Here are the highlights from Day 3 of the Winter Warm-Up. This story will update throughout the day.
Molina sees the end of the road
The Cardinal backstop signed an extension that keeps him in St. Louis through 2020, and plans to call call it a career after that.
“Three more years. That’s it,” he said Monday. “It could change, but right now just three years.”
The veteran backstop says he plans to enjoy his family once his contract is up, and seemed very at peace with the decision to set an endpoint on his historic career.
He still has some goals left, however. If Molina has his way, the sunset of his playing time will be three wild seasons.
“I can’t wait to have that trophy. I can’t wait. Three more trophies,” he said with a smile. “Three more championships.”
Carpenter earmarking his base running for improvement
Matt Carpenter gets on base like a leadoff man, but he doesn’t have the speed normally seen atop the order. With the potential for a new-look lineup, the 32-year-old is focusing on his base running to make sure he doesn’t clog bases or give away outs.
“You look at where I am, my age, and who you are, from an athletic standpoint is who you are. I’ve actually worked with our front office and gotten some of the advanced analytics on players who have my kind of speed that grade out as good base runners. Just trying to figure out what they’re doing and how they do it. Then incorporating that into my game,” he said. “For a guy like me to go first to third, you have to find the right ball and the right play to make sure you can get it. Because it doesn’t do me any good to go first to third and get thrown out. That’s one thing I have to be aware of. Especially if I’m hitting third and I got a guy like Ozuna behind me. Going first to third for him might not be as good of good play if I get thrown out and I could be standing on second with him coming to the plate.”
Matheny feels "opposition" can fuel Cardinals
Baseball players and managers are heavily scrutinized and often criticized when things go wrong. Ever the optimist, Mike Matheny prefers to tune out any negative energy or discussion about his team, but he recognizes that naysayers come with the territory. He expressed Monday that he’d like to see his guys use what he described as “opposition” to better themselves.
“I believe that we’re always going to have people that don’t believe in us,” Matheny said. “And I think that’s something we should always use. I think it’s something that needs to be heard by our individual players,if somebody has already counted them out as being an everyday guy. If it’s one of our young pitchers that somebody’s already counted out as being one of our starters or part of our bullpen, that’s all opposition that people can use however they want.
“It’s not the circumstances that matter, but how we respond to them that does. That message is always going to be the same because there’s always going to be somebody that doesn’t believe that we can do collectively or individually as well as we believe we can. And that’s something that does motivate.”
What about that TV deal? DeWitt discusses payroll expectations
As chairman of the team, Bill DeWitt Jr. understands Cardinals’ fans desires to see the club acquire elite talent. Referring to St. Louis’ pursuit of high-priced star Giancarlo Stanton as a “unique opportunity,” DeWitt shared his logic behind the team’s approach to managing payroll, particularly as it pertains to the idea that the new $1 billion television rights deal could lead to a spending spree.
“We obviously look at our revenue and how it matches up with our expenses,” DeWitt said. “We do have an increase in rights fees this coming year. We anticipated that a couple years ago. We did bump our payroll the last couple years beyond where it had been. Other teams are doing new rights deals, too, and I think if you look at our revenue historically and our payroll in terms of rank they pretty much track each other.”
Grichuk adjusting to new role
Despite settling on a $2.6 million contract to avoid arbitration with the Cardinals, Grichuk enters 2018 facing a reduced role.
The addition of Marcell Ozuna and the emergence of Tommy Pham mean the three starting outfield spots are spoken for, and Grichuk has been relegated to fourth on the list.
“Fourth or fifth, and obviously a bat off the bench. Obviously a lot can still happen in the offseason and a lot can happen in spring training. But that's what it's shaping up to look like,” he said. “Obviously any time you lose a starting spot it's disappointing. I felt like last year was kind of up and down, it wasn't consistent enough. We needed an impact bat in the middle of the lineup, and fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, it's an outfielder. It's good for the team, rough for me, but I'll still roll with it.”
Grichuk hit 22 homers last season, but his best stats came in bursts. He wasn’t able to develop into the steady threat the Cards were hoping for in the middle of the lineup. Now, he has to wait for an opening to earn a starting role again.
Cecil prefers certainty in bullpen roles
Though 2018 will only be his second season with the Cardinals, Brett Cecil enters the year as one of the elder statesmen in a bullpen filled with less experienced arms—he and newcomer Luke Gregerson both entered the league in 2009. Behind those two, it’s guys like Tyler Lyons, Sam Tuivailala and John Brebbia seeking to establish themselves as go-to options in high-leverage spots in the mind of the manager.
While the lack of proven options could make for an interesting early season juggling act as Mike Matheny tries to determine where everyone fits in the bullpen puzzle, Cecil hopes it doesn’t take long to sort it all out.
“I think at some point in spring training you gotta have your closer, you gotta have your setup man, and you gotta have your sixth and seventh guys,” Cecil said. “I think it’s important for guys to know that going into the season just because it makes it easier for preparation for us. We’re not playing a guessing game from the fourth or fifth inning on.”
“I know for me, if he says, ‘If somebody gets in trouble, you’re gonna be our seventh inning guy or you’re gonna be our eighth inning guy,’ I know it’s easier for me to prepare for that rather than having to be ready for four innings and you don’t know when you’re going to go in.”
Flaherty talks pitching
The 22-year-old Los Angeles product saw a rapid ascension last season after ending 2016 in High-A.
Flaherty went from Double-A in April to Triple-A in June and the MLB in September, thanks to an expansive and improved pitch repertoire.
Despite having five pitches to deploy, the prospect, who could contribute this season in the majors, reminded viewers a pitcher almost never has all his ammunition.
“Rarely are you going to go into a start and have every pitch. If you go into a start and you have every pitch working for you, you better remember that day and it's probably going to be a really good one if you have everything going for you,” he said. “So, it's not about keeping them fresh. It's about knowing what you got that day. Being able to work with that, work with those pitches, and use them. If you don't have a certain pitch, you might find it later as the game goes on.”