photo: Jack Flaherty (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
The conclusion of the 2019 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: Jack Flaherty, Tyler Webb, Matt Carpenter, Tyler O’Neill, Jordan Hicks, Adolis Garcia, Yadier Molina and Harrison Bader.
Typically after they sign, the individuals are brought to the media area for a question and answer session with us.
Following are my notes from selected interviews held during the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Monday, January 21, 2019. Along with my summary is the full audio for those who want to listen to the full content.
Tyler Webb (5:31)
Doesn’t know 2019 role yet, expects to be multi-inning, bridge guy. Focus is to get better against left-handed batters. Won’t get to face RHB if he can’t also get out lefties. Talked with Mike Maddux about repeating what he does against RHB – pitch location, commanding ball.
Jordan Hicks (10:24)
Wants to be closer – all bullpen guys do. Expects to be late-inning matchup guy, per Shildt. Wants to do better getting ahead of batters. He needs to throw more strikes. Didn’t have slider all year last year. Now, he knows everything he is doing wrong so can correct it.
He reminded us he is still relatively new as a pitcher – threw 60 innings in high school, skipped Double-A and Triple-A. Has grown in velocity every year, but not a plan, but would be cool. Just trying to put it past guys.
105 mph is awesome but so many people ask him about it. It was a one-day thing.
Felt he grew as a person in 2019. Farm director Gary LaRocque believed in him, always had his back even though he was not always on the straight path.
Molina is a legend. Always goes to him straight off the mound. Wants to thank all Cardinals veterans for help. After he made the team, several told him they were pulling for him, but to not screw it up. Molina was one.
Tyler O’Neill (2:28)
The outfielder has a no-nonsense, get down to business approach to baseball and his interview. Wants to go to spring training and play ball. Has been doing more work on cardio and yoga to increase flexibility and mobility to stay more limber and try to avoid the hamstring type of injuries that have bothered him in the past, including last spring.
He put himself in bad positions last year getting behind in the count and trying to do too much. Multiple contacts with Jeff Albert to discuss approach. Had high and low strikeout rates in past. Does not intend to have that high of a K rate again.
When asked if he has anything to prove in Triple-A, his response was “You tell me.” Will go down and do it again if asked. Believes he plays all three outfield positions well.
Adolis Garcia (3:36)
The Cuban native’s remarks were translated by Carlos Viloria. He has been working on his defense, taking fly balls at all positions and throwing to all bases. When he improved at Memphis last year, the change was due to him narrowing the strike zone and focusing more on pitches he could handle.
Garcia has spoken with Jeff Albert and looks forward to working with him more in spring training. Mike Shildt has asked him about his off-season workouts and Garcia said it is good that the manager cares.
Jack Flaherty (21:27)
Regarding Bryant remarks, “Nobody agrees with it.” “We’ve got Yadi’s back and Brebbia’s back.” Has a lot of opinions so started a podcast with (former Cardinal minor leaguer) Robby Rowland, but baseball is the main thing. Flaherty has tried to educate himself on rules and why free agents are not signing. Guys are definitely talking more.
Did not like watching other teams in playoffs – ones not as good as them.
Expects Jordan Hicks to be more refined, even better in 2019.
His September was tough – did not finish well. Did not do little things – getting first strike, not getting ahead in count. Wants to make adjustments to cut down on lows, even within starts.
Ongoing relationship with Bob Gibson. Honored that Gibson reached out – knows it is not something he does. Communicating via calls and texts. Gibson told him that there will be a time he is tired, but he won’t get more tired. Play through it.
Flaherty played against Dodger Walker Buehler at Double-A. He has a special arm. Mom watched Dodgers in World Series but he did not join her in cheering for them. He wants to have same feeling as them playing in World Series, though.
Joined three Brewers – Yelich, Braun and Moustakas – in support of California Strong Foundation. Played in charity softball game to support wildfire and Calabasas shooting relief efforts.
Finished with ongoing debate with position players about pitchers being the best athletes on the team. He and Mikolas have a “Touch the Ceiling Club”, an 11-foot ceiling in the weight room. He, Mikolas, Ponce de Leon, Gant, Wacha among those in the club. Also discussion about choosing teams for pitchers vs. hitters basketball game that he knows the Cardinals would be against them having.
Matt Carpenter (17:19)
Molina is fiery in baseball and life. Good to see him defend city. Looking forward to playing Cubs.
They always say it but it really does feel different this year with new players, manager, coaches. Still have a lot to prove/earn.
His sole focus is on third base. Started throwing program sooner to build up arm strength. Did not change throwing motion. Hard to do. Has a chip on his shoulder about his defense at third. Wants to show everyone.
Played against Goldschmidt in high school and college. Immediately the best player on the team. Young players will be watching him. “I’d play wherever for him!”
Worked with Jeff Albert at Palm Beach in 2009. He knows a lot and cares a lot – good combination. Swing biomechanics, break down. Was an under focused addition. What he stands for is making the swing as efficient as possible. He asked Albert for help in smoothing out ups and downs and they put a game plan in place.
Hard to understand current free agent market. Thought reason was aging players before, but not the case now. Not ideal for players or teams.
Carpenter is very aware this is his last guaranteed year with the Cardinals, but putting focus on 2019. Talent can only take team so far. Believes these players are separator between good and great.
An issue for the team before was getting out tough left-handed hitters. Glad he does not have to face Andrew Miller.
Thinks about his veteran status with the Cardinals every day, Cited Jason Motte quote that the days are long, but the years go fast.
Bill DeWitt Jr./Bill DeWitt III (25:02)
Bill DeWitt Jr. did most of the talking, recapping player and coaching changes. Not concerned about labor strife, noting time until next agreement, ebb and flow of the market and that he did not expect this year’s biggest free agents to sign quickly.
He thinks Goldschmidt will “like our situation” and they would “love to have him here longer than one year”. Cited past success in retaining such players.
“Tanking” not appropriate word. It is a “legitimate strategy” if teams do not see themselves to be competitive in this cycle. Draft is more of a sure thing for early picking teams to get great young players.
DeWitt Jr. sees the Cards as a “division-winning contender good enough to do damage in the playoffs”. Felt this way last few years. Missed three straight years, but not by a lot.
Easier to win year in and out via investments in draft, international signings, player development, scouting. A lot of ways in industry to spend to get better. Infrastructure growth has been great – example new positions like president of baseball operations and a second assistant general manager.
Jeff Albert hired by Jeff Luhnow in St. Louis and again in Houston. Houston has a dominant team now.
Jr. was unaware of Molina comments about Chicago, but III was aware of them and is happy to see him do what he did. Swing back.
Ballpark Village has common ownership, but otherwise a completely separate business entity from team. Investment in BPV has no impact on player payroll, for example.
Yadier Molina (13:22)
On the Cubs controversy, “We’re like family.” “We have to stick together.” “We have to defend ourselves.” It will carry over to the season, but we have to play our game.
Will be more aggressive as a team. “100% sure we have got what we need to win the World Series.”
When Jordan Hicks gets more confident with his slider, he will be even better.
Mike Shildt reminds him of Tony La Russa – preparation, trust, communication.
His knee is only 50%. Does not expect to play until mid-March. Squatting only 10% now. Had decided need for surgery in June/July, kept playing in pain (due to a bone spur), but delayed procedure further after invitation to Japan. He loves Japan.
Was on a boat in Jupiter when he learned of the Goldschmidt trade. “Get me a beer,” was his reaction.
Almost 100% sure they will make the playoffs. Disappointing as a player to miss. This year is going to be different.
Harrison Bader (6:56)
Always have prepared for the season as a starter so no difference. Additional fan attention great.
Hit with Jeff Albert two weeks ago. Even with all the information in the world, it is up to him. He has the ability to open up the field in multiple ways.
Has spent more time on outfield play with Willie McGee, but looking forward to working with Jim Edmonds this spring.
On Cubs controversy, “Important that Yadi said what he did. We support him.” There is no better place to play. Already have enough for a rivalry. Agrees that division looks tougher.
Immediately gravitated to Molina to listen to. Honor to play with him. He brings energy to locker room.
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