Cardinals Winter Warm-Up – In Their Words: Sunday, 1/19/20

photos: Jack Flaherty (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Sunday’s Day 2 of the 2019 St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up charity event at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch arrived with a return to sub-freezing temperatures and brisk winds – but nothing that would keep the throngs of Cardinals fans away.

Among the popular presentations in the main tent include General Manager Michael Girsch and manager Mike Shildt as well as scouting director Randy Flores’ breakout session.

Autograph sessions with 14 current Cardinals were scheduled on Sunday: John Gant, John Brebbia, Dylan Carlson, Matthew Liberatore, Jack Flaherty, Nolan Gorman, Justin Williams, Tyler Webb, Tommy Edman, Austin Gomber, Jordan Hicks, Daniel Ponce de Leon and Lane Thomas. Shildt and Girsch also stopped by to talk with the media.

Rangel Ravelo had been on the schedule, but was instead given permission to continue to play for his Aguilas Cibaenas club in the Dominican Winter League playoffs. Due to travel difficulties, Paul DeJong moved from Saturday to Sunday.

Typically either before or after they sign for fans, the players are brought to the media area for a question and answer session.

However, one person cannot be in multiple places, so the time I was away from the media room for the main tent sessions meant I missed two player interviews. An assist from Luis Nolla from KTRS for copies of the John Gant and Nolan Gorman audio I missed is greatly appreciated.

Following are my notes from selected interviews held during the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Sunday, January 19, 2020. Following my summary is the full audio for those who want to listen to the full content.

John Gant (3:05)

Would love to pitch in the ninth. Coming to camp as a starter, and hopes to crack the rotation. Walks and some bad luck hurt him in second half after good luck in first half. Bummer to not make playoffs but happy to see team do great. All the talent and pieces are there to go all the way in 2020.

In the bullpen, he liked coming to the field being prepared to play every day.

Nolan Gorman (10:25)

Liberatore is a bulldog on the mound. Explained excitement of the trade, staying with the moment. Happy to be Cardinals now and hope that is where it ends.

Emulates game of David Wright. Admires on and off field. Never met him. Loves third base and wants to stay there a long time. Will play OF or 1B in big leagues if asked.

First full season learned how to take of his body over 140+ games. Goal is to stay on field and end goal to get to the big leagues.

Carlson told him to ask questions in spring camp. Listen and learn. Excited to go to first camp.

Hitting camp helped him with technology and routine to keep swings in line, then instructs allowed more players to learn new program and language. Focus on attack angle and plane efficiency then do drills to measure progress. Have the same equipment in Arizona – Rapsodo and K-Vest. Got into it at DriveLine in Seattle in off-season for a week. Gets more feedback.

He in Liberatore on same team will push both ahead further. He closed with a discussion of this situation.

John Brebbia (7:05)

John Brebbia (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Joked about Cubs boring controversy from 2019 – does not start things, but will finish them. Sidestepped closer question, noting his goals are to make the team and add value and that the team has “many great options” for the ninth inning.

Flaherty was “almost surreal” in the second half. Was as good as it gets.

Mike Shildt (31:05)

Mike Shildt (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Martinez coming to camp as starter, one of 13 candidates. Will use back field simulated games to help evaluate them.

The holistic approach to hitting is on a learning curve. Packy Elkins will be a “concierge to the players”.

Pleased with MLB’s actions and punishment to cheating. Game has changed more in the last five years than in the 145 years prior. Game had been policed in past by players. Shildt is pleased with the integrity of the clubhouse. “We stayed on the safe side of the line.”  Can sleep at night.

Goes way back with Jose Martinez, who is a human “Red Bull”. “Ozuna, in my head, is still here” because he is not yet signed. Hopes it can work out for both him and team.

Tommy Edman has earned right to play. Will appear all over in spring, including the outfield.

Dylan Carlson did a great job in 2019 spring camp and in season. Comfortable he can start in left of right, but hasn’t seen enough of him to say yes on center field. Already has a lot of options in center, including Thomas and Edman.

No one, including Carpenter is the tipping point of the offense. He can hit anywhere in the lineup. Will be more of a complete hitter in 2020, back to using the full field.

Dylan Carlson (8:51)

Dylan Carlson (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The top prospect added strength over the winter along with 10 pounds, to go up to 210. His focus is work ethic and effort. Doesn’t use much technology.

Appreciated that all the fans already know all about him.

Focused on keeping it simple in Memphis to end season. Benefit in competing against and talking with MLB-experienced players.

Comfortable with all three outfield positions. Likes Carlos Beltran as switch-hitting outfielder like him.

Goldschmidt reached out in spring 2019 as he watched others in cage, ate lunch together to talk hitting. Matt Carpenter also worked with him in film room on timing to get ready to hit the ball.

Justin Williams (4:39)

Justin Williams (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The outfielder has no lingering health concerns. Not rushing. After his hand healed last season, he hurt his hamstring and may have been rushing. Watched Bader when he was sent down and tried to follow him. Also watches Molina and Ozuna.

Spent six weeks in Mexico playing winter ball to make up some lost at-bats. Mexican league pitchers don’t give in.

Tommy Edman (8:55)

Tommy Edman (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Was asked about his off-season wedding.

Going into spring training more comfortable. Expects role to be same as last year. Took balls in the outfield this winter in San Diego. Will be prepared for anything in spring training, regarding spot in lineup and defensive position. Has 2B/SS glove, 3B glove and OF glove. Focus in off-season is to be ready for shortstop. Expand his comfort up the middle. Most comfortable at third and second now because that is where he has played most recently.

Sees fans wearing Edman shirts.

Believes WAR is the best stat to measure overall player performance.

Austin Gomber (7:50)

Austin Gomber (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

MRIs could find no problem last season. Short time down turned into three months. By late July, when ready, he had to start over. Reached Springfield with six days left and pitched three times. Hoped to join a playoff minors team, but there was none. Was not ready to pitch for StL in playoff race. So went home even though healthy. Was frustrating to watch team in playoffs on TV.

Did winter training at Eric Cressey’s facility in Florida. Coming to camp to compete as starter but will play role they give him.

Matthew Liberatore (8:47)

Matthew Liberatore (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The newest Cardinal appreciates the warm welcome and loves the culture and atmosphere. Shared details of his day when traded, including interactions with Dad as well as best friend Nolan Gorman. Knew more about hitting side of StL organization from Gorman.

Looking forward to first MLB camp (with Gorman). Expects to shadow Wainwright and Flaherty. Will go out and compete with a bulldog mentality. Has no idea what level he will be assigned in 2020.

Has had same pitching coach since 11 years of age. Encouraged him to look at Sandy Koufax as fellow left-hander. Also models mentality after Gibson.

Picked up slider in senior year in high school. 88 mph, shorter and later break. Doesn’t get a lot of swing and miss on curve, so third offering important to success.

Tyler Webb (4:14)

Tyler Webb (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The lefty felt that consistent work helped him turn the corner in 2019. Webb is not concerned about new three-batter minimum and feels he can get right-handed batters out, too.

Likes 26th man on the roster if it can help him make the team!

Jack Flaherty (9:27)

The right-hander wants to stay consistent from his second half in 2019. Felt Tyler Skaggs was watching over him as his burst came right after Skaggs’ passing.

Took some more downtime this winter. Nothing else different.

Not worried about contract. Understands life-time Cardinals and is lucky to have access to Molina, Wainwright, Carpenter and Gibson. Gibson relationship “special”. Was told to “be on the attack no matter the situation.” Also to pitch inside. Gibson says he never hit a batter – they hit themselves.

Paul DeJong (8:10)

Paul DeJong (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Apologized for being caught in MN and missing Saturday’s action. Proud of the fish he caught.

Goal for 2020 is to improve consistency on offense. Became “unsure of himself”. Problems were “mental more than physical”. Needs to “stay in the moment” and not let 0-for-10 affect him.

Field his “field presence” improved in 2019. Still needs to do better with guys in scoring position – feels that is why he did not win the Gold Glove.

Does not want more days off. Physically felt good. This is more of a mental year. Physically can handle same level of workload and more in 2020.

Believes he can hit anywhere from no. 3 to 5 in order. That is his identity as a hitter, but decision will be Shildt’s.

Michael Girsch (14:17)

Michael Girsch (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The GM said he has no announcements on player transactions.

Would have had to start STEP Camp same time as major league camp to have players ready for first split squad games. So decided to cancel STEP and bring an extra half-dozen players to MLB camp (mostly pitchers). Better opportunity for a few, less for others.

If Edman has to play all over, it is good for the rest of the team – all starters playing well.

Hicks is starting to play catch and staying in St. Louis, then Jupiter this winter helped his rehab. Was early caution in setting up his rehab program due to his diabetes. Has not been a factor.

Shildt’s last year has been both shocking and expected.

Lane Thomas made great impression in 2019. Know he is athletic. Injuries non-issue now. All outfielders need to hit the ground offensively in the spring.

Jeff Albert program. Blast Motion last year, cameras this year. Russ Steinhorn an extension down into the minors. Cards knew Albert from his prior time with St. Louis. That played into his signing more than Houston experience.

On his assistant GMs, Moises Rodriguez does more traditional work. Randy Flores is still scouting director nine months but learning more when time allows.

Jordan Hicks (6:49)

Jordan Hicks (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Now six months into rehab. First period in St. Louis, he was in a sling and brace. Moved to Jupiter right after Christmas so he could throw. Now up to 60 feet tossing, not full throwing. Can get full extension in arm. Lifting the same weight as before. Has gained 10 pounds and feels good about that.

No point rushing back and risk re-injury. Plans to pitch for a long time.

Lane Thomas (1:55)

Daniel Ponce de Leon and Lane Thomas (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Thomas and Daniel Ponce de Leon came in together. Because they answered questions one after the other, I split the audio into two parts.

Was able to work out this winter with no restrictions. Played a defensive role with St. Louis in 2019 and that took pressure away from hitting. Ready to play any position in 2020.

Daniel Ponce de Leon (1:45)

The right-hander’s wife suggested he grow out his hair. He would close or do any job asked. Coming to camp as a starter. Added physical therapy to his off-season, and his lower back and hips feel much better (and he did not have a problem with them before.)

Earlier related article

Cardinals Winter Warm-Up – In Their Words: Saturday, 1/18/20

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St. Louis Cardinals Instructional Camp News – January 16, 2020

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