Pitchers and catchers officially reported to Jupiter, Florida yesterday and took the field for their first practice of the year today. It all began with a team meeting in which manager Mike Matheny and a select few others give speeches that set the tone for the season.
Among the many things they hit on is what it means to be a Cardinal and how to be a professional. I’ve asked several players exactly what “The Cardinal Way” means and they all say it comes down to the way you go about your business and respect the game. It’s something they feel sets them apart from the rest of the organizations in baseball.
As for the stories of the day, one of them really dominates.
- Jaime Garcia threw his first bullpen session in Jupiter. There was a lot of intrigue to see how his pitching shoulder would respond to this after getting shut down at the end of the 2012 season. With Chris Carpenter out for the year, and seemingly his career, the importance of Garcia just increased greatly. Now, GM John Mozeliak, Mike Matheny and Garcia himself all don’t think he should be under any more pressure. But that’s the politically correct thing to say. Losing a talent like Carpenter absolutely puts pressure on everyone else to step up and be better than they would normally be. Otherwise you’ll end up at a net loss.
- Garcia threw the ball well during his session. He drew the praise of many in the organization and said he felt really good. He said his shoulder was strong, very encouraging news to Cardinal fans. He wasn’t favoring his shoulder in any way during the bullpen. Having Garcia available for 30+ starts in 2013 is paramount to the team’s success.
- I talked 1-on-1 with all three starters that are competing to replace Carpenter in the rotation, too. Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal are all extremely excited by the prospect of starting for this team. They believe competition brings out the best in everyone and this will be no different. All three of them bring something crucial to the table.
- Kelly’s got the most experience - by virtue of coming up and starting half the 2012 season in place of Garcia. Rosenthal’s got the best arm - by virtue of throwing over 100 miles an hour consistently out of the bullpen. And Miller probably has the most upside overall - by virtue of his regular appearances near the top of prospect rankings every season. The competition has already begun. Games will determine a lot of what will happen, but you can certainly do a lot before the games begin to enhance your standing. Mike Matheny said the best starter will start. So we’ll see what happens.
- Even though pitchers and catchers were the ones to officially practice, there was one position player continuously making news. Matt Carpenter’s possible transition to second base is drawing about as much interest as you can get. He’s working privately with Jose Oquendo each day working on the turns and throws and nuances of playing a position he’s never played. I talked to Carpenter earlier today and he told me he started working on second base almost immediately after the team lost to the Giants in Game 7 of the NLCS. He said he took a couple days off to mentally recover - physically he was fine - and then he got after it.
- Carpenter said the hardest part of the move is turning to his right and flipping the ball to second base for the shortstop to turn two. Normally everything he’s done has gone toward first base. But at second, you have to do some things backwards, going the other way. That’s the part he looked to struggle with the most in drills. The difference between him and Daniel Descalso is quite large in that regard. Descalso - an inferior hitter - looked incredibly smooth in those drills. And he should. He’s very good defensively and has done it a long time. Carpenter’s brand new to it and is learning. He looked a tad robotic in some of his movements.
Don’t forget we will have full coverage of spring training here in Jupiter, Florida all the way through the time camp ends on March 29. Tune into News 4, check out KMOV.com and our Baseball STL app for columns, videos and pictures while the Cards prepare for the 2013 season.