“This is Cardinals baseball!” Dan McLaughlin intoned as the camera gave us our first real views of the 2021 St. Louis Cardinals. At least, I assume he did–12:05 starts on a Sunday usually mean I miss the early part of a game due to church. However, I got to watch some of the first half of the game before family obligations made me miss the rest. So here are just a couple of things that I thought about as it was going on. (Some of these Tara and I talked about on Gateway last night.)
- The Cardinals have been particular about fashion in the DeWitt era. We know that they don’t wear red hats on the road when they are going up against another team with red as their primary color, for instance. So couldn’t they either have talked the Nationals into maybe a blue or gray jersey or gone with the whites? I do like the red spring training tops but I like it less when the other team is wearing red also. Let’s differentiate a bit!
- Speaking of, when was the last time the first game of spring wasn’t against the Marlins? We’re in a strange new world here people.
- Normally, the lineup for the first game of spring isn’t really worth talking about, as it’s made up of just a couple of regulars and a lot of AAA guys trying to make an impact. However, this year, for many reasons, we saw a lineup that at least had the same names as the Opening Day lineup will probably have, even if they aren’t in the same order. Matt Carpenter won’t be able to DH on April 1 against the Reds, of course, but other than that all the parts are there. I hope that Dylan Carlson won’t often find himself hitting behind Yadier Molina. I know Mike Shildt said he had a lot of different ideas for lineups so we’ll wait and see if this is a trend or just trying to get Carpenter going early.
- Jack Flaherty didn’t have his good stuff, but it was the first start of the spring (and, of course, Angel Hernandez behind the plate doesn’t help when you are trying to get on track). I know he’s beating himself up about it and the walks and deep counts weren’t great, but I’d be more concerned if this was his third or fourth start and he was still doing it. I imagine next time out will be a different story.
- I know that the story is that John Gant is good at baseball, but I’m still waiting to make sure he can get through a whole season. Remember, after two really great months in 2019, he posted a 5.65 ERA, a .776 OPS against, and walked almost as many as he struck out. Gant was good last year, but again, that was two months. He looked sharp yesterday and hopefully that continues, but he’s not my first choice for a replacement starter. I think those innings would start to pile up on him and he’d be more effective in the bullpen in smaller doses.
- That sixth starter might be an important one if Miles Mikolas is out for any length of time. I know that they pushed him back from today’s simulated game because of “an abundance of caution” but caution with a Cardinals pitcher in spring usually winds up being more than necessary. I’m not going to say that we aren’t going to see Mikolas just based on this, but given everything surrounding him, I’m also not going to be surprised if he’s on the IL to start the season.
- Harrison Bader is going to be an interesting person to watch. He made some noise in his live BP on Friday (we talked about that on Musial) with home runs on both sides of the plate (and one off a slider to boot). Yesterday, he drove in the second run with a solid double, scoring Tyler O’Neill. It’s still early returns, but when you couple some of that with that Eno Sarris article in The Athletic listing Bader as a breakout candidate due to last year’s barrel numbers means we probably should keep an eye on him and be willing to revise some of our thinking.
- Nolan Arenado doesn’t have a hit as a Cardinal. It’s a disaster. I’m kidding, of course, and it was awesome to see him in the red. I look forward to him getting his timing and pulling out some of those patented amazing web gems, but expecting that in the first game he played is probably a little much.
Like I say, I didn’t get to see many of the substitutions but it was great to see the part of the game I could. Baseball is back!