Matheny stresses individual improvement for pitchers, not replic -

Matheny stresses individual improvement for pitchers, not replication of last year’s results

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JUPITER, FL. ( – Can the Cardinals pitching staff repeat the remarkable performance of a year ago?

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t,” is the message manager Mike Matheny sends to each pitcher individually. Matheny’s approach is to stress individual performance, he says, asking players if they think they can be better this year than last and how.

In 2015, the Cards’ starters won 71 of the team’s 100 wins. The staff as a whole finished first in the National League in ERA (2.94), saves (62), runs allowed and of course, earned runs. The staff also gave up the second fewest home runs.

But gone are team ERA leader John Lackey (13-10, 2.77) and Lance Lynn (12-11, 3.03). Adam Wainwright is back (career ERA 2.98), joined by the free agent signing of Mike Leake (9-5, 3.56).  On paper, the Cards’ starters should be as good or better than last year, barring injuries.

But Matheny told his staff essentially that last year’s performance should not be the standard by how they are judged this year. “It’s about individual excellence. That’s how I like to look at it. We ask (each player) ‘can you have a better season? Can you be better?’ Then let’s do that.”

He said there is not any one statistic that defines performance and that each player has his own idea of success. So far this spring, Carlos Martinez and Leake have looked crisp. Wainwright continues to pace himself toward his opening day start while Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia continue to try to find their rhythm.

Matheny said Garcia is scheduled to throw on the main diamond against the Miami Marlins Sunday. He said all reports indicated Garcia’s last session on the back fields against the Cards’ class AAA team went as planned but that he had not talked to Garcia yet to determine how he felt about starting Sunday’s game.

In other updates, Matheny said:

•Jordan Walden, who reported some muscle discomfort Friday, is scheduled to pitch today. Walden said the tightness he experienced was unrelated to his damaged shoulder, which he said has felt fine so far this spring.

•Matt Holliday will start at first base today against the Washington Nationals with Brandon Moss in the outfield, leaving Matt Adams again on the bench. Matheny said this move was to give Holliday more repetitions at first base. Adams has seen limited starts this year, giving rise to some speculation about his status with the team.

•The presence of Jedd Gyorko, Greg Garcia, and others should give the Cards a little more bench firepower than they had last year, the skipper said. Garcia has had a nice spring and Gyorko is beginning to come to life, adding a key 9th inning base hit to tie Friday’s game with the Mets.

•Roster moves are coming soon, but Matheny declined to give a specific date when they will occur, saying he felt it was “not fair” to the players. “People can do their own projections,” he said. The Cards must reduce their roster to 25 players and while there is not a lot of competition for all but perhaps the final roster spot, the final cuts would figure to be the ones with the best chance to get a shot at the big club sometime this season.

•The Cards skipper also indicated he was having meetings with players both individually and in groups “to go over clubhouse matters and issues.” He portrayed the meetings as routine, something that occurs every spring. He said the meetings occurred both individually and in groups, with some players more honest in a one-on-one setting and others emboldened in a group setting. Matheny said the meetings were about “how to make it better.”  He did not specify if there was any particular issue at hand.

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