photo: Bill DeWitt, Jr. (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
The closing day of the 2020 St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up charity event at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch arrived on Monday with the final group of presentations and autograph signings scheduled.
Among the popular presentations in the main tent include a double-header DeWitt session with Chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr. and President Bill DeWitt III.
Autograph sessions with eight current Cardinals were scheduled on Monday: Matt Carpenter, Miles Mikolas, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew Miller, Dexter Fowler, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong.
Typically before or after they sign, the individuals are brought to the media area for a question and answer session.
Following are my notes from selected interviews held during the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Monday, January 20, 2020. Along with my summary is the full audio for those who want to listen to the entire content in their own words.
Dexter Fowler (12:16)
The outfielder is ahead of last year in preparation as he could not run until New Year 2019. He sits down with his Dad to do a recap on the prior season. Got away from baseball coverage over the winter – watched a lot of golf.
Will play in outfield wherever asked. Lineup consistency works with everybody.
Joked that Shildt is his third Manager of the Year.
Considers selectivity at the plate to be his thing. Part of his maturity process. Talked to Goldschmidt about year two on a new team, not trying to impress. Getting more perspective on game as gets older. Noted he is “on that other side of his career”, going into 12th MLB season.
Miles Mikolas (8:02)
Stayed in Jupiter over winter. Went to complex 3-4 times per week. Has been playing catch since last month. Good off-season, following prior year’s routine.
Altering a few things – pitch shape, usage locations to get back to 2018. Cards give him all the data he needs. Slider was less effective in 2019. Better than more cutter-like.
Doesn’t set numeric goals. Good that Wainwright is still in charge in terms of leadership.
Hasn’t met KK yet, but will be happy to help him adjust to new league and country in which everyone speaks a different language. KBO was more of a hitters’ league, making what he did there even more special.
Matt Carpenter (23:05)
Had more things to work on this winter than prior years. Focus on mechanics of swing. In 2019, had been working underneath the ball more than ever before – had issue with his swing plane.
Ugly, slow start in 2019 snowballed and he was trying to save the season in one swing. Multiple guys had down year offensively. Sometimes it is good to have a year like that. He is really motivated and can still be an elite hitter.
Was candid with manager, coaches and front office after the season. Apologized. Felt he let them down. Hoped they still have faith in him. Struggled to find identity as a hitter – avg. vs. power. Tried not to pull the ball this off-season. Asked himself, “How did I get to this place?” Wants to get back to hitting line drives.
On automated strike zone, many think hitter will have advantage. His concern is that pitchers will find a way to manipulate the system. Will have to see how the system works.
Have been no conversations about playing other positions, but has shown he will do what is asked.
Wants to finish 2020 spring camp healthy. Was banged up last year and rushed to get ready for opening day. Wants to avoid that.
Did not feel as strong last year. Was focused on staying healthy and did not do as much strength-related prep. So couldn’t keep weight on. For 2020, he got back to the weight room. Definitely feels stronger than last year.
Has never known what pitch was coming because “we weren’t good at it”. Surprised it went on so long. Would not have hit .230 last season had he known what was coming.
Last season, he felt like he was hitting from the fetal position, a term he got from Lance Berkman. Finally felt better late in 2019, but then others were also playing well. 2019 would have been tougher had he not gotten better at the end.
Bill DeWitt Jr. and Bill DeWitt III (18:20)
As is customary, the elder DeWitt stood at the lectern, with III close by.
On Ozuna, he noted Mozeliak is staying in touch with Ozuna’s agent. Hoping returning players have a better year in 2020.
Team will participate in funding for Jupiter renovations. Hopefully, the state will approve. The park is great, but infrastructure needs improvement – strength and weight rooms, kitchen, etc. Hope to break ground after spring training 2021 and be ready the next spring. Unsure if current clubhouse will be gutted with an addition or new building will be built. (TCN has been on top of this story for several years, with more detail in the following article.)
Payroll will be around $170 MM with who they have and expected call-ups. Cards were 6th in spending in 2019 and 11th in revenue. Will look at opportunity to increase spending, but not “that kind of range” in reference to $35 MM incremental salary. (Nolan Arenado’s name was never spoken.) Talked about annual expenses. On follow-up, he agreed payroll would have to be moved for such an acquisition.
On 2019, Washington had dominating pitching so give them credit. Whoever loses last game will be disappointed.
Molina has done “remarkable things” so will “get the lay of the land” in the spring regarding a contract extension.
On minor league cuts, concern is facilities, low attendance areas. Pay players more, focus on fewer markets. Must be on an economic sound basis. Minor league team owners must invest. Hope for agreement.
Not actively seeking trades at this time. Don’t want to give up top young players. Did that the prior two winters (Goldschmidt and Ozuna), but given where they are, they want to maintain. Don’t want to sacrifice future for short-term trade.
Have extended contracts of “cornerstone” players before. Flaherty can be that kind of player.
Andrew Miller and Paul Goldschmidt (18:14)
The reliever and the first baseman took questions together to save time.
Miller was surprised by the cheating story. Job is on pitcher, catcher, defense to protect signs. Was hard for Cleveland to lose in 2018. Too late to change past – move on. “Some of us may have been naïve.”
Goldschmidt was aware post-trade transition could be hard, but it was more seamless than expected. Expects huge year from Carpenter in 2020. He does not set numeric targets.
Protection after him in lineup matters but guys on base matter more. Most important is not having weaknesses that pitchers will exploit.
Miller says he has to be careful not to pitch around guys with increase in home runs leading to crooked number innings. Says there has been no talk about him closing, nor does he expect it. Many players still looking for jobs.
Goldschmidt said 2019 was his least consistent year as a major leaguer. Didn’t do a good job. Issue was swing/timing – have few moving parts. His focus for 2020. Entire offense working on improving consistency. Technology not the Holy Grail, but players should use all to try to get better. Didn’t beat himself up after 2019 playoffs – was honest. Playoffs put spotlight on team’s inconsistency.
Miller on three-batter minimum. Understands pace concerns. Can’t control this. Confident he can get both LHH and RHH out and in fact, has had reverse splits in his career. Drastic changes to the game worry him.
(At one point late in the talk, Wainwright stuck his head in the door, in a not-so-subtle move to speed these two up.)
Adam Wainwright (9:17)
Was in Cabo last week (for Albert Pujols’ birthday party – The Molinas had to cancel at the last minute). Does not see anything he could say about MLB cheating that would help the Cardinals.
No thoughts about 2021. Going day to day. Likes to have motivation – something to prove, others having doubts. Apologized in advance for picking on media as slights for motivation.
Wants to prove he can be better this year than last year. Pitched better in second half of 2019 when no longer thinking about his health.
Called his extreme home-road splits “weird”. Might have won 20 games in 2019 had he pitched as well on the road.
Last year, he thought Hudson would be the breakout pitcher. Sees Mikolas as the bounceback pitcher for 2020. Last year was important year for Carpenter as a player. Has needed to make changes and he did.
Wainwright was late to go sign autographs and he took a video call from Molina live.
Likes it when young hitters ask him how he would attack them as a pitcher. Ended by joking about how many home runs each starting pitcher will hit in 2020.
Kolten Wong (10:01)
The second baseman arrived wearing new glasses. I asked him if he would wear contact lenses in the field. He readily admitted the glasses are for style purposes and his vision is fine.
On winning the Gold Glove, his “hard work came to the surface.” It has been his goal since joining the league. He was told six weeks in advance and told only his wife and Dad. It helped him play looser in the playoffs.
Shildt has been a believer in him since 2012 and that confidence was a big factor in his play.
Has shown he can hit eighth in the lineup and in the second half, he and Fowler hit 1-2. Wants to help the team win.
Fun to steal bases and enjoys the art of reading body language. Pushes Harrison Bader – “Let’s get to 30 stolen bases (each in 2020).”
Sign of #stlcards 2B Kolten Wong maturing and understanding better who he is as a player. Five years ago, he challenged Randal Grichuk to hit the most home runs. For 2020, he has challenged Harrison Bader for both of them to steal 30 bases.
— Brian Walton (@B_Walton) January 20, 2020
Yadier Molina (12:15)
Last but not least is the player who is the face of the franchise.
Molina made clear that while he is seeking an extension for one or two more years (on a year to year basis), he will not play for another team. There is no time deadline. Wants to have another ring.
Is motivated to prove those wrong who expect him to have a bad year because he is a 37-year old catcher.
Matt Wieters is a leader. Good to have him back.
Tough to see what happened in Houston. “Now they must pay the price.” Beltran is a close friend. He and Cora still good players, baseball guys. The whole team did it. As a catcher, he must be prepared for any team. Keeps mask down to try to stop lip reading (though he joked it was to hide his face).
Would love to have Ozuna back. Molina did not have the year he wanted in 2019 offensively and will do better in 2020.
Puerto Rico is having 4-5 earthquakes per day. His foundation is working hard to help. Wainwright has contributed. “Glad to have a friend like that.”
On his and Wainwright’s career end coming – “We don’t talk about it.” We want to win another ring.
The joke at the end is about Molina’s shirt, which shows Ozzie doing his patented back flip, to which Molina said, “I wish I could do that.”
That officially ended the 2020 Winter Warm-Up for the assembled media. Thank you for watching and listening along!
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