As the Cardinals Care Winter Warm Up rounds home and heads into its final day, it is a good time to look back at the highlights of the player press interviews from Sunday.
9:30: Michael Wacha
Looking back at the 2015 season, its highs, lows and lessons learned, Wacha explained that the year was full of opportunities to learn both his craft and his body:
“You learn a lot about yourself in a first full season about how you can compete and go through the ups and downs.I was really happy with the way that my arm and body held up throughout the full season. So it’s just about continuing to throw more and more innings each year.”
He stated that he felt no continued effects from the stress injury that he suffered in his throwing shoulder in 2014, and that his arm felt good throughout the year.
Regarding where he sees the rotation without John Lackey or Lance Lynn being a part of it, he has no concerns due to both the return of Adam Wainwright and the addition of Mike Leake:
“Those guys (Lackey/Lynn) were a big part of our rotation, but getting Leake and Waino back makes us a very dangerous staff with Jaime and Carlos in there as well.”
As one of the younger, but already accomplished members of the Cardinal staff, Wacha sees value in the presence of the still performing veteran core of the team, and stresses they bring even more value than is shown in the boxscore:
(Wainwright, Molina, Holliday) “They’ve been around the game for years and they’re the types you can go to for whatever. We have the right amount of veterans along with some young guys that can play. But having those veterans on our club is very important.”
“One of the good things about this club is that this team is always trying to better itself from the inside and among the guys on the roster.”
9:50: Alex Reyes
The Cardinals’ top prospect, who will serve a 50-game suspension to start the year due to marijuana use, issued a statement regarding the situation:
“I want to start off today by apologizing to the organization, my friends and my family for testing positive for marijuana in the Fall League.”
“Honestly, I am disappointed in myself. It was a huge mistake and I am learning to get past it. It has been tough dealing with the problems, but I am looking forward to next season and turning the page on this.”
Reyes stated that while he will not be a part of game competition in spring training, he continue to work out and face live batters as a part of individual training until he joins the organization once the suspension is over:
“I will be able to face some competition in spring training and continue to work on my stuff against batters.”
10: 30: Kolten Wong
Wong’s focus headed into the year is to get a chance to hit out of the lead off spot, where he feels he can better apply his craft and skill set:
“I would love to hit leadoff. Seeing some of the power numbers that Carp put up last year, I can get to scoring position and if he hits it into the gap, I’m going to score. So its all about adding more versatility and ways to score more runs, so it could be a good thing to do. But if Mike (Matheny) has me at eight, I’m more than happy to be there too. But hopefully, number one is the spot.”
“When I was leadoff, I felt like I was doing a pretty good job. When I needed to drive in runs, I was able to do that there. Hopefully the thing I talk to Mike about is that if he does decide to put me at leadoff, to start me there from day one of spring training so I can start to get ready for it.”
He states that he intends on talking to Matheny about that opportunity during spring training.
“I’m not going to hold Mike to it, but I do want the chance.”
He believes that his ability to use his speed better both from an on-base perspective as well as stealing bases is somewhat limited at the bottom of the lineup:
“I think so. There’s a lot of situations where you are low in the order and you don’t get a chance to get moving. It is hard to steal when the pitcher is up and when he is trying to bunt you over. And then on the other hand, it is hard to get moving when Carp is up too, because you don’t want to take the bat out of his hands. My slots to go were really limited.”
“But hopefully if I can get to the leadoff spot I will have a chance to be more aggressive and get moving.”
10:50: Stephen Piscotty
Coming out of a season where he had affirmed a role on the team, but an undetermined place in the field, Piscotty’s offseason focus was on improving defensively:
“My focus this offseason has been on defense mostly. I am doing right field, left field and first, trying to do as much as I can. I want to be able to flip between both spots efficiently and effectively.”
He stated his arm did get tired last year due to flipping between all of the different spots and throwing from the different arm slots.
He noted that the biggest difference he noticed from the minors to the Major Leagues is the speed at which adjustments have to be made:
“I felt like I was able to make adjustments on fly, as opposed to in the minor leagues where I would make them game to game. It’s a different game plan and you have to be able to adjust quicker.”
He said he has no lingering effects from the brutal collision that he had in Pittsburgh with Peter Bourjos in the outfield. There was some soreness early in the offseason, but has subsided now.
11:30: Randal Grichuk
Grichuk reports that he is on pace to be ready to start spring training on schedule, after his rehab from sports hernia surgery. He initially brought it to the attention of team medics in July, but it worsened by the end part of the year. He is uncertain where it originated from.
He reported that his right elbow, which bothered him throughout the middle portion of the year, is trending in the right direction and that continued rehab from it should not impact his spring training preparation very much:
“It’s good. I got it checked out again this offseason and took another couple months off of throwing before starting a rehab program a couple of weeks ago. So I haven’t had a problem with it yet.”
In regards to safeguarding the elbow as it rehabs, Grichuk states he may ‘save some bullets’ early in the season, just to play it safe for the long haul. “It should heal enough to wear I don’t notice or feel it unless something crazy happens.”
Regarding his role in the outfield, Grichuk is preparing himself for time at all three spots and still considers himself as still going in to compete for time:
“I’m going into the year and preparing like any other season. I’m going in ready to fight for a job. I don’t think it being said that I could be opening day guy means a lot, because things change. Guys come in and aren’t in shape or get injured or have bad springs and the picture changes. I’m definitely not going to take anything for granted, and I am going to go in and fight not like it’s my job to lose, but my job to win.”
1:30: Adam Wainwright
Wainwright states that he has a completely clean bill of health, and due to the rehab that he put in last year, along with the limited amount of innings he threw upon returning, that he feels better than he has in years coming out of last season:
“I think missing last year, this is the most excited I’ve been about spring training headed into it that I can remember. I miss pitching, I love pitching, it’s just fun. I really miss pitching for this team.”
“I certainly pushed the envelope in being ready to pitch. It came down to that week (of the season) where I passed a few tests. I had a chance to let everything heal last year. Although I had a banged up Achilles, body wise I couldn’t feel better than I do now.”
Although he sustained his Achilles injury while running the bases, Wainwright enthusiastically supported the National League style of play, and being against the designated hitter rule being adopted full-time in the NL:
“I am a National League player. I love the different mindsets and strategies that go into managing a National League game. But I understand why people want more offense and greater hitters out there, but maybe we just need to train our pitchers to hit better. But I love the National League. I’ll always be a National League supporter.”
On the heels of comments about the Cardinal roster potentially starting to age out some, Wainwright both acknowledges that parts of the are gaining in years, but also scoffs at the fact that it is a disadvantage for the team:
“I still feel pretty young. Body wise, I feel better than I did three years ago. I am not looking at the end yet. I’ll look at the end when it’s here. But right now I’m motivated. I’m not looking to be retiring in the next year or so.”
“I think it’s fair to point out the core is getting older, but it is the same thing that happened before with Edmonds and Rolen and Eckstein and Reggie Sanders, Larry Walker and Chris Carpenter. They got older and passed the torch to the younger core, and that’s what we are doing right now. And we still have a very young nucleus after us old guys.”
Wainwright stated that he believes the impact that John Lackey had on the staff last year was grossly underestimated. However, he feels like the staff is replacing the loss of John Lackey and Lance Lynn with Mike Leake and himself, which should be seen as a decent trade for the team.
Going on further regarding the addition of Leake, he heaped praise on the competitive and athletic ability of the newest Cardinal starter:
On Mike Leake joining the rotation: “I think he is one of the best athletes in baseball. You see him field his position and he’s a very good hitting pitcher, and the way that he can handle the bat adds a whole new element to the lineup.”
“I love that he goes out there and competes. I talked to (Leake’s former teammates) Skip Schumaker and Jonathan Broxton, and they speak glowingly of him. He takes the ball every fifth day and really competes. And I think there is more in the tank there too, because he is learning a 92-mph cutter that’s really nasty.”
Wainwright also touched on his disappointment regarding the low vote total for Jim Edmonds on his one (and subsequently only) appearance on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot:
“Yeah I was and I hate the fact he won’t get another crack at it. If you look at what Jim was able to do in his career, he was at least in the talks to be the best center fielder of our era, minus Ken Griffey, Jr.”
“I think what Jim did defensively was amazing. He was a middle of the order bat that could hit home runs, drive in 100 runs and won, what, like nine Gold Gloves or something like that. He has some stats, but he was lineup changer, a game changer in the outfield and I would have liked to have seen him get another chance.”
In regards to swapping teams within the division:
“It’s amazing. You really appreciate every time you play against the Cardinals, because no matter who is playing or who is hurt they continue to fight, so you have to appreciate that and a winning organization.”
“It was a no-brainer for me. I told my agent right away to go out there and do it, because this is a great opportunity. For me to be in the position to go out and compete for a World Series ring was something I was really looking for, so its an honor to be a part of this great organization and the tradition that comes with it.”
On joining a battery with Yadier Molina:
“I understand and embrace my role. You don’t always have an opportunity to share the locker room with a future Hall of Famer, and Yadier is that guy. He represents Spanish players so well and I am going to do whatever it takes to fit in.”
On Mike Leake:
“He’s a grinder. He is one of those guys that never gives up. He never backs down from any challenge and goes out there and gives it all he’s got.”
“Having a guy that can always give you six or seven strong innings and give the bullpen a rest is important. He knows the division and it was a great pickup.
He discussed his trip back to Cuba and hopes that he will be able to return more often, as well as more freely, than before. While he considers America to be home for him and his family, having the ability to return to his native country is very important.
Day 3 to follow shortly here at I70.