February 2010

Thursday tidbits: And so it begins

Lots of tidbits today, and for some of you the best news of all is that today’s tidbits are a McGwire-free zone. It was another gorgeous day down here, unusually cool for the area (below 50 in the morning, mid-60s in the afternoon) but clear. Supposed to be warming up as the weekend goes on.

* Both TLR (to the group of us) and Mozeliak (to me in a chat this afternoon) reiterated that the Cardinals are not in any hurry to add an infielder or anything else. They’re aware that Brendan Ryan’s injury is something that could create some complications, but there will be no overreaction.

Reports continue to swirl that the Cardinals are “pursuing” Felipe Lopez, but let’s be realistic here. It’s Feb. 18. If they were really pursuing him that hard, they’d likely have signed him. More probable is that they’re keeping the lines of communication open in case the fit suddenly becomes better.

Here’s TLR on the situation: “I think we’re doing the things to protect ourselves. I don’t think you go out there and trade for an everyday shortstop. We expect him to come back, and we cover until he comes back. I think that’s one of the things we’ve talked about, some protection, infield, outfield.”

Meanwhile, Mozeliak said that he expected any move the Cardinals made would likely take place late in camp. He also said he had no issues with Ryan waiting until next week to arrive.

“He’s coming on his report date,” Mozeliak said. “We didn’t feel like we needed to change flights or anything like that. there’s not a whole lot he could have done today, tomorrow, this weekend.”

* The turnout continues to be excellent. Colby Rasmus is now in camp. That means that it’s entirely possible that seven of the nine players in the Opening Day lineup are already here. If Ryan is out, I’d guess that Tyler Greene will start. So all of the following players are currently in camp and could start on April 5 in Cincinnati: Yadier Molina, Skip Schumaker, Greene, David Freese, Rasmus, Ryan Ludwick and either Adam Wainwright or Chris Carpenter.

* Among the pitchers and catchers, the only one not present is P.J. Walters, who is tending to the health of his newborn baby. I have not heard anything recently about how the child is doing, but I certainly wish the whole family well.

* La Russa said that every pitcher who is in camp is healthy and ready to go on the full, normal program.

* One interesting player this spring, and a guy I’ve liked for a long time, is Joe Mather. If Mather is healthy and effective, he’ll have every chance to make the team. He can play some third and first and both corner outfield spots. But he’s played some middle infield very early in his career, and TLR said Thursday that he considers Mather a viable center field option.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I think just about anywhere. This guy is a player.”

It’s a funny twist. A year ago, Mather’s best chance to make the team appeared to be moving from the outfield to third base. This year, his ability to play center, as a right-handed batter, might just be his ticket onto the roster.

* Pitchers and catchers underwent physicals and drug tests this morning, so they started their workout later than normal. Tomorrow’s workout should be closer to 9 a.m. ET.

Today’s playlist is all Nirvana because, well, I’m on a Nirvana kick:
“Heart Shaped Box”
“Pennyroyal Tea”
“Smells Like Teen Spirit”


Wednesday camp tidbits: That was… oddly normal

Greetings from Jupiter, where the locals are complaining about the chill, thanks to overnight temps below 50 and highs in the mid-60s. Rest assured, your correspondent is NOT among those complaining.

It was the last relatively quiet day on the field, with players going through informal workouts. Tomorrow brings the first structured pitchers-and-catchers workout. For those of you coming out to watch, don’t expect to see anything before about 10:30 a.m. ET. Usually, workouts start in the 9 o’clock hour, but pitchers and catchers undergo physicals tomorrow morning before the work starts.
Anyway, on with the tidbits.
* The most heavily-reported story today, of course, was Mark McGwire’s arrival. I know many of you are tired of it, and honestly, I’ll be happy myself when I’m writing more about position battles and less about what the hitting coach did 12 years ago.
With that said, though, I do believe that there were still legitimate, fair and relevant questions that had yet to be asked and answered. And quite a few of them were asked, and answered, this afternoon.
I have a full story on this on the site today, so if you’re interested, please do go check it out. In addition to that, a couple of things.
First, personally, I was impressed with McGwire today. He was relaxed, at ease, thoughtful. He answered every question, mostly of them with some depth and thoroughness. It was exactly the kind of session that should have happened a month ago at the Hyatt, but instead that day turned into largely a matter of who could shout the loudest.
He talked not only about steroids but coaching. I’m sure that in some corners, it still won’t be enough, but for me, I feel like I’ve had my opportunity, asked the questions I felt needed to be asked (or someone else asked them while I was there) and gotten the answers I’m going to get. For me, personally, I’m ready to be asking McGwire about baseball when I interview him at all.
Second, there was one quote that I didn’t get in the story that I thought was relevant. McGwire was asked about a topic he’s mentioned before: whether, when and how he plans to follow up on his stated desire to educate and warn kids about steroids. Here was his response:
“I do that stuff privately. I’ve always done charitable stuff privately and talked to people privately. That’s the thing about me. I’ve never wanted to do anything just to have a camera in my face and say, ‘This is what I’m doing.’ I think doing private things is really good. I’ve done it basically my whole life.
“When you see a kid smile and they really appreciate when you say things, don’t follow in my footsteps of what I’ve done, steroids and performance-enhancing stuff is terrible for anybody to even think about doing it. I was wrong. I’m so very sorry. I don’t know how many times I’m going to say that, but I am. I truly am.”
* As the last day before full p-and-c workouts begin, today was fairly sparsely attended by big-name veterans. Chris Carpenter made a cameo, for example, but Adam Wainwright was not seen. As of tomorrow, they’re on the clock. So even guys who have been working out down here are happy to take the day. 
* One guy notable by his presence is Skip Schumaker. He was not only present but out on the field, working out and hitting in the cage with McGwire. It’s possible that I missed someone, but by my count, Schumaker was the only infielder or outfielder with a secure job who is not coming back from injury who got out on the field today. Most of the other non-catcher hitters who are here are guys like Joe Mather, Nick Stavinoha (who is catching some) and David Freese.
* As I tweeted yesterday, Mike Matheny is down once again to help out the coaching staff. Matheny said his tenure in Florida is open-ended, but don’t read too much into that. Matheny is still likely a good ways away from a coaching job — being a dad is definitely still his top priority.
* Ryan Ludwick arrived by town car late this afternoon, after nearly everyone was gone. Another impressively early arrival.
Today’s playlist:
Rhett Miller, “I Want to Live”
Lucero, “Sixes and Sevens”
The Hold Steady, “Sequestered in Memphis”
Drive-By Truckers, “Three Dimes Down”
The White Stripes, “The Hardest Button to Button”

Let the festivities begin

Matthew Leach

JUPITER, Fla. — A little after 9 am eastern, those of us sitting in the media workroom here at Roger Dean Stadium heard cheers. They were coming from the entrance gate to the player/staff/media parking lot.

We looked up, looked out the door, and what do you know, up walks the Cardinals’ new hitting coach — guy named McGwire. He poked his head in the media room, wondering if that was where he needed to be, but quickly figured out that wasn’t where he was headed. 
Unsurprisingly, he didn’t stop to chat with anybody, though when a TV crew asked him about being back in uniform, he replied “feels good,” and when he was asked whether it’s good to be back, he said, “absolutely.” Scintillating stuff, I know. Hopefully McGwire will chat with us before the day is out, and when/if he does, I’ll have a story on it.
The coaching staff is scheduled to meet a little later this morning. That’s about when manager Tony La Russa is expected to arrive at camp for the first time.
Oh, and by the way, it’s report day for pitchers and catchers. The first official workout comes tomorrow. Look for frequent updates on the actual baseball news here, at StLCardinals.com and at my Twitter account.

Ryan undergoes surgery

General manager John Mozeliak said on Wednesday that Brendan Ryan has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist and will be limited at the start of Spring Training. Ryan is expected to be ready to play by Opening Day.

“He went into the offseason thinking it would go away with rest, and it didn’t,” Mozeliak said. “He ended up having a very benign ‘scope’ done on his wrist. … He’ll be limited at the beginning of camp. He won’t be swinging a bat for three weeks now.”
More to follow on StLCardinals.com.