Well, that was happily anticlimatic.
The tests and examination of ace Adam Wainwright showed that he just had an abdominal strain and would be fine with a few days of rest. Given that the Cards were already planning to lighten his workload in the spring anyway, this basically plays right into their hands. I know just how he feels. I often have abdominal strains, though mine are usually from eating too much food and go away in a few hours. But it’s got to be the same thing, right?
While many of us expected something in this vein, it’s always good to hear. Some are not as convinced, of course–as our friend Bob Netherton said on Twitter yesterday, when they tell him not to worry, that’s when he worries–but I feel like the Cardinals have gotten better about injuries over the past few years. I still remember John Mozeliak basically saying immediately that Wainwright would need Tommy John surgery back in the spring of ’11. While there’s still some understandable doubt over what comes out of the organization medically, I feel pretty good that this isn’t going to be a major deal. At least right now. If it’s still lingering in two weeks, then we’ll talk again.
Cardinal fans probably feel better about that than the other headline from yesterday, which was that Mike Matheny is looking for Matt Adams to bunt for hits more. Many of us had thought that Matheny’s bunt-happy ways had been tempered a bit, but apparently you can take the skipper out of the small-ball environment, but you can’t take the small-ball environment out of the skipper. I understand what Matheny’s getting at–if Adams bunts against the shift a few times, he might get them to move over and allow him to hit away with a regular defensive alignment–but if they are content to give Adams such a hit, why would they change? Why would a few singles make a team more likely to get into an alignment that would allow doubles? Seems to me if I’m the other team and Adams is up with nobody on, I’m fine with him bunting for a hit. At worst he’s on first and the double play is still in order. Not like he’s likely to steal second.
It’s one thing for Adams to be more of a spray hitter, like he was the first part of last year, spraying the ball the other way and getting solid singles. At least then, any runners on can perhaps go first-to-third. Bunting with a powerful force like Adams seems like a waste, though. I think we’d much rather him hit the ball over the shift than let them dictate what kind of offensive weapon he employs. Just the thought of a guy like Adams regularly squaring up just feels wrong. I hope that’s more about Matheny trying a little psychological warfare through the media, trying to have other teams THINK he’ll bunt with Adams and so they won’t shift. Seems way too subtle for the manager, though.
Pete Kozma wants to be Ozzie Smith. Of course, we all want to be Ozzie Smith, but Kozma’s already a step in the right direction as he’s got a pretty slick glove. What Kozma doesn’t have, and what he needs to find, is some offensive skills. While Ozzie sometimes gets remembered as that light-hitting, defense-first guy he was early in his career, you have to realize that he turned himself into a pretty good hitter by the end of his career, especially for the era in which he played. Besides, you don’t pile up 580 steals from the bench. Kozma, to his credit, realizes this and has been picking the Wizard’s brain about hitting, which is a smart move for him. He’s never going to be Osborne Earl, in any facet of the game, but if he can be a fair approximation on both sides of the ball, he’s much more likely to have a career past this season.
Everyone shows up to spring training in great shape. They’ve done their workouts, they’ve paced themselves, they’ve rested. Then they get on the field and remember that baseball’s grind can be punishing. Randal Grichuk is the latest to figure that out, as he had to skip workouts yesterday with back issues. Apparently the workout room is the most dangerous place in Jupiter, what with Waino and now Grichuk. One of the reasons I stay away from places like that. It’s for my own health, really. Grichuk should be back in the workout groups today or tomorrow. He probably doesn’t want to miss any time. A healthy Grichuk would seem to be a lock for the bench, but if he falters at all, he may have Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty on his tail. I think it’d take a lot for one of them to surpass Grichuk, but if he misses much time, that gap shrinks.
A great look at Matt Holliday and how much he’s lived up to his contract today by Bernie Miklasz. I think by some statistical measures, Holliday had earned the entirety of his contract a year or so ago, so anything from this point on is gravy. Often the big contracts blow up on you, but every once in a while, they work out. Holliday’s dedication to keeping himself in game shape and doing things right has helped make this one of those exceptions. Perhaps it is another indication of how good a judge of talent and makeup this front office is. While Holliday deserves most of the credit for this being a good deal, they probably don’t give it to him if they’d had any hesitation about him staying motivated. Health you can’t do much about (from a front office view) but preparation and dedication, that you can judge. Both sides have done a great job here and Holliday’s quietly become one of those guys that will be on the Cardinal Hall of Fame ballot in a few years. It’s hard to believe that, since so many of his peak years he was overshadowed by Albert Pujols and the last couple of years he’s taken a back seat to the pitching staff. His name doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of great Cardinals, but the numbers are there.
Finally, Mark Ellis retired yesterday. It’s amazing how many players come to St. Louis and then don’t want to play again. Tom Henke, Chuck Finley, Larry Walker, veterans who, admittedly, the Cards got at the end of their career but could have possibly latched on somewhere else for another year or so. But hey, after playing in baseball heaven, everything else is a downgrade, right?
We’ve got to do the Cubs today in Playing Pepper. I know, I know, but it’s a necessary evil. It gets tougher to swallow the better that team gets, though!