year. I mean, don’t you? Continue reading →