2011 Revisited: Shifting Focus

We continue our look back “as it happened” at the 2011 World Championship team with this spring report, marking the end of Jim Edmonds’s career and hints about what would happen with Jason Motte.

Shifting Focus

With Albertageddon in the rearview mirror and getting farther away by the hour, the focus has finally shifted to all those that are wearing the birds on the bat this spring.

One person that won’t be wearing that red uniform, though, is Jim Edmonds, whose attempt at returning to the land where he had so much success was cut short last Friday when he retired from the game due to a foot injury.  For all the angst and discussion that came about when he was signed a couple of weeks back, I’m pretty sure the front office was expecting something like this.  You don’t give a contract to a 41-year-old with an offseason injury without doing a physical unless you are prepared for him not to be ready.  Hopefully the Cards will be able to do something to honor Jimmy Ballgame during the season.

A notion that has me excited is the fact that Jason Motte is working on gaining another pitch.  I’ve been of the camp that thought Motte would be devastating with another weapon in his arsenal and, with Ryan Franklin a free agent at the end of the year, getting that extra pitch will make less of an issue when Motte, most likely, slides into the closer role in 2012.  Motte had a pretty solid year last year and adding another choice will help him move into the elite category, I think.

In spring training, one of the cliche stories is to report that someone is “in the best shape of his life”.  We get one of those about David Freese, with all of Cardinal Nation hoping that it is the truth.  Having healthy ankles is one thing, having a sober outlook on life is another.  It sounds like he’s been spending a lot of time around Matt Holliday, which is not a bad thing at all for a guy looking for some mentoring.  If Freese can live up to his offensive potential, the black holes in this lineup get a lot smaller.

Speaking of guys working on their offensive potential, when it’s spring and everyone is in a wonderful mood, you get stories about Colby Rasmus and Tony La Russa working to get along in peace and harmony.  Of course, that’s a lot easier to say when you’ve been apart from each other for a while.  If the mindset of Rasmus has shifted, to where he’s willing to change his approach with two strikes and worry more about making contact, and if TLR is willing to let him play through any problems, this could be a banner year for Rasmus.  It’s likely he’ll be hitting in the second position, so he’ll get a lot of looks and can be patient if he wants to be without necessarily having the pressure of setting the table.  We’ll see how long this détente between the two lasts.  If the Cards are winning and Rasmus is going well, it could last a long, long time.

It looks like Miguel Batista has the inside track for the last spot in the bullpen, taking over for the departed Blake Hawksworth.  Obviously, plans can change depending on the spring, but if the team was going north right now, he’d be going with them.  That should leave a bullpen of Trever Miller and Brian Tallet from the left side, Batista and Mitchell Boggs as the long men, Kyle McClellan as the seventh-inning guy, Motte for the eighth and Franklin for the ninth.  Depending on if Tallet can be an effective LOOGY, that’s not a bad pen at all, especially since the rotation should be able to go 6 most nights and 7-8 on a regular basis as well.

A final Cardinal note is a sad one, as one of the owners, Andrew Baur, passed away suddenly yesterday, apparently due to a heart attack.  We often focus on Bill DeWitt, who is the face of that ownership group, but there are others that hold a share of the Cards as well.  Mr. Baur apparently was a Cardinal fan for a long time before this group had the chance to buy the team, and he was the one that recruited DeWitt into it.  Our sympathies and prayers go out to his family.

A few last news and notes: if you want a quick Cardinal podcast to listen to, Bill Ivie and I had our second Gateway to Baseball Heaven show last night.  30 minutes just isn’t long enough, but we make do with what we have.  If that’s not enough, Bob and I talked to former Cardinal pitcher Jerry Reuss on Saturday.  With the new Blog Talk rules, we could only schedule 30 minutes and we went 45 before we were unceremoniously cut off, so it ends a little abruptly. Still, it was great to listen to Mr. Reuss talking about his baseball days.  Also, don’t forget that we have the regular show Wednesday night, but Wednesday afternoon will have JD and Freddie talking to Matthew Leach from Jupiter, and hopefully we can get some of those clips cut and played on the show Wednesday night.

Also, if you are into baseball simulation games, you can’t get much better than Out of the Park Baseball.  They are about to release their 12th edition and every year they continue to make significant improvements.  If you preorder now, they’ve got a bonus for you.  One lucky preorderer (if that’s a word) will win a second-generation iPad when they are released later this year.  Makes you want to head over there, doesn’t it?

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