It’s been a rough winter for many in Cardinal Nation. Snow, ice and bitter cold seem to have been our constant companions. While there’s no guarantee that the winter weather is over, we do know that spring is here in the important way. For today, those that pitch and those that catch are required to be in Jupiter.
It’s a bit of an archaic term, pitchers and catchers report. Perhaps in the olden days, when teams traveled together by train or players had to give two weeks’ notice on their off-season job before they could get free to play baseball it meant more. Now, with players working out basically year-round and with the financial resources to get to Florida or Arizona whenever they want, if a pitcher or catcher isn’t already down there working, they are late, even if the calendar says they are on time. Many of the position players are down there already, wanting to get a jump on the season.
Still, for an archaic term, it brings a smile to the face and a glow to the heart. For baseball, the only real sport, is truly back.
The stories and images are already starting to come out of the spring training facility, warming us even more. Ben did a great job of collecting Derrick Goold’s photography over at his site, though if you missed it, you must check out Goold’s use of Matt Sebek’s Rookies app to create ballcards of the scribes (last five at that link) that are covering the team. (That’s the real important thing, honestly–players can work out all winter long, but when the writers show up to cover it, that’s when we start getting our news.) The bright red of the warmup jerseys contrasts brilliantly with the blue sky and the green grass. It’s stirring, giving us just a taste of what’s to come.
Of course, the pictures are nice, but the stories are better. (Well, depending on who is writing them, of course. Your mileage may vary.) So let’s take a look at what is in the paper this morning.
First up, Trevor Rosenthal, at least publicly, is getting used to the idea of being a closer. Rosenthal, who of course came up through the ranks as a starter and counts Chris Carpenter as one of the guys he wanted to be like, seems to find being the closer a little more exciting and intriguing than he has in the past. It still sounds like he’d jump at a starting chance, but he realizes he can help the team in the role he’s in, plus there’s no obvious spot in the rotation. At least we know he can handle the pressure–a save in mid-June is no big deal to a guy that got a save on baseball’s biggest stage, right?
Gotta like his quote, though: “If you have five closers and eight starters, you should have a pretty good year.” That does seem to sum up the Cardinal pitching staff now, doesn’t it?
Put this in the “he’ll start in Memphis” pile: Oscar Taveras is in camp, but hasn’t yet been cleared to run after his ankle surgery last year. Everything needs to break–hmmm, maybe wrong choice of words–right for Taveras to go north with the club. There’s no obvious spot for him, assuming health to Allen Craig and Matt Adams, and the lack of playing time last year means that going to AAA would be reasonable instead of an apparent repeat of the level. Toss in the ever-present arbitration angle and it would seem, as we’ve said all winter, that he’s not likely to start the year in St. Louis.
Not being healed up enough to run just yet would seem to add to that, though of course there’s the possibility that he will be cleared in a day or so and it’s not a big issue. There does seem to be the thought that he’ll be cleared later this week. The longer they hold him out, though, the more likely Memphis will have a marketing attraction for a while this summer–which may also be a consideration now that the big league club owns that franchise.
The great thing about the length of spring is that the laid-back pace allows for features on just about any player you can think of. Michael Wacha gets that treatment from Brian Burwell, talking about his goals and his look back at last season. It’s a good look at the young guy, from his teasing that Adam Wainwright‘s comments about him winning the Cy Young are Waino’s way of deflecting talk about his own Cy possibilities to paying attention more to his own expectations than anyone else’s.
Wacha is going to come up in Wainwright’s shadow, as it were, but it seems to me he has the personality to be one of the prominent “face of the Cardinals” types. Many would say that Yadier Molina is the face of the club–he was the one selected by MLB Network, after all, and he’s been here the longest–but for my money, given everything including dealing with the press, Wainwright fits that bill more completely. Wacha has a chance to follow in those footsteps and hopefully will do so for a long time to come.
Numerology is always important in baseball, so when players get new numbers, it’s always a story. Mark Ellis will take that rotating 3 (I think that number has seen more different players than any other recently–Carlos Beltran‘s the only one that had it more than one year) while Matt Adams will drop down to 32, the second player to take it since Josh Hancock passed away. Peter Bourjos is 8, which for some reason I always associate with Troy Glaus and his brief time here.
Finally, to put a bow on a story from this winter–just another way of symbolically putting those tough few months behind us–Jack Clark has apologized to Albert Pujols and Pujols has withdrawn his lawsuit. Not surprising that it turned out this way, given that a jury could have found Clark wasn’t intentionally lying, which means Pujols would have been perhaps indirectly tainted even though he didn’t do anything. Clark’s already lost his job over the whole thing and it’s not like AP needs a monetary settlement. Good to have this over with.
With more stories coming out daily, I hope to get back into the regular blogging routine. Playing Pepper starts next week–I’ve got an introductory post set for Friday–and remember there’s still a couple of days to give your opinions in the Cardinal Approval Ratings, plus the UCB annual is out there for baseball knowledge as well. Those results will show up in the regular posts starting next week.
2014 is now underway. Happy pitchers and catchers day!