There’s a lot of great things about spring training. However, the drawback to spring training games is that they are on during the day and, given that this is my busy time at work, it’s hard to monitor them even from a distance. Seeing how people are throwing or how they are hitting is well nigh impossible, even given the expanded coverage that KMOX, FSMW, and now even the Cardinals official site has brought to Jupiter over the past few years.
So, as in days of old, I have to rely somewhat on the reporting from camp by Derrick Goold, Jenifer Langosch, and the others. It’s spring, of course, so you take everything with a shaker of salt and realize that it’s rare to not read glowing reports after months away from baseball, but the general tone of the coverage is that things are going pretty well for the Redbirds. The pitching has been fairly good, the games have been wins for the most part, and apparently even the play has been crisper.
Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, and Mike Leake have all had a turn this week and all of them have done delightfully well. Goold notes that the foursome has allowed one run in 10 combined innings. Again, it’s the first week of spring and those guys aren’t facing an entire A team when they are out there, but as starters they are usually seeing at least some of the opposite side’s regular hitters. It’s a good feeling to have them getting out guys no matter who they are.
Wacha especially has been encouraging. We kinda expect good things out of the others–Leake’s got to have some defense behind him and the only question with Lynn really is stamina after coming off Tommy John surgery–but going into the spring we really didn’t know what we were going to see out of Wacha.
It’s only one start, of course, but the results were encouraging. It sounds like all of his pitches were working and, most importantly, there doesn’t seem to have been any sort of flareup on that stress reaction. Now, that probably is something that would take some time and repetition to come back, so not seeing it in his first spring start should be expected, but it’s still good to know. If Wacha can throw all of his pitches well, he’s going to be very effective. I felt like he couldn’t get the changeup in the strike zone last year, so batters knew better than to offer at it. Goold says something similar in a different way, saying the fastball was high so hitters knew the changeup was low and sinking. Bringing the fastball to the same level as the changeup will be huge.
Trevor Rosenthal also looked good in his first spring outing. I’ve been a bit hesitant to jump on the Rosenthal bandwagon, but two strong innings with a good mix of pitches is definitely a strong point in his favor. I still don’t think he’s going to be a starter, especially not if Wacha is going well, but having a longer guy in the bullpen isn’t a bad fallback option. The bullpen is going to be pretty interesting this year and we’ll see how it gets used. There will be a lot of strong arms down there.
If there is a cause for concern, it’s in this paragraph by Goold:
The Cardinals have had a couple of pratfalls on the bases, including a first inning in which they lost three runners Tuesday. But Matheny said he liked the aggressiveness he’d seen.
We all know what “aggressiveness”, with this batch of guys, has been worth in the past. There are players that I want to see be aggressive on the basepaths, sure–Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham, even Kolten Wong with his speed. That doesn’t give a green light to everyone, though. We went through this last year, when guys were thrown out by the bushel on the bases trying to stretch or make something happen. Maybe controlled aggressiveness is the answer? I hope that, even though Mike Matheny is using the same term, there’s some variation from last year in what they are doing.
Also, Matt Adams isn’t doing himself any favors, sitting 0-12 with seven strikeouts. While that’s not necessarily indicative of major problems and with Matt Carpenter going to the World Baseball Classic soon he’ll still get plenty of chances to straighten things out, but for a guy that needed a strong spring to make an argument for regular playing time, this has to be disappointing. Maybe the weight loss is making him redesign his approach, maybe it’s just a bad slump. Whatever the case, Adams needs to figure it out very soon or he won’t have to worry about playing much more than one AB a game.
Adams is also possibly affected by the fact that Jose Martinez is also learning how to cover first. The club seems to be very high on Martinez for reasons I’ve never quite gotten, keeping him on the roster while they were trying to free up 40-man spots this winter. Martinez also got two homers against the Red Sox (though spring homers are always going to be viewed a little less than regular homers) and Matheny thinks he “can flat swing it”, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice. We’ll see if it continues and how the club used Martinez this year, assuming he makes the club. If he does, that’s just less time for Adams to show what he can do.
Adam Wainwright goes today against the Braves, which you can hear on KMOX and on the official site. Always good when it’s Waino day, right?