JUPITER, Fl. (KMOV.com) -- The Cardinals gathered for their first full-squad workout Monday in Jupiter, running through a full complement of drills under the Florida sun.
Matt Carpenter remains sidelined with a tight back, abstaining from on-field work in order to nip any possible injury in the bud.
“We’re gonna go slow. He won’t be out here participating in many drills,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We’ll just take our time because it’s so early. We don’t need him right out of the gate in games so we can just take our time and get ahead of this.”
Carpenter has struggled with back issues in spring before, missing several weeks last spring with a strained oblique muscle.
The Cardinals caught the issue early and are taking every precaution to keep their veteran bat from missing significant time.
Flaherty goes first
The Cardinals open Grapefruit League play Friday, playing visitor to the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. The first pitcher to take the hill in spring games will be 22-year-old Jack Flaherty. The 2014 pick started the last game of 2017 for the Cardinals, having risen from Double-A all the way to the majors. Flaherty tore through minor league bats to open the season, posting a 2.18 ERA and striking out 147 hitters and walking 35 in 25 starts.
While he struggled in his first MLB work, it should be noted it came at the end of a season in which he had already thrown 148 minor league innings. By year’s end, the then-21-year-old had thrown 170 innings, which is a heavy workload for a young arm.
With a full offseason to rest and condition, he’ll get an early start on his challenge to break camp in the rotation or bullpen in 2018 by opening things up in exhibition play.
“Everybody here is ready to get going, get playing and get a few games under our belt. Being together as a squad you know? Four days and then the games get going. That’s when the fun really gets started,” he said.
Cecil back but going slow
After missing early camp attending to a personal issue, reliever Brett Cecil is back with the club. He’s slightly behind the other pitchers, most of whom are throwing bullpen sessions, but he expects to be back in the swing of things within a couple weeks.
“I had just gotten off the mound, not throwing pens, but just feeling the downhill motion, when I had to stop. So it shouldn’t take me that long,” he said. “Had heavy balls and was lifting. A week and a half, two weeks at most. I would expect to throw a pen somewhere two weeks from now.”
After a rough start to his tenure as a Cardinal, Cecil allowed just seven runs through June and July, striking out a little better than four batters to every one he walked. This season, he isn’t focusing on that strong run or the struggles that preceded it, rather he’s starting over.
“I try to take everything year to year. I don’t think about what I was doing wrong last year, I just want to feel good this year,” he said. “I wanted to focus any issues I have now if there are any and not think about bad [stuff] that happened in the past.”
Matheny and Pop
The Cardinal manager spent his offseason studying once again, this time taking in strategies and approaches from all over the sports world.
“I can’t take my mind off this team. All winter long. Whatever I’m reading or watching, whoever I’m listening to, it comes back to these guys,” he said. “You put together your ideas of what we’ve seen and what we should focus on as we go forward and making sure we’re always honoring our rich tradition and history here.”
From the postseason approaches to the NFL and NBA, the manager took in approaches from a variety of disciplines and tried to think of how to integrate them into his coaching philosophy.
“All kinds of just random notes. I’ll be sitting there on my phone and putting notes into my phone. ‘What’s he trying to say there, where can I find some back story to that?’” he said. “It’s amazing what you can pick up when you keep your ears open.”
Two coaches he particularly studied were Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors and Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. In fact, Matheny and another coach were trying to spend some time with Popovich this offseason but were unable to coordinate the meeting in time.
“Popovich and Kerr both are fantastic examples. Maybe a little different in their styles, but there’s a lot of material on them. There’s so much to learn from every one of these coaches.”