photo: Andrew Knizner with Cardinals fan (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
Saturday’s Day 1 of the 2020 St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch was greeted by warmer temperatures in the upper 40’s, a welcome occurrence a day after freezing rain blanketed the area.
The most popular presentation on day 1 had to be John Mozeliak’s always-informative main tent event, following a Q&A session with the media.
Autograph sessions with seven current Cardinals players were scheduled on Saturday: Jake Woodford, Andrew Knizner, Tyler O’Neill, Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes, Ryan Helsley and Harrison Bader. (Paul DeJong was also scheduled to appear, but due to a flight delay, has been moved to Sunday.)
Typically after they sign for fans (or sometimes before, just to keep things interesting), the players are brought to the media area for a question and answer session.
Without further ado, following are selected interviews held during the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Saturday, January 18, 2020. I summarize them and follow with the full audio for those who want to listen to unplugged and in their own words.
John Mozeliak – with media (32:33)
Would not talk about rumors, but said they still have some work to do, with no artificial deadlines. But comfortable with the team as it is today.
Austin Dean offers depth for the I-55 shuttle. Can’t tell on Marcell Ozuna. Still open. A lot of talent still in the (free agent) market. Carlson – need to give others playing time. Players get tired of I-55. Carlson has a bright future. Left field is an open competition.
Carlos Martinez is ahead of earlier schedule, optimistic, but more ahead. Brett Cecil has a lot to prove. Stayed all winter in Jupiter. Let Alex Reyes take his own rehab this winter after two years of Jupiter routine, putting the onus on him. Fingers crossed/hope is Mo’s view for Reyes.
Paul DeJong hitting fourth is “very viable”. Mozeliak reminded us that he hit third as a rookie. Bader’s time in Memphis was a “head-scratcher” because he did not continue it, but he does not have to be an .850 OPS player because of his defense. Ideally, Bader would be an all-fields hitter like Carpenter was when he came up.
Called Jeff Albert year 1 like “drinking from firehose” for some hitters. Two different times Albert was asked if we was involved in the Houston cheating and he said, “no”. They also checked with the Commissioner’s Office. The Cardinals did an internal audit to ensure compliance and they will talk to players directly in the spring, especially if new rules are for players implemented for 2020. If up to him, he would remove center field cameras and ban in-game surveillance.
On the outfield prior to the recent trades, the players “looked a lot like each other”. Took them until 2nd week of January to get Rays trade done. Not closing any doors on future additions. Rangel Ravelo was set to go to Korea, but the trade changed that. Mo “had to put the toothpaste back in the tube.” Sees Ravelo as 26th man candidate.
Also said 26th man could be a third catcher. Hopeful to get Matt Wieters deal done. Just a few I’s to dot and T’s to cross.
There will be no minors STEP Camp this year, but MLB camp will be expanded to 68-69 players.
Haven’t had trade discussions over the last week to 10 days. Some teams did try to pry pitching away from the Cardinals (and failed).
John Mozeliak – main tent (26:38)
The president of baseball operations had brief opening remarks then took fan questions in the ballroom Saturday morning.
The media (with whom he had just met) believe the offense needs improvement, but Mozeliak believes it can come from within. He is not closing doors on other moves. Of course, he would not comment on Nolan Arenado specifically.
Mike Shildt changed the perception of the team.
KK (Kwang-hyun Kim) is a product of in-depth Cardinals scouting and their own analytics in Japan and Korea. Seen as rotation and pen protection.
The cheating scandals have cast a “dark cloud over the game”. Mozeliak said that there are no indications Jeff Albert was involved in Houston. Would be in favor of eliminating cameras in center field. Will be some new initiatives in spring to try new ways to communicate signs.
Regarding left field, Thomas, O’Neill and Williams need a fair shot. At some point, they will go with the best players.
Carlos Martinez – will wait and see. Jordan Hicks – hopes he can contribute in the second half. Brett Cecil – he will be tested in camp, including needing to pitch in back to back games. Tommy Edman – if he brings the same speed and energy as in 2019, the manager will find a place for him to play. Alex Reyes – will be tough for him to break into the rotation. Likely in pen.
Designated hitter has the potential to happen in the future.
Tyler O’Neill (8:58)
His off-field preparation has been with the goal in mind of staying on the field in 2020 and win the left field job. O’Neill knows he needs to “stop swinging at the ball in the dirt.” With limited at-bats due to injury, he wanted to show he belongs and got over anxious.
Has had bad weather at home so hasn’t been able to take live at-bats. Heading to Florida early for spring training. Mentioned new slow-motion cameras will be used in camp.
The sign stealing “boggles my mind”. “Crazy.” “I was entertained as much as you guys were.”
Andrew Knizner (6:38)
The catcher was very upbeat, calling it a “quick off-season”. He liked that energy was at an all-time high in the playoffs. Working to get back there.
Knizner had no comment about the idea of the Cardinals carrying a third catcher in 2020 and does not worry about being blocked, preferring to be ready for whatever is next.
No one from the Cardinals has talked to him about playing other positions, such as first base. He believes they know of his athleticism and he brings multiple gloves to spring camp.
Jake Woodford (6:15)
He is preparing the same as last year, when he was a non-roster invitee. Girsch called him to tell him he was added to the 40-man roster.
Woodford felt getting more aggressive enabled him to pitch deeper into games in 2019 and one of his 2020 goals is to reduce walks.
He doesn’t see competition with others as they all push each other to improve.
Harrison Bader (13:58)
The message was clear. Bader devoted his entire off-season to preparation for 2020.
He trained in Florida with a new hitting coach and worked out with major leaguers Tommy Pham and Gregory Polanco five days a week. He also traveled up to Palm Beach to see Cardinals hitting coaches Jeff Albert and Jobel Jimenez so they knew what he was up to. He has always gravitated to Pham because of his work ethic.
Bader also did three days of mental training in Los Angeles, as recommended by his agent and several players. He was on a flight related to this training when the invalid trade rumors including him appeared.
Readily admitted that last year was not what he wanted. Said he was not consistent enough against sliders low and away.
Bader said starting center field “is my position. I am going to take it and run with it.” John Mozeliak’s comments seemed consistent that CF is Bader’s job to lose.
Ryan Helsley (2:47)
The right-hander said he had been told by pitching coach Mike Maddux to prepare for camp to both start and relieve. As you would expect, he prefers to work out of the pen in St. Louis vs. starting in Memphis in whatever role asked of him.
Physically, he is good, with no lingering concerns.
Carlos Martinez (12:03)
The organization’s translator, Carlos Viloria, is not present due to visa issues. So, Martinez met the media without help, though a media member named Luis Nolla from KTRS stepped in when needed.
Martinez is 100 percent comfortable with his shoulder. It feels good and he is ready to start in spring training. “I am looking forward to being smart,” was his comment about managing his body.
He was checked out by doctors here in St. Louis and will throw his first bullpen this coming Tuesday, January 21.
I asked Carlos who he liked to step in as closer. John Gant was the first name he mentioned. Clearly not binding, but still interesting.
Martinez thinks the signing of Kim “is great”. Not worried about competition, as it exists every year.
He has been hitting this winter in preparation for batting again in 2020.
Giovanny Gallegos (6:58)
The reliever is excited for the chance to play in the playoffs again. Gallegos calls playing in MLB “a big opportunity”.
He feels pressure in any situation, but at the same time, does not care who the batter is (something his dad taught him). He wants to enjoy the moment.
The Mexico series was one of the best moments of his life to share with family. 2019 changed his life. Needed rest in the winter rather than play winter ball.
He said he is ready to close or any situation.
Alex Reyes (9:31)
Went into off-season with no restrictions. It was refreshing for Reyes to work with his personal trainer this winter, following workouts sent by the Cardinals. Has been three hard years of rehab. Threw bullpen last Friday (1/12) in the Dominican, mixing in all pitches, 25-30 total. Also long-tossing of 150 to 180 feet. Feels good and strong lost a few pounds. Main goal is to be healthy and make the roster as a starting pitcher.
Good to be with daughter and family in the Dominican Republic this winter. Returning home until going to Jupiter around the 30th.
Reyes was candid about his frustration getting the best of him when he was sent down to Memphis last season and the mentorship of Mike Shildt being important to him.
(Thanks to Luis Nolla from KTRS for the Reyes audio.)
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