The gang's all here: Cardinal camp notebook day 1 -

The gang's all here: Cardinal camp notebook day 1

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JUPITER, Fl ( -- The Cardinals held their first full-squad workout Tuesday, preceded by a speech from Mike Matheny. The talk is a sort of keystone for the season, defining where the club has been, where it’s going and how best to get there. It’s also for Cardinal ears only.

“I think as soon as they sense I’m trying to broadcast something to the world, it loses its impact,” Matheny said.


The Cardinals then poured out of the locker room and onto the five different fields of the Jupiter complex. By 11 a.m., drills had begun. The schedule, broken into a grid system that looks like it was designed by NASA to coordinate shuttle launches, has players going through everything from situational hitting to base running to something called “wall rag ball.”

The conversations are loose, but everything is done with precision and care. Matheny strolled the grounds with his bat in hand, looking like Wyatt Earp surveying Tombstone. Fans gathered along the fences to watch every iota of baseball activities like hawks. Never has batting practice been so captivating.


The highlight of the afternoon was live pitching practice, where starters and relievers threw off the mound to hitters. Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright led things off, and while Wainwright was quiet most of the drill, his velocity was sharp and his pitches crisp.

Wacha was less reserved, needling Randal Grichuk about freezing on a fastball, which was Wacha’s last live pitch.

“You know that came back over, right?” Wacha said.

Grichuk replied by explaining he had been looking for something else, to which Wacha replied, “It was my last pitch, how did you not think it was going to be a fastball?”

Jaime Garcia also threw of the mound Tuesday, enjoying a healthy spring for the first time in years. The lefty’s pitches whistled into the catcher’s mitt with ease, and his movement gave his minor league opponents (Jeremy Hazelbaker and Charlie Tilson) trouble getting solid contact. He did give up a single, which was followed by Garcia whacking himself on the head for a mistake, but he looked free and easy on the mound.

Wacha explained later every pitch was treated as an 0-0 count during the drill, so pitch sequencing wasn’t a concern.

“It didn’t matter how many pitches you had thrown to them, you’re just trying to execute a quality first pitch strike with all your pitches,” he said. “It’s kind of a different feeling as a pitcher having hitters in there. You’ve got to execute your pitches or else you’re going to get a line drive back at your face.”

In addition to working on pitch control, the drill also gives pitchers a chance to get feedback from batters. Such debriefing sessions were going on during the workout and afterward in the locker room. Fastballs were dissected, sink was discussed, and compliments were paid.

Matt Holliday, hunched over his lunch, asked Garcia how the day went. Holliday was facing Seth Maness when Garcia was throwing, and the hulking outfielder said he has to work up to the lefty.

“I’m not ready for you yet,” Holliday said across the locker room, delivered in his easy offhand style. “I’m not ready for the movement.”


Jim Edmonds and Ozzie Smith are on hand to help with camp, though The Wizard was otherwise engaged Tuesday. Edmonds ran through drills and offered advice to the next generation of Cardinal players, even as he worked to get his feet under himself.

“It’s interesting to be kind of out here in between,” he said. “I’m not really a coach but I’m not a player.”

Edmonds was party to Matheny’s clubhouse speech, saying the manager got him fired up even though he’s not going out there to play.


Red Schoendienst was also out and about, cruising around the field in his golf cart and observing the action from behind reflective shades.

At 93 years old, the Hall of Famer is a link to franchise history and an era of baseball many have only read about. The Cardinals love having him in camp and around the club, and despite his vehement protests, make a big deal about his presence and knowledge of the game.

But he’s not just a figurehead. Schoendienst is always watching, always offering advice and keeping mental notes.

“It blows me away,” Mike Matheny said. “He comes over the other day in his golf cart and says, ‘hey, so-and-so got his elbow up.’”

The manager chuckled and shook his head, impressed even in his retelling. “I said, ‘yeah, you’re right he did, he changed his hand position.’ The guy is just amazing.”

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