Matheny, Freese and Molina: Cardinals Winter Warm-Up wrap
The final day of the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up brought on a few heavy hitters, with some highlight topic as well. The chief among them all was manager Mike Matheny, who is has a spotlight over him entering his second season at the helm. As can be expected, he addressed a wide range of topics, from positional battles and pitching projects, all the way to his publicized financial losses and the passing of Stan Musial.
- Matheny stressed a very involved method of learning from his first season on the job, including keeping contact with his players throughout the winter. He’s placed importance on their feedback as part of his preparation, as well as speaking with coaches from other sports for perspective as well.Looking back at last season, Says the difference between a plenty of wins were small things that can be fixed and focused on. Says it’s a waste of time to dwell on them, and “it’s a matter of controlling things you can control, and that’s where I come in.”
- Approaching this season, he is confident in the evolution of the club: “I think we have made some adjustments to our club. Some of our younger players are different players now with the experience they have, and I think we have a chance to be much better than 88 games.”
- In regards to player usage, there was a focus on resting players more often but within reason. Stresses that it is a case by case with managing players. Also there is the situation of understanding how to enable younger players to know how to battle.
- One of the players that benefited in this fashion a year ago was Allen Craig. Matheny stated he learned how to “grind through and push through times when he probably wouldn’t have in the past. And what that does for the respect level in the clubhouse.” Said he has few holes in his swing, and that he has the chance to be an elite level hitter.
- Going back on what was indicated by John Mozeliak earlier in the weekend; Matheny says that second base is open, but that the healthiest thing to do is for everybody to walk into camp ready to compete, regardless of position. “Second base has certainly presented some opportunities, and the competition should be fun to watch.”
- In regards to the reported losses his sustained from a real estate venture before signing with the ballclub last year, he stated that much of that story was misreported. Explained it had no impact on his managing, and that there were “There were no woes, financially.”
- Regarding the loss of Musial, Matheny said he first met him 20 years ago as a minor league ballplayer and he feels strongly about making a visible tribute to him on the uniform this year. “I think everybody gets how important Mr. Musial was, and still is and will be to this organization and community.
In addition to the skipper, David Freese and Yadier Molina showed up to address the direction of the club headed off a tough ending to 2012. John Mabry made an appearance to discuss his new role with the club, and both contenders for the second base slot were in attendance as well.
- Matt Carpenter described having more confidence in place with the organization after last season. Says he loves playing in St. Louis and “We’re envied by a lot other players. Guys are always talking about what it’s like to be Cardinal.” Is going to take the same mindset into the spring as any other year, and is focused on winning second base job. He is okay with playing there a few times a week, or not at all, as long as he can contribute somewhere.
- Daniel Descalso acknowledged having a lot of struggles offensively, but felt like he squared the ball more often down the stretch, which led to his success. Said he is excited about working with John Mabry, and expects it to be a seamless transition between him and McGwire.
- Yadier Molina expressed he is excited about working with the young pitchers that will compete for a place on the team, and that developing their understanding of the game is just as important as their play. “When I came up my first couple of years, my mind was my real test. I use that for the young guys. You have to work with their mind and give him confidence. If they so you not confident, they are going to feel that way too.”
- He expressed an excitement in playing for his homeland of Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, and that playing in the Puerto Rican winter league, as well as spending the winter residing in Jupiter, Florida close to the club’s spring training facilities was part of his advanced preparation for the season, due to the time he will miss in camp participating.
- John Mabry said that his promotion to hitting coach was a surprise, but “I’m still home. And if I was to go back into baseball it would be with the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that drafted me and developed me.” On his philosophy for the preparing batters, he feels “The separation point between players is the mental approach, and good and great, great and awesome. Staying with your game plan, and not deviating from it unless forced to.”
- Continued on that Says there are surprises coming, and that Oscar Taveras is the club’s best hitting prospect since Albert Pujols. The hope is that he doesn’t come up right away, because that means everybody is healthy. You don’t want to have a talent like that on the bench. Says infielders Kolten Wong and Greg Garcia will come to camp and get more at-bats due to the WBC, and will have opportunities to improve their stock.
- David Freese said he had a much slower offseason than last year, which he enjoyed, but that the way the season ended is still sticking with him. “It was very disappointing. As a St. Louis Cardinal, you expect to make the playoffs but also reach the World Series. But you think about game 5, 6 and 7 and you realize it wasn’t meant to be.”
- On the experience of playing in the first Wild Card play-in Game, expressed it as a unique and high pressure scenario and a strong incentive to play to win the division every year. “I haven’t really been around too long, but that’s insane. I rarely get nervous, but I was nervous that game. We were 7 games behind Atlanta, and we’re playing them. It was crazy.”