Several Cardinals players spoke to the media Saturday on day one of the Winter Warm-Up. Here is a summary of interesting tidbits shared in those sessions:
Martinez psyched about Ozuna
Speaking through a translator Saturday, Carlos Martinez shared his joy regarding the trade for his friend Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins.
“I was pretty excited, I kind of jumped up and down when I first heard the news,” Martinez said via translator. “I’m very happy that he’ll be with the team.”
Through translator, Carlos Martinez says he was jumping up and down when he learned Ozuna was joining Cardinals. The two are good friends, and Carlos says he'll be a great teammate in STL. pic.twitter.com/F5LDqvqd6j— Brenden Schaeffer (@bschaeffer12) January 13, 2018
During the All-Star break, Martinez says he and Yadier Molina teased Ozuna about their intention to bring him into the fold in St. Louis. Martinez share that Molina joked at the time that he would to talk to the GM about bringing him over to the Cardinals.
Martinez gleaning advice from the greats
As for Martinez personally, he said he has gotten a lot of advice this offseason from Albert Pujols and Pedro Martinez. Carlos Martinez said the two baseball legends praised his ability, but told him to focus on one area of his game.
“They told me, ‘your game is good, you’ve got a good arm. It’s your mental game you need to focus on.’ I’ve been thinking about that a lot,” Martinez shared via translator.
Wong finally settled in
Wong went through a lot of growing pains his first few seasons, and 2017 finally saw him reconcile the player he was with the player he could be. His average, on base and slugging percentage all hit career highs, and he felt peace as well.
“You know, man, last year was a year that I needed. Something to just look back at and take positives and know that I can have success at this level. And to do that was something that I know that is going to be drastic for me this year. The confidence that I’m coming in with year, I’m excited just to get back out there and start playing,” he said.
Adding to his confidence is the return of Jose Oquendo to the coaching staff. Wong views The Secret Weapon as his fielding spirit guide, and believes he can be even better at second base with his help.
“When I found that out I was so excited. Oquendo is like that dad figure on the baseball field that everyone has. He’s one of those guys to me. Took me under his wing when I first got drafted. I wasn’t a good fielder – everybody knew that – and he transformed me to the guy that I am,” Wong said. “Getting him back, he can take my game to another level, and hopefully get to that pinnacle to where I can call myself a good infielder.
Alex Reyes: slim and trim
The Cardinal righty, who electrified observers with an elite fastball and a breaking ball that buckled knees, is set to return this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.
He comes back lighter on his feet, having dropped 15 pounds in the intervening months.
Right now I'm weighing in at around 230-233," he said. "I lost about 10-15 pounds since last season. Just grinding in the gym."
He'll start throwing live batting practice sessions when he gets to Florida, which is set for a week or so from Saturday.
The Cardinals have circled May 1 as a tentative return date for the phenom, committing to a slow return so as not to put his health in jeopardy. Reyes is eager to return, but says he can handle the wait given a renewed commitment to focus.
Whatever they want to do is obviously ok with me. But I want to show up to spring training ready and show what I have," he said. "Being able to sit back and watch, it opened my eyes in different ways. I can't wait to get back on the field."
Carson Kelly becoming an STL native?
The young catcher, having played 34 games in the bigs last year, stuck around St. Louis after the season. He’s been working out in the area and finally feels like he’s a local.
“I'm figuring out how to drive without Google Maps. It's been great for me to be here. I'm closer to my girlfriend out in Iowa as well,” he said.
His favorite thing to do?
“I was able to go to hockey games. I lived in Toronto, Ontario for a couple of years. I played hockey growing up as a kid. To go to some Blues games, those are a lot of fun,” he said.
Despite being born in Chicago, the Cardinals’ backstop-in-waiting wouldn’t cop to being a Blackhawks fan.
“We were a little bit of a Blackhawks fans. But I didn't go to any games. Now we've been to games. I consider myself a Blues fan.”
Meet Miles Mikolas
The new Cardinal starter is back in the bigs after three years in Japan, but did you know he wore a Cardinal jersey once already? The Jupiter, Florida native is actually donning the Birds on the Bat for a second time.
"I grew up in Jupiter going to the spring training games. I was telling someone the other day I actually pitched at Roger Dean Stadium in a Cardinals uniform in high school. They do the local all star game there, north vs. south and they do the Marlins and Cardinals. I was on the Cardinals side. So it’s kind of come full circle. I get to wear the uniform for real and it’s just really exciting for me.”
Luke Voit as an outfielder?
Luke Voit has been working on playing outfield this offseason in an effort to add flexibility to his game. For Cardinals fans, that concept has the potential to invite jarring flashbacks to Matt Adams’ attempts to play left field for St. Louis early last season.
Luke Voit got engaged, bought a house, and made his MLB debut in 2017. Not a bad year. pic.twitter.com/hR9DSE0Mvu— Brenden Schaeffer (@bschaeffer12) January 13, 2018
It should be noted, however, that nobody with the team has expressed a belief that Voit would see time there for St. Louis in 2018. Additionally, Adams didn’t begin experimenting in the outfield until just a few weeks before the season, while Voit says he has been working on fly balls throughout the offseason on the turf field at Maryville University.
No more Memphis shuffle for Tui
The Cardinals shuttled Sam Tuivailala between St. Louis and Memphis so many times last year that he memorized the route with ease.
“I didn’t need no GPS anymore,” Tuivailala laughed. “I just hopped on the freeway. I knew what exit to take.”
Though the Memphis shuffle won’t be part of Tuivailala’s season in 2018—the 25-year-old reliever is out of minor league options—he believes his experience with ups and downs last year has made him stronger mentally.
“I’m not sure how many times I was up and down, but it was definitely a roller coaster ride,” Tuivailala said. “It was mentally tough for me just because when you think you’re doing good enough to say up here, it might not be good enough because the opportunities aren’t there.”
“I was trying to stay mentally strong and sharp. Every time I went down I just wanted to be ready and get back up there. It kept me hungry, I just wanted to get better.”