While spring training doesn’t officially start for the St. Louis Cardinals until February 18th, there have been some moments of consequence early on in Jupiter, Fl. A couple of important major league players are already in camp and looking good.
Yadier Molina was said to be looking buff and ready to play according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Strauss also mentions that Molina is ready to move on without his good friend Albert Pujols.
This being a contract year for Molina, I’m not quite certain why he would let outside matters he cannot control get in the way of his performance. By the sounds of how he looks, he seems intent on taking another step forward in his progression as an offensive force combined with his impeccable defensive abilities. If he is able to duplicate or even improve on his offensive numbers and maintain his defensive prowess, it could translate into a lucrative multi-year contract.
Adam Wainwright who is coming off Tommy John surgery last season, impressed in a 30 pitch bullpen session on Thursday. Wainwright, who has been in camp since January 12th, mixed in cut fastballs, sinkers, and curves which all fell into the strike zone. Wainwright was happy with his work too, noting to reporters, “I told you.”
Having Wainwright completely healthy for the season is possibly the most important question mark of the season. If he is healthy, he takes a lot of pressure of the rest of the rotation and allows the Cardinals to stay pat and not worry about adding further depth to the rotation. In doing so, it allows the Cardinals to utilize funds in other areas if necessary during the summer trade deadline.
In other Cardinal news, the team invited veteran right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink to camp with a minor league deal. The 35 year-old Linebrink is coming off the last season of a four year deal worth a total of $19 million.
Linebrink threw 54 1/3 innings in 2011 with the Atlanta Braves. He was used in the seventh inning or later in most of his appearances. He ended the season with a 3.64 ERA.
This marks another depth move for the Cardinals. If Linebrink were to make the major league squad he would add a veteran presence to a young bullpen.
While Linebrink’s best days may be behind him, he has had a successful major league career especially in his days with the San Diego padres.
We are now a week from pitchers and catchers reporting and things are looking good for the defending World Series champions. There are several competitions looking to take shape at second base and in the bullpen. General manager John Mozeliak has added enough veterans with minor league contracts to force the younger players to bring their best to make the team.
Beyond Busch will be back next week with a continuation of NL Central previews, specifically the respective bullpens as well as pre-camp notes from around MLB.