The unofficial start to Cardinals baseball season is underway this weekend in downtown St. Louis, as the Cardinals Care Winter Warm Up is underway. It is the 20th anniversary of the team’s fanfare extravaganza, and I70 Baseball is on site to bring updates throughout the day from the player media sessions as they return to the Hyatt Regency at the St. Louis Arch as well.
As has come an annual tradition here, the Progressive Day Blog documenting the media sessions with the team will be documented here, as well as other topics of interest as well. Continue to check back throughout the day for updates here to the Saturday edition of the I70 PBD to hear from the Cardinals in real time as they gear up for the 2016 campaign.
9:30: Tommy Pham
Outfielder Tommy Pham was the first to show up for the day, discussing his breakout 2015 season, as well as new expectations headed into the new season.
“I have high expectations for myself, so anything I do is expected on my end”, Pham stated when looking back at his breakout year in 2015, where he hit .268 with five home runs and 18 RBI in his first trip to the Major Leagues.
“I finished on a high note. When I got recalled back up, I made adjustments to my swing and then I took off offensively. When you factor in that contribution to what I can do defensively, as well as stealing bases, a lot of guys in the game can’t do that.”
Pham credited adjusting his hand mechanics and bat placement as being key to his success last season, but also discussed struggles with his vision throughout the year as well. To address this issue, he states that the biggest area of improvement he made this winter was getting a new type of contact lenses that allows him to track the ball better both at the plate and in the field.
In regards to his role with the team and potential opportunities along with Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, Pham sees his individual performance as the most important aspect of being a regular part of the lineup.
“I plan on showing up every day and performing at a high level. I know that if I go out there and perform well, it is hard not to keep me in the lineup.”
9:45: Greg Garcia
Garcia stated that he is preparing for second base, third base and shortstop this year, but has spent has focused the majority of his time working at shortstop this offseason. “If you can field shortstop, you’ll be ready to man any other position, so I am getting ready there more than anywhere else.”
Garcia is also embracing his ability to contribute from the bench as well. Coming off of a season where he hit .346 as a pinch hitter, he characterized his success in that capacity as a product of being prepared each day and that the role is a part of many player’s careers as they establish themselves.
10:15: Marco Gonzales
Regarding the injuries that limited his 2015 season to one appearance in St. Louis around a start-and-stop year in the minors, Gonzales said he was ‘humbled’ by his experience.
“Lot of lessons learned. At the end of last season, I hit the reset button.”
In regards to his role on the team going ahead, he stated that he is open to relief or starting, and while he does not feel that he has to ‘re-establish’ himself
10:30: Jaime Garcia
In regards to his health and entering the year completely healthy for the first time since 2012, Garcia was confident in his place in the rotation.
“I’m good to go. I’m preparing myself to be better than the Cardinals expect me to be. I’m going to give it my best.”
Regarding the impact of himself and the rest of the Cardinal starting staff, Garcia sees it as being a group that is one of the strongest in the game, and could stand to improve from where it was last year.
“I’m very confident in our rotation. We get Adam Wainwright back as our ace and also sign a guy in Leake that has been very durable, as well as the two young guys, who are two of the most talented guys in the league. I feel like we are going to be good this year.”
Garcia sees himself as being able to be an adviser for players that are returning from injury, as well as battling through the wear and tear over the course of the season.
“It is sort of the same situation I went through when Chris Carpenter was here. If any of the guys come to me for advice, that’s what I’m here for.”
10:40: Seth Maness
While being one of the most used and versatile relievers on the staff, the former starter remains open to the idea of a return to the rotation if the situation arose. However, he tempered that by being realistic about depth of the team’s current staff:
“Sure, that is something I would be interested in if the time arose. I don’t know if it would be with the Cardinals, due to the talent we have here being so deep, but if the time arose I would be ready for the challenge.”
11:30: Brandon Moss
Regarding his health since coming over to the team, Moss stated that he had not truly felt his best since initially injuring himself in January 2014 while still a member of the Cleveland Indians. The loss of strength in his hip, which was complicated by glute tear afterwards, dampened his ability to contribute the type of power that he is capable of.
“The hip is doing well. It was feeling weak to due to not being able to work out during the offseason, and as an athlete your legs are very important to have underneath you. There was a lot of weight loss and atrophy due to this.”
Moss expressed he was not sure that he would be tendered coming out of the season, and up until the moment he was notified of it, he had not had any conversation about it with the club.
“I didn’t know. You can always go by what is said, but sometimes things are said and they just don’t work out. But I was very happy that they did.”
Between struggles with his health and getting acclimated to his new surroundings in St. Louis, Moss acknowledged that he was unsatisfied with his performance last year, and that it is a motivating factor going into 2016.
“I want to do well here. Regardless of who you’re traded for or when you come over, when you play in a city like this with the group of guys in the front office and coaching staff there is here, you want to play well because this is a place where everybody wants to be.”
“The most frustrating thing was coming over and having good at-bats, with nothing to show for it. The most important thing in baseball is having results and they didn’t show last year, which was tough.”
12:15: Matt Carpenter
Carpenter discussed the variety of different types of performances he has had over his three years as an everyday player as a mixed bag of results. Regarding his power outburst a year ago that resulted in a career-best 28 home runs, he was surprised that he hit so many home runs in the second half last season, and that it was ‘unchartered territory’ for him as a hitter in his career.
“I feel like I have been a different hitter each year. There are pieces of each season that I want to morph into one year. If I had a goal for 2016, it would be to put those bits and pieces together into one year.”
“I feel like I am continuing to develop as a hitter and last year was a big step forward in finding out that I have some untapped power in there that I didn’t necessarily realize I have and now it is all about putting it together.”
He states that he will hit anywhere in the lineup that he is needed, and has no preference. He has had no discussion with the team regarding moving down in the lineup this year. “I will always do what’s best for the team, but I am willing to do what’s best.”
“What I do and who am works well as being a leadoff hitter, and for the group of guys we have had in the past it has worked well with me being there. But who am I won’t change and I can hit anywhere.”
Describing himself as a hitter:
“I feel like if there are two things I can do consistently it is get on base and see a lot of pitches. That is the backbone of who I am. Am I going to be a consistent power hitter? I don’t know, but I have shown I have that ability.”
“When you are a guy that takes a lot of pitches, there are more chances for that to happen (having a high number of strike outs looking). I don’t think there is anything I can do to combat that other than swinging a lot more early in the count, but that also goes against who I am as a hitter.”
Regarding the end of the 2015 season and it coming at the hands of a divisional rival in the Chicago Cubs, Carpenter expressed that moreover than who it came against, it was when it happened that was the most unsatisfying part:
“If anything, it was just upsetting to lose in the first round. Since I have been in St. Louis, we hadn’t played in anything short of the NLCS, so that was a disappointment more than anything.”
“I am sure fans took it harder losing in Wrigley and to the Cubs, but we just took as we lost and didn’t play well enough to advance to the next round. It could have been anybody and that wouldn’t have been alright. But going forward I think that is motivation to improve and try to beat them as much as we can.”
1:30: Tim Cooney
On what he learned from making his MLB debut last year and his expectations headed into 2016:
“Mentally in terms of preparation, I have a different mindset than last year. I know better what I need to do in camp. I proved to myself that I can pitch at the big league level and had some success. It is about getting the opportunities and making the best of them.”
“I would be open to any spot that is on the team. If I got the opportunity to pitch out the bullpen, I would be very happy with it. I know there is a full rotation right now, but anywhere that I can get innings I would be very happy with.”
1:45: Charlie Tilson
Regarding his experience in playing in the Arizona Fall League (where he hit .203 and stole four bases in 15 games), Tilson regarded it as a great experience and opportunity to grow.
Headed into a season where he will likely begin at Triple A Memphis, his goals include increasing his stolen base proficiency (Tilson stole 46 bases at Double A Springfield last year, while being caught 19 times):
“My biggest goal last year was to be aggressive and I learned a lot from being out there and able to do that. It gets tougher as you put up higher stolen base totals, because guys start to pay attention to you more. I think I could some adjustments there late in the season (to avoid being caught stealing more), but it is about communication and working with your teammates.
2:00: Matt Adams
Adams’ offseason focus was based around increasing his muscle mass, in an effort to regain the power numbers that he trended towards in 2014:
“Training wise, I put more muscle on, leaned up a bit and got stronger. But my quad feels great and I’m ready to test it out on the ballfield.”
In regards to the difficulties in both injury and performance from a year ago, Adams is focused on leaving it in the past and moving forward for a restart this spring:
“Last year was tough. I want to go out there and prove everybody wrong who thought that last year was the type of player I am. I worked the things I wanted to this offseason, so I’m ready to go out to the ballfield now.”
That is a wrap on day one commentary from the Cardinals. Look for an expanded take from John Mozeliak, as well as all day two details as well shortly here at I70.