Hello, all… First a little housekeeping:
* We have an official, formal date for the transition on the beat. Jenifer Langosch will take over in nine days, on Feb. 3. I’ll start writing in my new capacity that day. This blog should continue to exist, as should my twitter feed, but as of Feb. 3, I will no longer be MLB.com’s beat writer. If this is all news to you, check this entry for the story. We will probably be moving in April.
* Tonight at 9 p.m. CT, MLB Network will run a special on MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. Spoiler alert: there are some Cardinals on the list. So come to Cardinals.com about that same time for more on them. My good friend and longtime colleague Jonathan Mayo does great work with the prospect stuff for us, and you should definitely check it all out.
And now, on with the music.
This post gets later and later every year, which I apologize for. But hey, maybe I win some sort of prize for the last top-10 of 2011 list of any kind, anywhere.
Anyway, first a disclaimer/explanation. Actually, I’ll just re-run what I wrote in the intro to this piece last year:
If you’re not interested, just stop reading now. Won’t hurt my feelings. Head over to Cardinals.com for the news on Jason Motte’s contract and all the other stuff we’ve had there in recent days and weeks. … I know this is a baseball blog, but as I’ve made clear over the years, I also always intended it to be a little more than that. So thank you for indulging me. And most of all, thanks for reading all of it — blog, stories, everything — and for taking the time to comment and keep me on my toes.
In past years, my wife and I have done two separate posts. This year, she has simply emailed her list, which is a top-11 (I DO WHAT I WANT, she notes). So here it is. I’m not sure we’ve ever had so little overlap in our favorite albums in a year:
1. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit–Here We Rest
2. TV on the Radio–Nine Kinds of Light
The Cardinals have confirmed a Wednesday afternoon report that they have agreed to terms with right-hander Jason Motte. The deal is worth $1.95 million according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, who first reported that a pact was in place.
That would exactly split the difference between what the club offered and what Motte requested when arbitration figures were submitted earlier this month.
Motte, who emerged as the club’s closer late in 2011, requested $2.4 million. The club offered $1.5 million. As a matter of policy, the Cardinals do not divulge contract terms.
Motte was the only unsigned arbitration-eligible Cardinal. As a result, the team will avoid arbitration for the 13th straight winter. The team has not gone to a hearing since 1999, when it won its case against left-hander Darren Oliver.
Carlos Beltran was engaging and entertaining over his session chatting with us before he signed. A few tidbits:
* Beltran will wear No. 3.
* He didn’t express any real preference as to a spot in the batting order.
“I’ve hit second in the past, a little bit with the Mets, a little bit with Houston. I don’t mind. As players sometimes you go through situations where you’re swinging the bat well and the manager feels that he wants to hit you third or fourth. That’s his decision. I’m just going to come to the ballpark every day prepared to play, and wherever he needs me, I’ll be there.”
* Asked about the finalists to sign him, Beltran named the Indians, Rays and Giants along with the Cardinals.
* He explained that the easiest thing last year, with Angel Pagan around as a capable center fielder for the Mets, and Beltran recuperating from knee trouble, was just to go ahead and move him to right field from the start.
“Let me play right field and let Pagan play center field, and if later on in the season you need me playing center, then you know, I’m fine. I have played center for 12 years and I feel very comfortable playing center. But moving to right, it was an easy transition for me. So if they need a center fielder, I will prepare myself to be there.”
* Finally, I asked him about something J.D. Drew said a few years ago: that for a player with knee trouble, center field could actually be easier on the knees than right field. Drew’s contention was that in center, you can sort of glide to a stop, whereas in right field you sometimes have very sudden stops, which is difficult on the knees. It’s fair to say that Beltran doesn’t agree.
“No way. There’s no way, because you have to cover right center. You have to cover left center. You have to cover a groundball to second base. You have to cover a groundball to shortstop. In right field, a ball to left field, I just stand.”
That’ll about wrap it up. They’re not bringing any more players in today. We’ll have two full stories on the site, about Allen Craig and about Beltran, as well as a notebook and plenty of video. Hope you’ve enjoyed all of the content this weekend.
Just about to go hear what Carlos Beltran has to say, but in the meantime a few nuggets from Kyle Lohse and David Freese.
* Lohse said John Mozeliak did call him about the trade rumors that swirled in December, and it was clear that Lohse was unfazed by the whole situation.
“When he [Mozeliak] talked to me, he was like, ‘ I realized that I probably should say something to you just so you are clear on what’s going on,'” Lohse said. “The way he put it to me was, teams are inquiring, and he’s got to listen. It’s all part of the business. I’m not going around with my feelings hurt that someone is talking about trading for me.”
Of course it helps that Lohse can’t be traded without his permission.
* Lohse also had raves about the Carlos Beltran signing.
“Have you seen his numbers on me? I think he’s the greatest player in the history of the game. … It’s going to lower my ERA at least half a point.”
Beltran is 22-for-39 with 10 extra-base hits against Lohse.
* David Freese is very excited about his health, saying he has no hesitation or concern about his ankles for the first time in a long time.
“I guess publicly we didn’t talk about it a lot last year, but there was times where Tony would give me rest in games,” he said. “It helped that Descalso is a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman, so it was a win-win. You could throw [him] in there and keep him fresh. But I think 2012 will be different in the sense that it will be like, ‘Hey, Dave, just go play and do what you can do.’ Each day, each year, I get more healthy. There’s still room for improvement, but that’s the exciting part.
Asked about a target number of games, he said:
“I’d like to say I can handle 162. I’m not going to throw a number out there. … But the way I feel now, I’m not nervous, and that’s a good thing. That’s a feeling I don’t have. I’ve had that feeling for a long time with my legs and stuff. A year ago today, there was that feeling, a nerve-wracking feeling going into camp. To pull that off my shoulders is a great thing.”
Mike Matheny chatted with us for nearly 20 minutes today. Once again, there will be a little more on the site later today, but here are some of the bullet points from his session:
* On whether Spring Training will feature any particular emphasis:
“We’re going to hit baserunning hard again. Baserunning for pitchers as well. A lot of little things like bunting. There’s going to be a lot of bunting going on. There’s going to be a lot of situational hitting. There’s going to be team fundamentals. I think it’s going to cover the whole game.
“Even a lot of the players said they’d like to have more focus on breaking down things [about baserunning].”
(And before you freak out, I didn’t take this to mean they’d be sacrificing a lot during the season necessarily; just that they’ll work on bunting in Spring Training)
* On whether he’s sorted out a lineup yet:
“I’ve been writing lineups since the day I got the job. Got some projections going, potential guys, and it was nice to add another one in there. One with Furcal and two with Beltran. Start to play around with that. The lineup is going to kind of be fluid as you head into Spring Training. You don’t want to write that until you get there and see how guys kind of mix in together and how they gel.”
* Asked whether Carlos Beltran is a significant variable in the lineup, given that he has both table-setting and middle-of-the-order skills:
“I do see it that way. I see him being somebody that, if his legs are right, he could certainly fill that two hole. I’m an advocate of trying to get your best hitters up as many times as you possibly can. That’s just playing some good numbers. But you also have to look at the ability to drive in 100 runs, and he’s been a run producer in the past. You just kind of have to watch how it goes. You have to watch how he’s moving too. You want to be able to make sure that his knees are working to the point that he can be scored when he does get on first base. But the high on-base percentage mixed with power mixed with the knack of knocking in a big run gives you the flexibility to put him just about everywhere.”
* Matheny repeatedly referred to the second-base mix as a three-man competition, including Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene and Skip Schumaker. That’s a bit of a departure from some of what we heard earlier in the winter, when it sounded like Schumaker wasn’t really in the picture at second.
* On Beltran’s health and what it means to him playing center field:
“I think he’s going to over-deliver on what the expectations are of what his body is going to be able to hold. I just need to listen to the medical staff and also Carlos and his body of how we can use him, and center field may be a little more demanding than right field would be.”
Good morning all. I hope those of you who got to attend the Baseball Writers’ Dinner last night enjoyed it. I know I did, and it’s definitely one of the things I’ll miss about being around here.
A couple of morning tidbits for you:
* Allen Craig expressed a lot of optimism about the recovery of his surgically repaired right knee. He’s headed to Florida very soon to begin rehab, and likes the way it’s coming along so far.
“I’m walking around great and doing light strengthening exercises, and it feels really good,” he said. “I feel like I’m on track or maybe a little bit ahead.”
We’ll have a longer story on the site about Craig’s winter and his rehab later today.
* Craig said he gave the ball from the last out of the World Series to TLR.
“I heard through the grapevine that he was kind of interested in getting it after the World Series. And then he pulled us into the weight room and told us that he was retiring, so I was like, ‘I’m not going to be the guy that keeps the ball.’ So I gave it to him and I was glad to do it. I had the thrill of catching it. That’s all I need.”
* Kyle McClellan didn’t sound like he had a whole lot of feel for how his arm is doing following the difficulties he had at the end of the year. In short, he CAN’T really know just yet, but it’s worth noting that he certainly didn’t sound concerned. What McClellan was dealing with at the end of 2011 was essentially “dead arm,” so until he gets to pitching again, there’s no way to really know.
“I’ve taken a lot of time off and maintained my shoulder exercises but not thrown on purpose, and given myself a lot of time to rest,” he said. “And actually I’ll start throwing today for the first time and get back to where I normally am.”
I didn’t get any real feeling that McClellan thinks it will be an issue at all. He felt it was really a matter of fatigue after a career-high innings load, and I’m inclined to think that makes a lot of sense.
* We didn’t get much chance to talk to McClellan about his contract situation — he’s one of two unsigned arbitration-eligible Cardinals — but once again, he didn’t seem all that concerned.
“From what I understand, we still have plenty of time to get that done,” he said.
Same distribution of labor today. I’m your friendly neighborhood blog pilot, getting quick, brief updates to you here. Jenifer Langosch is once again handling the heavy lifting at Cardinals.com, filing stories and notebooks with a little more depth to them. I’m also filing lots of video that should be getting up on the site. Hope you’re enjoying it all. Here’s today’s first batch of tidbits:
* J.C. Romero had a long chat with us this morning about several topics, foremost among them the stresses he’s endured over the past three years. Romero recently reached a settlement over a tainted settlement that caused him to test positive for a PED back in 2008, and he described the misery of dealing with that stigma and the relief of having it all settled now. This will be a topic of a longer story on the site, and will certainly be worth reading, but in the meantime here’s a little of what he had to say:
“I believe in the MLB system completely. I’m happy that Mr. Bud Selig and everybody is doing what they’re doing with the game. But at that particular time, when I got suspended, I think there were some gray areas in the system that I didn’t agree with. They have to do their job and I respect their decision. But I’ve got to protect myself too. And I knew that my case wasn’t like everybody else’s. I didn’t go in an alley and stick a needle in my body, anything like that. I did what everybody else in the United States would do, which is go to the vitamin places and get your vitamins.
“But I think at the same time, I created a lot of awareness for a lot of the young guys. Not just young guys, but current Major League Baseball players that didn’t know this could happen to them. So my job was to fight to the end and clear my name. For me, that was the most important thing. I achieved that and I’m happy with it.”
* Jason Motte, arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, on his contract situation: “I’m sure there’s discussions going on, but my agent probably knows a little better about that. … I’m sure there’s stuff. Mo would probably know. I know there probably are discussions, but my job is to do it on the field. That’s why I have agents, so they can do that kind of stuff off the field.”
Safe to say it’s not weighing real heavily on him.
* Shelby Miller will also be spotlighted at a little more length, but he made it very clear he has high hopes and even expectations of making it onto the big league club at some point in 2012.
“I think I’d be disappointed [if it didn’t happen],” he said, “but I’d get over it.”
Miller also talked some about what he learned from his suspension last year and the maturing process he’s going through. Check the site later.
* There was some talk last year about Matt Adams perhaps getting some outfield work. However, he said that hasn’t been anywhere in the picture for him. It has been brought up to him, in fairly broad strokes, but he said he hasn’t spent even a single day working on playing the outfield. He does have an outfielder’s glove, though.
* Daniel Descalso enjoyed going on the Cardinals Caravan, except for one thing: it kept him from watching his beloved 49ers yesterday. He said he’s pulling for the Packers as San Francisco’s opponent in the next round, perhaps even with an eye on making it to Lambeau field for the game.
Once again, we’ll have plenty of coverage on the site as well, with a couple of items in the notebook addressing John Mozeliak’s comments to reporters this afternoon. But I was also able to attend his session speaking to fans in the main hall today. Here are a few choice nuggets from that:
* On the Albert Pujols negotiations: “It’s a difficult thing. There’s no doubt that that process was exhausting, frustrating and one that when you reflect back on it, it’s just… The right decision probably ended up happening. It’s very difficult for a club of this size… With where we want to go and how we can operate, it just creates new opportunities for us. As I look back at it, I don’t think I can treat it any other way than spilled milk at this time. It’s not something that I think we can sit there and [stew about]. It’s time to move on.”
* Mozeliak said he has seen “four or five” potential designs for World Series rings, but that no one design has yet been selected.
* He and Mike Matheny have discussed the possibility of Jim Edmonds returning to the organization in some capacity.
“As far as what the role looks like or how we define it, we haven’t done that yet,” he said.
* On trying to lock up Yadier Molina long-term (this is one issue that will be addressed in the notebook, so do check Cardinals.com for more depth on this subject): “He’s obviously a popular player and one that we hope stays here for a long time. In terms of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, I really can’t get into those types of details, but I assure we’re going to try to find a way to make it work. I know that he also wants to try to be here as well, so usually when you have that type of understanding and mutual agreement, you usually can get something resolved.”
* Asked about the batting order, he said he expects the most likely combination is Carlos Beltran second, Matt Holliday third and Lance Berkman fourth.
“Obviously Spring Training could change that, but you look at what [Beltran] is capable of doing, his on-base percentage, he does seem like a natural fit there. He could be a middle of the order type hitter.”
* On the possibility of adding Roy Oswalt: “The big issue of adding more pitching depth is, what do we do with our current five? I certainly like the idea of an insurance policy but I don’t know… what that involves.
“It’s something we will reflect on. There’s no doubt that he would be a nice addition, but I just don’t know how practical it is at this time.”
* He made it very clear (not that this is any kind of surprise) that Prince Fielder will not be coming here.
* He echoed Tony La Russa’s comments from last night about why La Russa is not likely to be in this organization in the near future, even though La Russa expects to continue working in baseball.
“I don’t think Tony wants to be around at this point. I think the reason is, if you’re Mike Matheny, you don’t want to feel like he’s overshadowing him or second-guessing. … I tend to agree with that thinking.”
* Asked what he would do if he could sign just one more player, Mozeliak didn’t identify a specific player, of course. But he did say that such an add would be much more likely to be a pitcher than a hitter.
We’re going to have a massive amount of Adam Wainwright on the site today, and something tells me that’s not a problem with any of you folks. Jenifer will be writing a feature on him as well as a note in the notebook about his comments on Tim Tebow (spoiler: he’s a fan). In the meantime, a few tidbits from his session with us this afternoon…
* On his elbow: “My arm feels great. My arm feels really good. I had a side [session] on Thursday. It went great, and I’ll continue to throw till Spring Training. I’m actually kind of worried that I’m too far along, as opposed to the other way around.”
* On the team monitoring his workload and perhaps reining him in at times: “We’ll have to wait and see. I’m not sure. I’m going to feel fresh and ready to go, and they’re probably going to pull the reins on me a little bit in the beginning. We’ll just have to wait and see. if I’m throwing low-impact innings, throwing 80 pitches in eight innings, stuff like that, then you can go a lot longer than if you’re out there grinding throwing 120, 130 pitches.”
* On a projected innings count of 150-180: “150 innings sounds like half a season to me. that’s five innings for 30 starts. If I’m making all my starts, I just don’t see how that would be possible. But he is the boss, so at the end of the day you defer to him. but any pitcher that is out there competing their tail off and is decent at what they do should throw more than 150 innings, I think.”
* On Albert Pujols: “As a teammate of Albert, you want him to come back. As a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, more than just a player for the Cardinals, you understand why making a huge commitment, a $300 million commitment, is just potential suicide. But you also know it would be worth it if Albert is Albert. I don’t think either side was wrong. I think it’s business. Of course you want to see a guy like that, who means so much to a franchise, finish here. but the nature of the game today is there’s just so many things that happen that we don’t want to happen.”
* On whether the club has approached him about a new deal (Wainwright is signed through 2013): “Not close. I haven’t heard anything about it and I probably won’t until they see that I’m healthy and out there rolling. Now if I go out there rolling, they better get going quick. But of course I want to finish my career here. everybody knows that. everybody that plays here wants to finish their career here. I can’t remember very many guys wanting to leave. This is St. Louis. People call it baseball heaven. Well, you know what? we kind of have it like that. we’re very blessed to have it in St. Louis. It would definitely be invited from my side of it.”
(Btw, the “they better get going quick” was said good-naturedly, and not as any kind of threat. Trust me. I was there.)
The early part of today has been prospect day. We’ve chatted with Zack Cox, Ryan Jackson and Jordan Swagerty.
* Jackson and Swagerty (and obviously Cox, since he’s on the 40-man roster) will be in Major League camp in the spring, we were told.
* Cox was asked about playing second base versus third, and said third remains the only thing on his mind.
“I haven’t played anywhere but third base. So that’s where I’ve been working. Until they tell me differently, I’m going to keep working there and just see what happens.”
This, by the way, coincides with what I’ve been told by club personnel. Cox is a third baseman for now at least.
* Jackson was asked about his experience playing with Nick Punto while Punto was an injury rehab assignment, and he raved:
“I learned a lot from him in two weeks, just watching him go about his business. He had a set routine and I was able to pick his brain on some defensive things. Punto is an awesome guy.”
* Swagerty said that at this point, it doesn’t matter as far as his preparations whether he’ll be starting or relieving. His preseason work will be the same.
“I’m going to start off the same way with bullpens, then facing live hitters. And then if they want me to be a starter, then I’ll build up to a starter during Spring Training, and if not, I’ll just hang out in the pen and do my deal there.
As for his preference, he gave at least a little hint:
“I think I have a closer mentality, but I like doing both. Wherever they have me, I hope to do well.”