Drops of Jupiter

Pitchers and catchers have been at it for a half week now.  Guess it’s time for me to start getting back into this regular blogging habit, huh?  That’s a little easier to do after a weekend of 70 degree temperatures that made it feel so much like early April.  That sort of weather just screams baseball to the devoted fan.

It’s also easier to do when there are news and notes to go over.  While there’s nothing earth shaking or season changing going on, just having all those players and media together means that stories will start coming out.  There are various pieces, whether reporting on the items of the day or personal focus stories on most of the players.  After a drought in the offseason, these are the first drops of the oncoming storm that will be the 2016 season.

One of those drops was the completely unsurprising fact that, if things stay the way they are, Adam Wainwright will be the Opening Day starter this year.  We know how quickly those things can change–it was five years ago tomorrow that news about Wainwright broke, news that quickly became his Tommy John surgery–but barring such a drastic occurrence, this was a no brainer.  Nobody else on the staff is head and shoulders above the ace and while Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez may have Opening Days in their future, their youth and the idea of continuing to be cautious with their arms rule them out of some potential coup of the rotation status.

Assuming that the Cards don’t use the off days that first week (with their start on Sunday, they have two of them) to juggle things, which is a safe assumption, whoever lines up to go behind Waino in the rotation will get the home opener.  That is something to keep an eye on and see how it develops over the next day or so.  As y’all have shown, there’s no obvious consensus about how this rotation is going to shake out, so that is a mystery worth gathering clues about.

While the start of the rotation might be set in stone, the starting lineup apparently isn’t.  Tara and I talked about this last night on Gateway to Baseball Heaven and we agreed that it’s tough to imagine Mike Matheny being extremely creative and out there with the lineup.  Obviously, given the nature of spring training, we’re going to see a number of different ones as guys have days off, don’t go on road trips, etc. but at the end of the day (or, more appropriately, the beginning of April), Matt Carpenter‘s probably going to be leading off and everyone else is going to be in similar spots as last year, modified with the loss of Jason Heyward, of course.  It might not wind up that way–give him credit, he did move Carpenter last year, though the results may have reinforced the idea that change isn’t always the best idea–but that’s the feeling here.  Matheny’s also said that he’s not going to bat the pitcher eighth because he’s not seen anything that makes him think that it’s a great idea.  It’s true that a Baseball Prospectus article last year noted the difference in 8th and 9th was fairly insignificant, which seemed to confirm this examination back in 2007.  However, we know from watching Tony La Russa that every edge, no matter how small, can be important and, two, it might convince Nick to come back and dust off the blog.  Obviously Matheny hasn’t factored THAT into his decision making!

Jenifer Langosch did a story on the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Saturday, which of course is going to get highlighted here.  Langosch confirms that Tyler Lyons is out of options and notes that waivers really isn’t an option, given he’d be snatched up by another team almost immediately.  Lyons feels like if he can keep the home runs down, he’ll be fine and we saw a remarkable stretch from him in August and September, capped off by the clincher, where he pretty much did that.  He’s training as a starter, which probably means he’s the “next man up” if someone gets hurt early, but he’ll likely be a versatile part of the bullpen on the season.  I am supposed to chat with Lyons tonight, so look for that podcast in the next day or so.

So the Cubs have these new shirts that say, “In Blue, Out Red” and some folks are taking that as a swipe at the Cardinals.  Derrick Goold looked into it and supposedly the shirts are about letting in the calm emotions (blue) and releasing the anger (red).  I have no doubt that is the main purpose of the shirts, given the picture on the front, but you can’t tell me that the secondary message wasn’t on the minds of those that created them (and likely those that wear them) even if they won’t admit it.  It’s basically impossible for it not to be at least a subtle comment on the state of the NL Central (or at least their desire for it).  It’s not a big deal, obviously.  I mean, heck, our aging core probably couldn’t read the shirt without bifocals anyway, right?

Yadier Molina won’t catch for another couple of weeks at least and probably won’t hit until the end of March.  While the club isn’t saying that he’ll be the Opening Day catcher, it seems hard to believe that if Yadi can swing a bat without risk of injury he won’t be out there.  We saw at the end of last year that the club valued his defensive contributions enough to not worry about the fact that he couldn’t actually do anything at the plate.  If he’s healthy, don’t you think they’ll do the same now, letting him getting his timing in the big leagues while letting him shepherd this pitching staff?  I know that the backup is better this year and Brayan Pena would probably let them give him more days off, but I still think that when April 3 rolls around, Wainwright’s first pitch will land in Molina’s glove.

Our annual Playing Pepper series, where I pose questions to bloggers for other teams, starts this afternoon with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  I’ll probably be tabulating the results to the Cardinal Approval Ratings today or tomorrow and start rolling those out soon, but if you want to try to get in before I total them up, the link is here and I’d appreciate it, since we are just shy of 40 which was a bit less than I was hoping for.

Between Pepper and the 2011 Revisited, we’re going to have plenty of content for you in the next month and more, so be sure to come back regularly to see the new stuff!

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