We're all packed into the press box here for the final road game of the Grapefruit League schedule. The Cardinals lead 3-0 against the Mets due to a three-run blast by Matt Adams. Randal Grichuk just took a called strike 3 to end his at-bat (pictured below). And Eric Fryer is coming to the plate. Me? Well, all the season preview items for Sunday's massive, award-winning 2017 Cardinals Preview Section has been filed and we're working through the edits and updates at this point. I've got to pack tonight and leave Florida late late tomorrow for Memphis. Just had a humbling experience vs. Ben Frederickson at the old pitch-radar gun cage here. So, that sets me up well for the chat. Away we go.
Not at last check. Will continuing poking around on this during the chat, to be sure. Yadier Molina is in the dugout here today.
at Mets today
in Jupiter tomorrow
at Memphis Thursday
at Springfield, Mo. Friday
He hit a big fly. He has not caught one.
Good question. I have asked the manager this a few times. I asked at the winter meetings if the Grichuk lesson -- if you will -- taught them something about the commitment they were talking about making to Wong. Matheny corrected me. He said that Wong had already had the same kind of commitment, the same long run at the position. He said it was during spring training. I didn't think that was possible. To me, that's not the same thing, right? Playing two out of every three days while trying to find your time? That's a "long run" as the starter. Also, I asked Matheny, wasn't Wong purposefully getting himself into two-strike counts to get better at his approach -- so during this "run" as the start in spring he was essentially limiting his own production so that he could improve? It didn't compute. This came up again this past week, and I mentioned to Matheny how he viewed spring training as Wong's long run as the starter. He acknowledged that a commitment is a commitment, but that commitment has to get some consistency in return. Matheny added that Wong's defense this spring has been the kind of consistency they can build around.
The Cardinals have only formally announced the first two pitchers, Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright, and the reason for this is Wednesday. They want to see Michael Wacha get through his final start of spring training before making the change to the rotation their plotting. They're not going to discuss this publicly, not yet, but here is where they are leaning for the first five games as of today:
That would get Wacha against the Cubs. Lynn would start Game 4 of the season, and that assignment is based on how he does/recovers during Thursday's start here in Florida. He's not going to Memphis.
Communication, mostly. Let's be honest, there is only a subtle difference between Molina suggesting he get fair-market salary from the Cardinals or "oh yeah" he'd entertain free agency and Wong suggesting that the Cardinals should play him or look to trade him with the contract he has. One guy is applauded, and the other appears to have gotten scorched on social media. The difference? Experience. Status. Gold Gloves. Clubhouse service time. Any and all of those things.
Aside: Matheny purposefully said earlier in spring that they were going to get Wong at-bats against lefties so that he wouldn't be in a platoon. Gyorko and especially Garcia's spring has just shifted the plan for playing time at second base.
It's all of those things. Weather being the chief concern. But, yes, he did not get through his last start unscathed, and while he's fine and feeling fine and feeling strong and not having any trouble right now they do want to see him get his pitch count up and they can do that in a controlled situation on the back fields here in Florida. They cannot get that in Memphis. The start here is going to happen. They know that. And it can be in the rhythm and situation of Lynn's choosing. A plus, plus for the team that needs to see him build the strength to be ready for 100 pitches.
He has a bruised knee, from the foul ball the other day.
Mets tie game. Duda homer. Three-run shot off Wainwright.
Probably too high on that first number. The Cardinals are going to be wrapped up in the AAV of the deal and the length. Length is the big part. It makes a lot of sense to fold the deal into the 2017 season and give him a raise to the elite level of catcher salary, and yes that's $20 million. That was outlined in a previous chat here. And, yes, that appears to be one thing that has been discussed. I asked about this and got a strong indication that the team would not be adverse to rewriting this year and folding it into the extension. They know they're paying for his production this year, and they've got a good indication he's healthy and rolling going into the season. Then there would be a scale-down of the deal after 2018. So high points the next two, and then it steps back to reflect when his playing time. You've got the right idea, but maybe massage the numbers a bit. We'll see.
We all have asked him at various points about facing his former team. He said that team will always be special to him -- "my boys," he calls them -- but that he's on the other side of the equation now. For an upcoming story in the special section, I talked to him about chasing the Cardinals and now chasing the Cubs, and he talked about how that's been a transition. Some of his quotes didn't make that article, but I'll give you a sense of them here: He said for a lot of his time with the Cubs it was running down the Cardinals, and now he knows how good the Cubs are, how good the Cubs will be, and he has to think how the Cardinals can catch them. He said it's possible., He said he has to be a big part of that because he'll be the one setting that first at-bat tone every day.
He's had a strong spring. Easily in the top five of the standout springs.
Who says they won't? A deal could come out of this with him on the team through 2020. That's a four-year extension, or the equivalent, no? All this talk about him being pitching coach, manager, or scout or whatever after his playing days fails to take two things into account. 1) At these dollars, he's being paid to catch and that's what he wants to do, catch. 2) He has never given an indication that he wants to go right from playing into some other role. That takes time. For a forthcoming podcast episode, I spent time talking to Chris Carpenter this morning about that transition and how difficult it was for him to come back. He only truly felt comfortable this spring.
Your greater point is important. Molina's value to the Cardinals is immense when you talk about the young arms they have coming up toward the majors and what Molina can certainly bring to them and bring out from them. And also the Latin factor. I have been told numerous times how important the team hopes Molina can be for Delvin Perez, even if it's only as a hero, a model to follow, let alone a mentor.
Feigned? There was nothing to it. Not conjuring something like that now.
He'll start out of camp, yes. He had a strong camp. That said, there are evaluators within and outside the Cardinals that see his ultimate role in the majors as a reliever. Alcantara is viewed as the arm that moved ahead of Fernandez when it came to starter likelihood and greater upside.
Evidently judging by the flood of questions like this one.
Gonzales is going to start the year on the DL. He's recovering from elbow surgery. The big-league team is going to go with a bullpen game. They'll start one of the relievers, and it could just be who they see first when they get to the ballpark. Or it could be Trevor Rosenthal if he needs the innings.
The depth, yes. Buy into the depth. You can even buy into the variety. Heck, there's more middle infield prospects today than at any previous time during my time covering the Cardinals. There are more bona fide young shortstops in the organization today than any of my previous time covering the Cardinals -- combined. It's the upside, the high-ceiling, the elite that is the question. They have to prove that yet. And this is an important year. The players with the highest likelihood of being top-shelf impact prospects are starting to arrive at Class AA. The donut hole is closing, the gap thinning. So believe the depth, but let's all watch and see how much impact will arrive.
Certainly. That should be a given for what Cecil provides. There is not a set order of things for the bullpen, not from what I can tell, and not from what Mike Matheny has indicated. That's not unusual. The bullpen usually needs a month to settle, then a month to be good, then a month to wheeze, and then in July there is a move for a new bullpen arm. Rinse. Repeat. Mozeliak has shown how he can tinker and improve a bullpen every year on the goal. This much we know: Oh is the closer. Bowman is the fireman. And ... Rosenthal is some sort of hybrid, multi-inning sixth-starter guy. The rest is going to be TBD, and that hasn't always worked out well for the Cardinals and Matheny when there isn't a set, bullpen by numbers approach.