While spring training has been going for a week now, the position players didn’t officially start camp until Monday. Of course, they’ve been in Jupiter a while working out, but now they have the official drills and have a schedule of events, as it were. It also means I need to start shaking off the winter rust and get back to writing posts. We’ll see how long it takes me to get into midseason form, though I don’t promise anything, especially until the games start on Friday.
We’re seeing a lot of pictures and video from Jupiter and plenty of stories as well. It’s still somewhat hard to believe (a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one) that actual games are going to start the day after tomorrow. It’s a wonderful thing that is starting to get us more excited about the coming season, at least for the most part. I always say if you can’t be optimistic in the springtime, when can you be? The answer, for many on Twitter, is of course never.
Mike Matheny had his annual “address the team” meeting yesterday. While we don’t know what he said, this would in theory be when a guy vaunted for his leadership skills would shine and apparently he didn’t disappoint. I will say it is fascinating to hear folks like Greg Garcia call Matheny a captivating speaker. Given his monotone approach to the media, whether after games or in other interviews, he must save it up for the players. From what I’ve seen of the manager, I don’t think I’d expect to be awake at the end of 45 minutes, much less blown away. However, it’s a different audience and it sounds like Matheny believes the media a necessary evil, so maybe it’s not surprising he’s more lively and interesting away from the cameras.
At this point in camp, we get to hear a little about the young folks trying to make an impression and certain pitching prospects definitely did when they threw live batting practice yesterday. I found it very interesting to hear that Marcell Ozuna, who is obviously new and has no particular preconceptions on these guys, was really raving about Jordan Hicks and his arsenal after facing him yesterday. You probably remember that John Mozeliak, back in winter warmup, tabbed Hicks and Ryan Helsley as players that could make a difference in the bullpen this season even though they have limited minor league experience.
Helsley also threw to batters yesterday and struck out contact hitter Breyvic Valera, something that is apparently not easy to do. Dakota Hudson is also mentioned in that story, in part because he’s the closest to the majors, in part because he’s got a similar power repertoire, in part because his last name also starts with an H. (In other words, it doesn’t look like he necessarily threw yesterday.) Our friends Kyle Reis (at Birds on the Black) and Colin Garner (at The Redbird Daily) have their prospect list going on and have reached #18 working up the list. All of these guys are still yet to be talked about by them so you know they are high in the system. I know Kyle talked about Hicks especially needing more time to develop and I don’t think any of these make the club to start the season, but I bet you see most if not all of them at some point during the year, even if it’s just for only a few games here and there as they come up to cover an injury or the like.
Kolten Wong picked up strength yoga over the offseason. While he’s always been short, he’s not changed color and started talking in strange sentence construction. Instead of learning to lift rocks with his mind, Wong is learning how to be more flexible with the hope of avoiding some of the injuries he’s dealt with in the past. It’s always been the issue in baseball and why, a long time ago in a game far, far away, players were discouraged from doing much weight lifting and things like that. The strength is good, but baseball requires a good amount of flexibility which can be robbed if you are too muscle-bound. (We’ll see what sort of career, health-wise, Tyler O’Neill has.) Wong had a solid season last year and if he can stay on the field for more of 2018, that’s likely to be a good thing.
Jack Flaherty is going to start the Grapefruit League opener on Friday, which is not really a big surprise. In fact, my Meet Me at Musial co-host Allen Medlock texted me that prediction before he saw it was announced. The Cards usually use a prospect that’s not likely to make the team to open their spring play and this will give Flaherty an extra start or two in the spring, starts he’d lose at the back end when they go to their expected five man rotation close to the end of spring. What might be more interesting to watch is how Matheny lines up the pitchers behind Carlos Martinez. We know he’ll set up the spring to Carlos is ready to go against the Mets on March 29, so the folks that follow Carlos likely will be following him in that order at least to start the season. With the questions around all of the remaining arms, you could go in almost any direction after the staff ace.
Just like the players, who don’t necessarily put in an entire day’s work this time of year, I’ll wrap this post up a little short of 1000 words. Don’t want to pull a finger muscle with so much to write about coming up!