The St. Louis baseball season got off to its unofficial start on Saturday with an annual high mark. The club began the Cardinals Winter Warm Up down the street from Busch Stadium at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, a three day festival of all things Cardinal baseball. From autograph signings from players both past, present and future, to an impressive showing of team related merchandise, the Winter Warm is the absolute best way to get primed for the upcoming summer of baseball.
During the event, both players and club management take time to stop and discuss the state of the team as well. And there is no better place to start than at the top. On Saturday morning General Manager John Mozeliak took some time to speak on the state of team for the upcoming season, including how the team is managing to come around from 2012’s ending, as well as the status on both the health (and contracts) of some of the club’s biggest contributors.
On team structure: He shares the optimism that many do on the homegrown future of the ballclub. “There should be more minor league impact expected this year on the roster”, stated Mozeliak. While not going into specifics on who or when, he was very encouraged by the group of young pitchers with Major League experience, including Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly. All will work as starters early in camp, and compete for the fifth starter slot. However, Lynn will enter with a slight edge on the group. “He shouldn’t show up and be completely comfortable” said Mo, “but based on what he did last year, he has the inside track.”
Regarding the competition at second base, he feels Daniel Descalso will enter camp as the owner of the position, but there are some conditions as well. Matt Carpenter, who has worked at the position this winter, will get a look but he cannot accurately assess his place in the competition until he sees him in action.
Concerning any further moves in the middle infield, the availability and heatlth of Rafael Furcal is the most critical factor to any further activity. “We have not ruled out any additions in the middle infield”, Mozeliak said, “but it all depends on the health of Furcal.” He went on to say that all early signs are positive for the Furcal entering into the spring.
On Mike Matheny: All signs were positive on where he stands on Matheny entering into his second season at the wheel. “He exceeded expectations in year one” he explained, going on to say that he did not meet with him over the winter in any advisory capacity, only to touch base. He expects there will be the most growth in his area of player usage. “I expect he may not ride the hot hand as much” he commented.
On team health: He admitted that breaking free of camp at full strength is a concern, especially with some of the lingering conditions that are already in place. They are taking a “wait and see” approach concerning Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter, but more so for Garcia. Carpenter could see a decreased training program, but it’s not unusual for him at this point in his career. “The expectation for 200 innings for Carp is probably at 50/50”, but he has high confidence in his health status.
On big name prospects: There is an expectation that top prospect Oscar Taveras will get “plenty of opportunities” in the spring, to see what he can do. Second baseman Kolten Wong will also get some opportunities in big league camp, but the goal is not for him to share time in St. Louis currently, and to be an everyday contributor in the minors again.
On contract negotiations: The Adam Wainwright contract extension matter will carry into the season, and potentially into the season, but shouldn’t be compared to past high profile dealings. He feels this matter is “more open ended than other negotiations we’ve seen before” and that “there are no lines drawn in the sand this time around.”
He also elaborated that the organization has “moved on” from Kyle Lohse, but won’t close the door on anything either.