Day 2 of the Cardinals Care Winter Warm Up, the unofficial kick-off event to Cardinal baseball season, will get underway shortly at the Hyatt Regency in downtown St. Louis. The fan fest is the largest fundraiser of the year for the team’s community outreach program, which has contributed $11 million in grants to over 800 non-profit youth organizations in the area.
On the baseball side, it is also the return of the players and team personnel to their baseball battlegrounds as well, and throughout the day they stop in the media area to discuss their off seasons, goals for the year and other various items as well.
Once again, we will be reporting those sessions as they happen, with the second day of the Winter Warm-Up Progressive Blog. During Saturday’s first entry in this year’s PB, Jason Heyward, Peter Bourjos, Stephen Piscotty, Mark Reynolds, Randal Grichuk and more spoke, and today will feature even more of the team as they make their through the WWU.
So follow here for up to the moment information and both @i70baseball and @CheapSeatFan on Twitter for photos, comments and more.
Adam Wainwright made his way to the podium first today, to talk over a plethora of issues about the end of his 2014 and the surgery that followed this winter….
After having forearm surgery in October, Wainwright stated he began playing catch at the same point that he did last year despite his surgery and that there have been no alterations to his off-season preparation.
The injury that eventually necessitated the surgery rooted from when he hyper-extended his knee in a game against the Mets. Then he altered his approach some which resulted in a muscle injury in his forearm.
Wainwright explained the onset of the injury also stated that it tremendously his ability to grip a baseball during the late portion of the year. In addition to that restriction, his ability to extend his arm was effected as well. “Extension was the problem. You saw me throwing a lot of cutters and curveballs because I could get my to a certain point fine, but not to pronate all the way through.”
Expanded from there, he talked about the impact of that lack of extension on his ability to use his complete arsenal of pitches. “This was okay because I’m not really a power pitcher, so I was okay to get through with that for the time being. But you saw the difference in the first part of the year when I was a complete pitcher and I was able to do all of the things I wanted to do, and then in the second half when I couldn’t.”
“The thing I do really well is be able to pitch inside to righties and lefties. I can sink the ball inside, which opens up the outside corner. I totally lost the ability to do that.”
“So when I hit Yasiel Puig in the playoffs, I knew it was the right pitch but I just couldn’t execute it. So Adrian Gonzalez was right when he said I don’t normally hit people like that, but I’m not normally hurt either.”
Outside of the baseball related ramifications, he expressed experiencing everyday difficulties due to the injury and rehab even to levels that affected simply household tasks. He said that he could not twist the lids off of jars due to the injury and the surgery afterwards. “My masculinity took a hit at the end of last year,” he joked regarding the need for the simple assistance from his wife.
Going forward, Wainwright does not anticipate any change in how he either prepares for the season or how he is used. “I have four more years (on his contract), and this team doesn’t need me at half speed. There are guys better than me if I’m half speed, but if I am going full out I don’t think there are many better. So I’m going all out until they tell me to stop.”
On a decreased amount of starts throughout the year in order to stay fresh for the postseason, he was enthusiastic in refusal about the concept:
“I don’t think my October track record speaks to me getting real tired. I was injured last year, but in 2013 I pitched great in October. I had one bad start in game one of the World Series, but other than that I have pitched against some really good pitchers that don’t give up many runs.”
Matt Holliday followed Wainwright in….
On Jason Heyward’s Addition
Regarding the addition of Jason Heyward, Holliday sees a number of ways that he can help the team. “He will add a lot offensively and defensively, as well as on the bases. It depends on where Mike (Matheny) hits him to get the best out of out of him,” he said.
However he does see a clear way that Heyward can amplify the lineup in an area it struggled in a year ago. “He is a potential 25 home run guy and I think that is more of what we need than someone batting leadoff and trying to get on base.”
On the subject of the offensive power outage that plagued the team for the duration of last year, Holliday was as miffed as anybody else on pinpointing the reasoning. “There has to be some kind of reason, but maybe it was just one of those years. But nobody was really able to consistently get the home run swing going and the more you try to hit them, the less it seems to happen. So hopefully we come in with a good approach and home runs really happen by getting those good swings.”
Looking ahead, he sees it as more of an exception than a new rule that will continue into this season. “I think our lineup will score a lot more runs this year. It would be crazy not to think that most of our guys will not be back closer to what they average in their career.”
On the subject of nagging injuries as he gets older, he played down the impact that could have on his production and availability. “I feel really healthy. I played 150 plus games a year ago, so I feel like I have done a great job of working that out and making sure it doesn’t flare up.”
He also expressed feeling a returned excitement on the Winter Warm-Up experience along with the fanbase. “This is something we look forward to. We as players enjoy this because we get to see teammates we haven’t seen in a while and get to interact with the fans for a good cause.”
2013 organization Minor League Pitcher of the Year Tim Cooney steps in next…
Regarding the experience and learning curve of a full year at the Triple A level, Cooney said “I think I learned a lot about what kind of pitcher I am, especially the importance of command when facing more experienced hitters. Hopefully I come into the spring even better than I did last year.”
The benefits of starting the year competing at the Major League spring training level was something he was enthusiastic about as well. “It was a good experience facing some experienced hitters, and mentally that helps when facing minor leaguers because you think ‘Okay, I can get the big league guys out too’, so it definitely helped.”
Headed into the year, his focus is on refining his touch, but also expanding his offering as well. “I want to throw harder, but not at the expense of my control. A big focus is my change-up. Most dominant lefties have a good change up because they are facing so many right-handed hitters. It is coming along pretty good too.”
Lefty Sam Freeman followed Cooney up….
In regards to looking back at his 2014, Freeman was honest in his assessment: “The year went pretty well. There were parts of the season where the consistency was not the same, but other than that it was pretty okay. There were parts of the season where my command was where I wanted it to be and parts where it vanished a little bit. But I am more aware of what I need to do to keep it consistent.”
On facing repeated left-handed hitters, he does not see a pronounced difference in facing them. “Lefties have done better off of me, so I wouldn’t say I have a better rapport against them. Last year I gave up more extra base hits against lefties than right-handed hitters. I don’t think that they are crushing me, but I am not doing a good enough job of eliminating them when I have the opportunity. I need to do a better job of finishing them off.”
Southpaw Sunday continued with Tyler Lyons
Regarding in what capacity he could see action in, Lyons was open for all business: “For me it is about getting ready for the season, whatever role that may be. I don’t have much say or control over that, so I’ll just be ready to go.”
“Over the past couple of years I have had a little bit of experience out of the bullpen, but it is not anything really different for me. Mentally once you get out there to pitch its all the same, but it’s kind of about how you prepare day in and out.”
The biggest differences in the role in his opinion come from a preparation standpoint, but it is not something that he sees as being a difficult transition for him: “I’ve never had a problem getting ready quickly. Even as a starter I feel like I get ready too quickly and have slow myself down, so I have never had a problem getting ready quickly.”
“The biggest difference is as a starter you pitch on a particular day and then have a certain amount of days in-between. As a reliever you have to find a way to get ready every night, and then you may pitch or may not pitch. So you just have to figure out how to be ready every day.”
When asked about if he feels he is overlooked in regards to placement among the pitching staff, he is quick to diffuse the scenario: “I’ve had opportunities, so I try not to concern myself with that too much. You’re kind of in a weird situation here because you have so many guys and there are a lot of young guys and a lot of competition.”
Michael Wacha stepped in next to discuss the end of the National League Championship Series, his return from injury and optimism on the year:
Looking back at the infamous relief appearance in Game 5 of the NLCS in San Francisco, Wacha said he said he felt fine physically despite the layoff from actual game action at the time and had been working in the bullpen, despite having not had in-game action in some time.
“I wanted to be out there in that situation. As a competitor, that’s where you want to be and Mike put me out there because he trusted me. And I told I appreciated it and wanted to be out there in that situation, and it just didn’t work out like we wanted to in the end. I just made a bad pitch.”
Regarding moving on past the series-ending home run: “It took a little while, but baseball is a game where you have to be able to forget. Usually you have a game the next day to move on to, but it just gives you a little bit more motivation in the offseason.”
On the health of his shoulder, Wacha said he does not anticipate having to adjust his mechanics at all due to avoiding a repeat of the injury and that all scans of the shoulder and muscle group are showing good returns. “With my workouts and weight training, everything has been feeling good. It’s an exciting time and I’m feeling good and strong.”
He has not thrown off of a mound yet. His throwing program started later due to the season itself beginning later, but nothing drastic due to the injury. He anticipates starting to throw off a mound in the upcoming weeks. States that staying on top of his conditioning is the top priority and that he does not anticipate any further MRI’s going ahead. He joked that he thinks he will “start glowing” if he goes through many more scans.
Wacha stated he does not have an innings goal for the season, nor is he aware of any potential limits the organization may put on him. The expectation personally is to make every start currently. “I don’t want to be that guy that has to get shutdown at a certain point,” he stated. “I want to be the guy that they lean on every fifth day for a win.”
Reflecting back on the trade of friend (and neighbor) Shelby Miller, Wacha said the entire scenario set upon him rather quickly. He stated he was with Shelby working out near their homes in Houston (they live about a half block apart from each other) when the news broke that he was traded.
“It is definitely pretty different. He is a good friend of mine and we work out together and we hang out together quite a bit, it will be different not having him around. I think he is excited about a new start, but we are just as excited about having Heyward and Walden with us as well.”
He is enthusiastic about the chance of matching up against Miller at some point down the road as well.
“Yeah, that’d be fun. I always give him some crap about being ready for some chin music if he gets up there and digging in on me. But it would be pretty fun to get to face him.”
Lefty Marco Gonzales was next up….
Reflecting on his 2014, he said he could imagine a better outcome: “I look back at all the experiences and there’s nothing like being thrown in the fire. I couldn’t have had better people to learn from as well, so it was a good time.”
Looking at what at the ways that he could make an impact in St. Louis this season, he is open for any and all business:
Reflecting on his 2014, he said he could imagine a better outcome: “I look back at all the experiences and there’s nothing like being thrown in the fire. I couldn’t have had better people to learn from as well, so it was a good time. “I’m optimistic about an opportunity. Frankly, opportunity I get I will excited for it, whether it’s in the Major League rotation, in Memphis or in the bullpen, I’m okay with any of those options,” he said. Jokingly, he continued “Even if it’s at shortstop, I don’t care. Being able to play baseball every day is a blast and I’m blessed to do it.”
Regarding the possibility of filling all of those roles, he reiterates that he fine with any capacity: “That just comes with the preparation of being ready for everything. Just keeping the mentality of fine tuning my pitches, working on my command, strengthening my body and doing what I can to be ready for anything.”
About whether he will be more prepared for the possibility of pitching out of the bullpen, due to spending some time there last year, he gives credit to the end of 2014: “Nothing prepares you better than doing it, especially pitching in the postseason. The big stage and bright lights, I took so much away from it and it will help me down the road for sure.”
He said he was at full strength in the postseason due to the adrenaline of the situation, and he didn’t feel fatigue from the repeated work.
Up next: reliever Seth Maness
On his early season struggles, he still cannot pinpoint the exact reason why he got off to such a rocky start a year ago: “I don’t think I have really put my finger on it. Mentally preparing and not getting down on yourself is important. That’s the biggest thing, not getting down on yourself, fighting yourself and hurting your performance.”
“Last year was the most adversity that I have experienced in the game. It was a true challenge. I believe the more you starting thinking about it and listening to other people, it turns into a whirlwind.”
While acknowledging the shift of the bullpen personality dynamics with Jason Motte and Pat Neshek both departing, Maness gives credit to Randy Choate for being the veteran that many younger components of the bullpen go to for guidance.
“I’m still learning as a reliever. That’s why it’s important that I can go to Choate and ask him. Relieving every day you have to be ready in regards to keeping your arm in shape and being ready to go every day. It is a big adjustment, going out having a rough outing and having a few in a row, so I am still learning.”
He states that he would be open to looking to return to the starting rotation one day if needed, but it is not on his radar right now.
Rehabbing lefty Kevin Siegrist….
Regarding his health and rehab progress from the forearm muscle strains that curbed his season, he was on a regime of rest being the most important element. He explained he was not sure about the source of the injury and that he was actually relieved when there was an injury diagnosis.
“It was a very frustrating season for sure. I didn’t have the explosion at the end of my pitches. I could just tell I wasn’t throwing the ball the same way.”
When attempting to pinpoint sources for the injury, he returned back to the 2013 World Series. “I think part of it was the World Series before. I had such a short break that I didn’t know how to prepare myself going into the season,” Siegrist explained.
On things he is focused on working on, continuing to develop a secondary pitch is his focus. “Last year before I got hurt, I was really working on my slider and getting its velocity up so it appears like a cutter. I thought I was showing improvement with that, and I definitely have a better feel for it going into this season than last.”
All-Star third baseman Matt Carpenter took to the podium next…
About being entrenched at third base for the year and knowing his role ahead of time, he says it is “a good feeling knowing you have a position,” and he does not anticipate preparing for any other spot. He feels third base is a natural fit for him.
About finding a more consistent groove this season at the plate, Carpenter doesn’t anticipate doing anything any differently in his preparation for the year. Rather it would be some changes in his approach that he would embrace instead by becoming more aggressive at the plate.
“This last year was kind of a grind for me mentally and I never really felt like I got on a real hot streak that I could prolong like the year before. I think last year was a good learning experience overall.”
He continued on that he did find a different zone in the postseason: “I did finally come and it was in the postseason and I will take that ten times out of ten.”
“I took more of an aggressive approach in the postseason. Part of that was from the experience I had gathered from the year before. It sort of opened my eyes that it was something that over the course of a season could have some benefits as well. That was a good learning experience for me.”
Carpenter was enthusiastic about the possibilities that Heyward brings to the Cardinal offensive approach. “I’m excited. Certainly we know what kind of player he is and the ability he has to get on base. I don’t know what our lineup is going to look like or how it is going to unfold, but I sure am excited to know he’ll be in there somewhere.”
About his role in the lineup potentially changing, Carpenter says that while he will hit anywhere in the lineup Matheny places him, however he is open to moving wherever fits best.
When accessing the potential of being paired with Heyward at the top of the lineup, Carpenter sees it as a chance for the team’s offensive approach to get far more diverse. “I think this group can be really dangerous. You would think that between me and Jason, we would be at the top of the lineup. While I don’t want to speak for him, would say that (Heyward) hasn’t really tapped into his potential as a power hitter, and I would like to put myself in that category as well. So you have two guys at the brink of finding out their power threshold and meanwhile doing a really good job of getting on base as well.”
Regarding the increasing competition level in the NL Central, Carpenter sees it as an across the board challenge. “This is going to be as tough of a division as it has been since I have been around, and that’s pretty hard to imagine because this has been a really tough division already,” he evaluated. “With the emergence of the Pirates , how good the Cubs look on paper and the Brewers are always there, its going to be a tough go.”
“But the good news is that they are sitting on the other side thinking the same thing about us, and I feel good about the group we’ve put together.”
And finally, Matt Adams steps in to round out a busy day at the Winter Warm-Up.
About the high spot home runs he had in the postseason against two of the game’s best left-handed pitchers, Adams relays that “It was a huge confidence builder for me, especially doing it against Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner.”
His focus on his swing has been in continuing to work with hitting coaches throughout the offseason and taking swings against sliders in the batting cage. Soon he anticipates introducing curveballs and change-ups as well.
That’s it for day 2 of I-70’s coverage from the Cardinal Care Winter Warm-Up. Come back tomorrow for final day coverage, as well as some exclusive content from the first two days as well.