The Boys of Spring

As the days roll on, we get closer and closer to Opening Day.  Sure, it’s still six weeks away, but it’s a day closer than it was yesterday, which is all that matters.  With all the stories and pictures coming out of Jupiter, those six weeks are going to fly by.

While news isn’t necessarily flowing like water down there in Florida, there is still some of it.  For example, Jason Motte got on the mound yesterday for the first time since his Tommy John surgery.  It wasn’t a full mound workout–as noted in the article, it was a standing catcher and Motte was only throwing about 70%–but it did let him get a feel for being back where he wants to be.  Motte isn’t behind any official timetables, but the expectation is that he’ll be available in May or early June.  Given the already crowded state of the Cardinal bullpen, that’s not a worry or a concern.

Speaking of injured hurlers, Jaime Garcia apparently is right on schedule to be in the opening rotation mix.  He’s having no trouble with the shoulder, which may make Mike Matheny‘s job a bit harder.  If you could stash Garcia in Memphis for a month doing rehab, you’d be able to delay the fifth starter decision into the season.  That doesn’t seem to be the case, though, and Matheny will have to decide between the large number of options before the season begins.

For President’s Day, Jenifer Langosch conducted a great interview with Bill DeWitt III over at the official site.  A lot of it has to do with Ballpark Village, which apparently is coming along quite nicely.  (If any of you in St. Louis want to comment on that or show pictures, I’m willing to listen!)  The Hall of Fame sounds like it’s going to be top notch, which is what we’ve come to expect from the Cardinals.  That’s going to be a huge draw, especially early on.  DeWitt the Younger does a number of other things as well, mainly on the business side, and I know he’s always been open to answering questions at UCB Weekend so I’m sure we’ll have some for him when that rolls around this season.

While it would seem that this spring might be all about folks just getting in game shape and being prepared for the season ahead, there are still a few people in camp that are there to impress the higher-ups, if not for making the team now, then for later on when a need arises.  Jordan Swagerty, who gets overlooked when we talk about prospects given the fact that he’s missed the last couple of seasons with arm issues, was back on the mound this weekend.  He’s healthy now, though, and looks to make a statement.  It would be surprising if he started in Memphis–he made it to Springfield before the arm troubles, so he’ll probably be back there this year–but he could rise quickly.  You can also follow him during the year on his own blog, so we have to cheer for the blogger, right?

Another guy that wants people to notice him is new reliever Pat Neshek.  Signed to a minor league contract, he’s fine with going to Memphis if necessary, but would much rather contribute at the major league level.  I think it’s pretty neat that he can and does stay home in the evenings, driving about 90 minutes back and forth between his place and the camp.  Staying with the family as long as possible has to be a huge draw for him and it also shows he’s the kind of guy that’ll fit in with this clubhouse, should he make the roster.  Having a few veteran guys mixed in with the young heat isn’t a bad thing and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go north with the club.

Both the Post-Dispatch and the official site have articles up on Matt Carpenter.  Derrick Goold talks a lot about Carpenter being a core member of this squad and the financial possibilities (or security, at least, in the form of an extension) that might go along with that.  It’s interesting to see him note that he was worn out at the end of last season, something we saw reflected in his postseason results.  It’s not surprising that happened at the end of his first full year in the bigs and he’s going to learn to pace himself a bit more.  Because, let’s be honest, there are probably more Octobers in his future.

The article on, written by Marty Nobel, casts Carpenter as the latest in the long line of Cardinals to have the teachings of George Kissell implanted on them.  It’s great to see that those that had a long term impact on this organization are still being remembered and their lessons are still being taught, even if they are in different ways than Kissell might have designed.  How you do it isn’t necessarily the point; why you are doing it likely is.

All right, it’s the first day of our Cardinal Approval Ratings reveal.  Today we look at one person each from the players, the media, and the assorted category.

Allen Craig is our player of the day.  Craig, of course, had another dominant year with the bat, setting records with runners in scoring position, before being hurt in September and only returning during the World Series.

In other words, 2013 was a lot like 2012 for the professional hitter and the approval rating reflected it.  Craig finished at 87.9% this year, a slight tick down from his 88.3% last year, but given the imperfections of this process, with different voters, both individually and in the number that actually vote, I think we can call that a statistical tie.  Craig got four perfect scores and his lowest mark was a 70%.

Our media member is our old friend Derrick Goold.  Save for a dip two years ago, DG is always in the upper 80s on this one and this year is really no different, scoring out at 85.9%.  That’s actually the third-lowest mark for him over the four years he’s been on the ballot, which just tells you how highly he’s rated among the readership.  Goold wound up with seven perfect scores, but his lowest was a 60%.  I think the most telling comment came from one of the voters, which said, “Goold is the best Cardinals beat writer in history, in my opinion, and I say that as someone who’s followed the Cardinals in the St. Louis newspapers since the early 1970s, and who has great respect for Rick Hummel.”

Finally, we come to Ballpark Village.  BPV made the ballot last year for the first time, clocking in with a mediocre 58.3%.  I was interested to see how things would change now that tenants had been announced and you can physically see the work.  Apparently it did, because this year’s total came out to be 72.1%.  There are still some issues–there were only three perfect scores and the low mark was 10, though there were a few others at 50 or below–but it seems to be growing on folks.  I look forward to seeing the opinions next year after the Village is open and people have been able to experience it.

Remember, the Playing Pepper series starts this afternoon as we take a look at the Diamondbacks.  So come back and check that out!

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