Cardinals begin spring training with World Series aspirations
JUPITER, Florida - It's spring migration season again for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Birds have once again flown to their "nest" away from home in Jupiter, Florida to prepare for the upcoming 2015 Major League season.
St. Louis comes off of a 2014 season that saw it win 90 games, capture the N.L. Central crown and advance to the NLCS where it fell to the eventual World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.
The postseason berth was the Cardinals' fifth in 6 years and eleventh in the new millennium.
This year's team has a key group of returning veterans, as well as some new faces fans will want to know.
Catcher Yadier Molina looking a bit more slender than he did in 2014. The Redbird backstop said he dropped "15-20 pounds" in the offseason. Molina is the Cardinals' longest tenured player, having been with the club since the N.L. Championship year of 2004. Tony Cruz will once again back-up the 7-time gold glover Molina in 2015. Here is a picture of the new, svelte Molina.
The 2015 incarnation of the St. Louis infield will look much like the 2014 version.
Matt "Big City" Adams will man first base for the club with new acquisition Mark Reynolds backing him up. Reynolds can also provide some pop off the bench as a pinch hitter. He has 224 career homers, but has lead his league in strikeouts an astounding four times.
At second base, Kolten Wong enters his sophomore season at the keystone position. The Hawaii native finished 3rd in 2014 N.L. Rookie of the Year voting behind Jacob deGrom of the Mets and Billy Hamilton of the Reds. Wong also showed he has ample power in his 5'9 frame by blasting 12 regular season homers in 2014.
Jhonny Peralta also enters his second season in the St. Louis infield. At shortstop, Peralta lead the club with 21 home runs in 2014. He also ranked tenth among all players in baseball in wins above replacement.
The hot corner is once again manned by Matt Carpenter. Carpenter comes off of a 2014 season where he was an All-Star for the second time, and led the team in hits. There has been talk early in spring that Carpenter may be moved out of the lead off spot for the upcoming season. Wherever he hits, Carpenter seems excited to get the 2015 campaign kicked off.
???? Jupiter Florida here we come!! ??????????— Matt Carpenter (@MattCarp13) February 15, 2015
Greg Garcia, Pete Kozma, Aledmys Diaz, Dean Anna, Xavier Scruggs and Ty Kelly are all options as backups in the Cardinal infield.
The Cardinals outfield will return mostly intact, but with one major change.
That major change was the addition of right fielder Jason Heyward. Heyward, along with pitcher Jordan Walden, were acquired from Atlanta in the offseason for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Heyward is a two-time gold glove winner who ranked fourth in the majors last season in defensive wins above replacement. He was one of the first players to report to camp, and recently met general manager John Mozeliak for the first time.
Jon Jay and Matt Holliday will patrol center and left field respectively for the Redbirds in 2015. Jay recently avoided a salary arbitration hearing by signing a 2-year, $10.975 million contract with the club. Randal Grichuk, Peter Bourjos, Tommy Pham and top prospect Steven Piscotty will vie for backup spots on the team.
The pitching staff will be the spotlight of most of the attention this spring.
The rotation will be led, once again, by Adam Wainwright. Wainwright was given the honor of starting for the N.L. in the 2014 All-Star Game in Minnesota, and finished third in N.L. Cy Young voting. Wainwright has noted this spring that he plans on doing some damage with his bat this season. Although the extent of that damage is still to be determined.
"My bat is going to cause mayhem this year," says @UncleCharlie50. And it has. Knocked out a light in clubhouse just showing off his stance.— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) February 20, 2015
Along with Wainwright, the top 4 in the rotation will presumably be comprised of righties Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and John Lackey.
Wacha is coming off of a year where he missed a considerable amount of time with a right shoulder injury, but has arrived in camp feeling "extremely healthy."
Youngster Carlos Martinez is expected to take over the fifth starter spot by the end of spring training, but will not be without competition. The oft-injured lefty Jaime Garcia and rookie southpaw Marco Gonzales are expected to push Martinez for the job.
The Cardinals bullpen could see a considerable makeover for the upcoming 2015 season.
Trevor Rosenthal returns as the closer for St. Louis. Rosenthal tallied 45 saves for the Redbirds in 2014, second most in the N.L.
Locks for bullpen slots are aforementioned newcomer Jordan Walden, former Colorado Rockie Matt Belisle, righty Seth Maness, and lefties Kevin Siegrist and Randy Choate. Sam Freeman, Tyler Lyons, Nick Greenwood, Tim Cooney, Carlos Villanueva, and Zach Petrick are also expected to compete for spots. Former Navy Lieutenant Mitch Harris is another pitcher to watch this spring for the Cards.
The eventual 25-man roster assembled down in Jupiter this spring will have enormous expectations when they start regular season play on April 5 against the Chicago Cubs. Cardinal fans have grown used to winning, and expect nothing less than championships from their beloved redbirds.
Manager Mike Matheny will enter his fourth season at the helm of the club, and will do whatever he can to help his players succeed. Even if that means stepping in to catch a bullpen session here or there.