Mike Matheny commented Friday, February 22nd, on how impressed he was with his 2013 Cardinals squad is looking. Matheny told reporters that he’s been able to see a very healthy and in-shape roster so far, and said that he’s excited about how few questions his staff has about the health of the team.
His one issue Matheny said he’s facing is getting a feel for the live batting practice. “We keep telling the guys that this is pitcher’s practice. It’s a tough situation with that cage around you, you’re facing your own guys, you don’t have adrenaline mixed in, and those sort of things only happen in game times. So we’re excited to watch everybody take that next step,” Matheny said.
Perhaps he didn’t remember that Rafeal Furcal’s right elbow – the one he opted not to have rebuilt, the one that he throws with, the one that seems to most redbirds fans is most certainly a ticking time-bomb – is old, injured, not surgically repaired, and, oh yeah, has no equal replacement? There are those who would cite the post-season phenomenon, Pete Kozma, and to them I say, check the stats…because I believe they are indicative of days to come.
Kozma might be the long term answer. The kid put up some great numbers last year in a limited amount of games. There are still some questions that he’s go to answer, but over all we’re looking at a young, hungry guy who’s aching for that starting shortstop role in the white uniform with the birds on the bats. Pair him with the veteran Cardinal’s newcomer, Ronny Cedeno, and even if it is middle infield by committee, I’m comfortable.
Furcal is most certainly on his way out and it doesn’t scream confidence that he’s taking cortisone shots this early on either. Cedeno or Kozma could be the day to day starter very easily. The birds could use this time with serious veteran leadership at the 6 spot to mold Kozma into an elite player. If he’s able to continue that great playoff ball he played last year, the battle for the position may already have been won.
Among the other positional battles is the war for 2nd base which is ongoing, and fun to watch. It’s between the defensively solid Daniel Descalso, and the youthful, offensive threat in Matt Carpenter, who has been taken under the wing of Descalso in an attempt to learn the role at 2nd base. Descalso, who posted a .227 average last year – the lowest of his MLB career, needs to have put in the effort in the off-season if he’s serious about being the guy at second base. He played 142 games last year to Carpenter’s 114, but Carpenter, if he’s able to repeat the numbers, is a great offensive weapon hitting .294 last year and slugging .463 with 46 RBI’s. Descalso only slugged .324 and brought in 26 runs. The question is, how quickly can Carpenter pick up the position?
Matheny came out and announced that Trevor Rosenthal, the man with the rocket arm, would get the start for the first game of the 2013 spring training season. Rosenthal looked like he was trying to push his top end well into the triple digits and in the process, sacrificed his command. The second inning he threw only accounted for 10 of a possible 24 strikes which was considerably down from 18 of 22 in the first.
After Rosenthal struggled trying to get the jitters out in his first spring training appearance (2.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R), the mash-up of Cardinals pitchers in the hunt for the starting spots became a bit more gossip filled.
Enter Michael Wacha; the 2012 draft pick by the Cardinals who’s fast, notable climb through the minors has caught the eye of everyone watching Cardinals pitching. From a distance, it appears Adam Wainwright is throwing, but up close you’ll see that the 6’6″, 190 lb frame rocking the 97mph heaters is actually the new guy. Where Rosenthal was getting blasted, Wacha did some blasting of his own pleasing the Cardinals coaching staff by jumping ahead in the count throwing first pitch strikes to all 8 batters he faced.
Only reaching 21 total pitches, Wacha launched 19 strikes and needed only 5 pitches to end the 4th inning with a strikeout, and two infield ground balls. Wacha said after the game “I look at it as a great opportunity to go out there and take advantage. One of the things I’m trying to do here in Spring Training is take advantage of the opportunity and learn as much as I can, and go out there and compete as best I can.”
The Cards now have 4; count them 4, pitchers competing for one spot in the starting rotation. Shelby Miller recently took a seat with some soreness, and replacing him is John Gast. Gast is a guy who can’t throw fireballs, but instead relies on a slurve, change-up and both 2 and 4 seam fastballs to get the major league batter’s missing. Peaking around 90-91mph with his 4 seam, Gast says he goes to the slurve as his strikeout pitch which needs to be as dirty as his mustache to be effective. Gast got the start in Sunday’s game against the Red Sox.
The biggest thing that has received little press this spring training, is the the Cardinals top prospect in Oscar Taveras; the outfielder who can (hopefully.) 6’2″, 180 lbs, and I believe capable of posting numbers better than Buster Posey, if he gets the playing time. The Cardinals designated Carlos Beltran to spend some time with the 20 year old beast to mold him into what could be the next Albert “It’s Not About The Money” Pujols. Want something to get excited about? Taveras is the just the thing you’re looking for.
It’s officially time to be excited Cardinals Nation.