Though Day One of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Winter Warm Up was expected to be quiet, the day started with possibly the biggest news that would come out of the three-day event.
The team confirmed new hitting coach Mark McGwire would indeed make an appearance on Sunday. Not only would he be appearing on the main stage in front of all of the adoring fans, but he would also be answering questions from the media.
Though the regular St. Louis scribes will be in attendance, but a large contingency from all corners of the media, local and national, is expected as well. Unlike other years, a national ESPN crew was present early on Saturday morning.
This will be the former home run king’s first public appearance since being named to manager Tony La Russa’s staff this past October.
After a busy morning, the always accessible John Mozeliak answered questions not only for the fans but for the media as well. Look for an accompanying story later tonight here at The Cardinal Nation.
Miller and Motte
In addition to Mozeliak’s appearance on Saturday afternoon, two members of the Cardinals’ bullpen made a joint appearance behind the podium. Trever Miller and Jason Motte looked very comfortable together, most likely due to the large amount of time they spent together during the 2009 season.
Maybe it can be contributed to the security of a contract extension; Miller had quite a bit to add to the day’s conversations.
When asked about the team bringing in a late inning reliever/backup closer, Miller says, Franklin “is going to be our closer. He did a great job last year, one of the best in the game. I’m sure he’ll prove it for the rest of his career.”
Though he might not be in direct contact with Mark McGwire, Miller is excited about having the new hitting coach around. "The guy loves the game. To have to go through what he went through, coming out and telling everybody of the steroid use, there's no doubt he loves the game. If you love the game, I love you. I can't wait."
The southpaw is very excited about the addition of Brad Penny and he would not want to be an opposing team facing the Cardinals' rotation in a three-or-four-game series.
His shoulder has not bothered him and he actually feels better this offseason even after starting his long toss program.
If the team does not add another reliever, the team could return the same relievers as 2009. This doesn’t bother Miller in the least, “not going to fix it if it ain’t broke."
He likes his team’s chances of winning in 2010 because as he says, “we’re strong everywhere.” '
Unlike last year, Jason Motte seemed more relaxed when addressing the media. Not only was he relaxed behind the microphone, but he is also a little more comfortable on the mound.
After searching for an off-speed pitch for most of 2009, he not only found one but found two. Towards the end of the season, Motte says he was using, “fastball-cutter and then a slider-curve kind of thing was my third one." It is in that order that he would rank them in regards to comfort.
The last player of the day is definitely the most interesting, Brendan Ryan. Returning to St. Louis after an off-season spent with McGwire and without his trademark mustache, “Boog” seems really excited about the upcoming season.
On working with the team’s new hitting coach in his native California, Ryan says, “If I take 1% of what he taught me, I’ll be a better hitter.”
This past Sunday before the news of the steroid use to the media by storm, Ryan had a hitting session with McGwire. He says that Big Mac gave him no idea what was to come less than 24 hours later. The Cardinals shortstop said his hitting mentor was happy-go-lucky and signing autographs for some of Ryan’s friends who had come to shag balls.
After the news broke, Ryan called McGwire and offered to meet him for lunch. The two have gotten very close during their sessions and Ryan wanted to let it be known that he was behind McGwire and he supported his mentor.
“All I know is Big Mac is a super talent that I watched on TV”, when asked if the steroid admission had any effect on how he viewed McGwire.
But with all the talk of his hitting, Ryan has no misconceptions of his role. He understands that defense is his number one priority. Even so, he wants to be greedy and be a factor in the team’s offense.
Though he does not want anyone to expect a power surge, the quirky middle infielder did say he was going to hit like Albert Pujols this season. Don’t expect the same numbers, Ryan plans on copying “El Hombre’s” stance.
Newly signed pitcher Brad Penny grew up a Cardinals fan and his favorite player was Ozzie Smith. He always knew that he wanted to be a Cardinal. So much so, that when he was an opposing player, he always made it a point to talk to Tony La Russa.
The Oklahoma native said, “(teammate Chris) Carpenter reminds me a lot of Roy Halladay”. The 31-year-old is excited by the signing of Matt Holliday and feels the move puts the team over the top.
Penny feels the difference between his play in the American League and National League in 2009 is simple: strikes. He did not throw quality strikes and was not getting ahead in the count.
Molina and Gotay
Yadier Molina made his way to the podium following an All-Star season that saw him win a Gold Glove. Molina stated that his main goal for the upcoming season is to win a World Series. Also, he would like to hit .300 and bring home some more of the defensive hardware.
The backstop seems to be excited about his new hitting coach as well. He feels that McGwire is one of the all-time greats and will bring a lot to the team. When asked about the press that Big Mac has generated this week, he didn’t put much into it. “He’s a great guy, a great person,” responded Molina.
The 27-year-old feels that the rotation looks pretty good and he is excited to get to Spring Training. He thinks the team is set and has the makings of a great team.
At the podium with Molina was recently signed infielder Ruben Gotay.
Gotay says, “I am happy I got a chance with a team to win. It feels to be good to be here.” The 27-year-old likes that the young guys get a chance on the Cardinals. His goal is like Molina’s, to help the team win a World Series.
“Gotay’s defense is getting better and better. We all know he can hit”, added Molina.
Garcia and Jones
Jaime Garcia and Daryl Jones kicked of the day's interview sessions.
The left-handed Garcia says he is pitching with no limitations after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Plus, he reports he is in the best shape of his career and his arm feels great. When I asked him about his secondary offerings, the 23-year-old stated that he has good feel for his secondary offerings and has added a cutter. Garcia was rated as the top prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals system by the Cardinal Nation.
Outfielder Daryl Jones is healthy and his main goal is to stay healthy. He wants to steal more bases this season along with improving his success rate.
No matter the outfield situation, the 22-year-old knows that he has to put up good numbers in ST to garner any consideration.
The media room filled when the next Cardinal player entered the room. Chris Carpenter checked in with the media before meeting the throngs of fans at his autograph session. Instead of concentrating on rehab this postseason, the right-hander was able to concentrate on getting stronger.
The 34-year-old feels that it was a success as his shoulder has never felt stronger. He is excited about the addition of Brad Penny and new hitting coach Mark McGwire. If asked if the addition of Penny and the resigning of Matt Holliday makes the
Cardinals the NL Central favorite, he stated, “that is why we play the games. No one picked us to win the division last year.”
Additional photos from Josh Jones
Mitchell Boggs (Friday Caravan)
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