Diamond Diaries

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Tag Archives: Matt Carpenter

St Louis Cardinals, Spring Training 2014

A quick post to share player photos from our recent trip to sunny Jupiter, Florida – the Spring Training home of our beloved St. Louis Cardinals.  Photos (from the February 28th game against the Marlins and the March 2nd game against the Mets.)

Coming soon:  Photo diary with tips on how to be a baseball tourist in and around Jupiter Florida, Roger Dean stadium and the practice back fields.  (LINK HERE)

Click on any photo to enlarge and/or to shift through larger photos one at a time.  Enjoy!

Baseball is back!!  🙂

Winter Warm-Up, Day 1

The Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up kicked off today at the Hyatt Regency in downtown St. Louis. Throngs of Cardinal fans, all clad in red and looking for a midwinter baseball boost crowded the 2nd and 4th floors to see favorite baseball players, buy souvenirs, collect autographs and talk ball.

As I mentioned earlier in the week (click HERE for that post), I have had varying levels of anxiety mixed with complete joy over the Cardinals’ invitation to cover the event as a credentialed member of “the press”.

My Winter Warm-Up began at the St. Louis airport, where while waiting for my bags I looked up to see Tyler Greene walking my way.  I of course greeted him with a warm “Hi Tyler.” He stopped, smiled, said “Hi,” and paused…

(This “press” thing had me all confused!  Here I’d been working on suppressing fan tendencies all week in preparation for WWU, yet there I was at the airport dressed in my not-fan press’ly attire mentally preparing to be professional and what happens? I run into one of the Cardinals.  My mind short-circuits, knowing this was not the place to ask my prepared interview questions. So…. what to do???)

I went with the obvious, and brilliantly asked him if he was on his was to WWU.  Small, mundane chatter. My mental dialogue is sarcastically critical: “Perfect, Erika.”  Tyler answers, smiles again. and pauses…  (I am not blocking his way. promise.)  We established what time he was signing autographs & I finally (mercifully) waved him on his way, ending with a mostly fan-like “I’ll see you there!”  ugh.

Awkward Tyler Greene airport conversation.  My WWU is starting off oddly.

I arrived at the Hyatt around noon, dropped my bags in the room, grabbed my camera, my spare iphone (voice recorder) and all the questions I had worked on for the day’s listed player interviews. (The players come to the press area after signing autographs and answer questions, as time allows.  Well actually, I thought the players would come after signing, but learned that they may instead come to the interview area before scheduled WWU autograph sessions.  [lesson #1]  So, I was a bit disappointed to discover that I had already missed interview opportunities with minor leaguers Jordan Swagerty, Zack Cox, and Ryan Jackson (yep, they missed out on those amazing questions I had prepared for them) as well as the big boys, Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal.

Despite studying maps of the layout beforehand, I was lost in the crowd on the 2nd floor while hunting for the spot to pick up my credentials.  Who should come to the rescue, but Matt Sebek (there with Josh Bacott to hunt their Joe SportsFan WWU bread-and-butter:  the elusive, but always rewarding Unusual Cardinal Fan photos).  With good directions from Sebek, I found the lovely Cardinals Care volunteers who handed over my credentials, and I was off to the 4th floor!  … into another crowd, and lost. again.  A text to a friendly blogger buddy: Kevin (covering the WWU for Daniel Shoptaw’s site: C70 at the Bat) helped me find my way to the media work room.  I had arrived!  Late, but ready to hit the ground running!

I spent the next 20-30 minutes hearing what I had missed and waiting for my first media scrum.  Yep, the word is “scrum”.  Apparently that is the term used to describe how the press crowds around a player to ask questions and record soundbites.   It isn’t actually as horribly nasty as it sounds, but the experienced scrummers definitely had an advantage and there is most assuredly a scrum pecking order.  The pros were up close, on the player’s immediate right or left.  The television cameras had front and center.  The tall guys holding the microphones were in front.  This, of course, made it hard on us shorter folk left in the back. However, later in the afternoon, I found a loophole:  stand on a chair. [lesson #3] (I was assured by Brian Stull of 101 ESPN in St. Louis that standing on a chair was perfectly acceptable and he would take the blame if it was not.)  I believe he was right because another (more seasoned-looking) photographer stood on a chair next to me during Adam Wainwright’s scrum time.  When in Rome….  😉

My first scrum experience was with John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ GM.  As advised by my fellow newly credentialed blogger comrades, I set my iphone recorder on the podium and managed to snag a prime position with a clear shot of Mo – right next to the tv cameras (beginners luck).

Mozeliak talked for over 20 minutes.  Topics ranging from the opening at second base, to Yadier Molina’s no-show (again) at WWU and including bits about Kyle McClellan- is he staying or going?, how he (Mo) felt when he got the call that Albert had accepted the deal with the Angels, and the future of the organization with all the offseason staffing/coaching changes.

I learned that John Mozeliak really likes to talk about Tyler Greene’s athleticism and his being a superb athlete.  When asked about the 2B options for 2012, Mo was insistent that Tyler Greene would have every opportunity to get more playing time in 2012 and went on to be very supportive of Greene and his potential.  This ode to Tyler Greene caught me off guard, as it seemed to shock others in the room as well because Mo was then questioned about Greene’s prior chances to prove himself.  I am proud to say that I did speak up and ask Mo what getting Tyler Greene more playing time would mean for Daniel Descalso.  In response, Mo praised Descalso’s contributions, emphasizing his abililty to play multiple positions, but finished up with another nod to Tyler Greene’s ability to ALSO play multiple positions.  From the sounds of it, Spring Training may bring quite the battle for 2B, which at this time is “open”.

Another tantalizing tidbit from Mo’s moments:  Yadi will be making a donation to the Cardinals Care fund since he has backed out of Winter Warm-Up this year.  (All proceeds from the Annual Winter Warm-Up benefit Cardinals Care, the team’s community foundation supporting kids.)  Mo also mentioned that Yadi doesn’t like to do public autograph sessions, which although not surprising, was disappointing to hear (from a fan’s perspective, which I would never admit to while being a member of the press.) But truthfully, Yadi… what gives??

I did discover lesson #2 after the Mozeliak ditty:  “when hurriedly putting your voice recorder on the podium prior to the scrummage, you should check to make sure it is actually recording.” In the excitement of it all, I thought I hit the little red button.  I did not.  And that is why I am relying on memory here for the Mozeliak interview…  (consider that my disclaimer).  You can check out the links below from the other Cardinal bloggers who were smart enough to turn on their recorders.

Matt Carpenter, Lance Lynn

My 2nd scrum was less informative and cut short.  Matt Carpenter (AAA Memphis), pitcher Lance Lynn and the previously-showered-with-Mo-love Tyler Greene all came in together about 10 minutes before their scheduled autograph sessions.  Matt Carpenter looked as though he knew the other two would get most of the questions (he was right.)  The highlights: appearing slimmer than when we last saw him, Lance Lynn discussed how his mentality had changed from starting to relieving and how he “just wants to pitch, wherever it may be.”

Tyler Greene

Tyler Greene talked about being “ready to play… to come into Spring Training ready to play…to play as much as he can….”  When told that Mo was pretty adamant about his getting every opportunity to win the 2B job, Tyler said “it’s great! it’s an open spot… there’s going to be some competition… everybody’s going to be working for it & working hard.”  Tyler then deflected some questions about his prior efforts at the Cardinal infield, reiterating that it was in the past and he is just looking forward to Spring Training while emphasizing his extra practice at 2B this offseason.  Matt Carpenter spoke about working on being versatile and practicing other positions.  (An assumed reference to the burgeoning wealth of 3B talent with World Series MVP David Freese ahead of him and Zack Cox likely surging up to AAA this season.)  All three spoke highly of their former Memphis skipper, Chris Maloney, newly promoted to Cardinals 1st base coach for 2012, and then they were quickly scooted off to the autograph tables.

Adam Wainwright was the highlight of my first day Winter Warm-Up.  Although slumming it in a boring gray hoodie, he was darling, as usual.  Waino answered questions about his rehab (“feeling great” and saying “I am actually worried that I’m too far along instead of the other way around.”) He joked about when he might feel comfortable ribbing new teammate Carlos Beltran about “the curve” and told how Matt Holliday liked to tease him about his gardening hobby that helped occupy his time and “kept him sane” in 2011.  It was obvious Waino is ready to get back to the game.

Some more Waino highlights:  In his humble, yet upstanding way, Adam spoke about his role in the clubhouse, saying “I feel like I have a leadership role on the team.  I feel like I can help in a lot of different ways.”  He also took the opportunity to elaborate on the role faith played in his recovery, explaining “when you are leaning on somebody who is a lot stronger than any human could be and is inspiring like God is, then you are always going to be okay.”

And as luck would have it, my first day of Winter Warm-Up wrapped up with my baseball player talking about a football player.  You may have heard of him?  His name’s Tim Tebow, and Adam Wainwright is a huge fan.

For more WWU goodies, be sure to check out my partners in crime:

Chris Reed will be posting updates on i70baseball.com

Kevin‘s updates are at C70 at the Bat

Nick is covering WWU at PitchersHitEighth

and Ann is posting updates at Aaron Miles Fastball

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Tomorrow, I’m back at it again.  More pictures, more player info.  Winter Warm-Up Day 2!

Sparks from the Farm: My Top 7 Cardinal Prospects List

In September, the UCB (United Cardinals Bloggers) combine their efforts once again, this time to determine the top 7 Cardinal prospects.  We were each invited to select our Top 7 candidates.

How does one rank a prospect?  Well, I am taking the liberty of using my female fan intuition (for the fellas, that would be “gut instinct”) along with whatever stats tend to back me up.  Honestly, my rankings favor the guys I’ve followed more closely, the guys in AA and AAA.  And granted, some of them earned bonus points for that elusive quality of “being more fun to watch” or having that extra spark of personality, but all are players I’ll be keeping an eye on over the coming years.  So, here are my top seven Baby Bird prospects.  (okay, I have 12. But really…  How was I supposed to pick just 7?!) 😉

Shelby Miller

#1- Shelby Miller.  So far Shelby’s arm has lived up to the hype surrounding the Cardinals’ 2009 first-round draft pick. Pitching in AA Springfield this season, Shelby earned a 9-3 record with a 2.7 ERA.  Miller made headlines in August when off-field drama resulted in a one-week suspension for his violating team policy in an alcohol-related incident, but Shelby shut the book on 2011 with an impressive 8 innings of shutout baseball and 9 strikeouts during his final appearance on September 2nd.

#2 – Matt Adams.  Matt played first base for AA Springfield this season, raking 32 homeruns with 101 RBI and ending 2011 batting .300 and slugging .566 with an OPS of .923 (stats compliments of baseball-reference.com.)  Matt snagged high honors too, voted Texas League Player of the Year for 2011. The question for 2012: Can Matt maintain that power in AAA and translate it into big league success?

#3 – Carlos Martinez:  Martinez, the highly anticipated right-hander from the Dominican Republic, signed with the Cardinals last Fall.  Still a teenager (he turns 20 this month), Martinez is a true flamethrower (mid to upper 90’s) with a curveball, slider and possibly a changeup (by some reports) to supplement his primary fastball .  The Cardinals are understandably drooling over the potential of this young arm.  Martinez started the 2011 season in A level ball in Quad Cities (2.33 ERA, 8 games) and was promoted to high-A Palm Beach (5.28 ERA, 10 games).

Tony Cruz

#4 – Tony Cruz.  Tony logged playing time in 34 Major League games this season, establishing a hold on the backup-backup catcher position.  However, Cruz’ versatility was also on display earlier in the season when he covered 1B, 2B, 3B and outfield as needed.  Plus Cruz did throw out a respectable 50% of base-stealers during his MLB service (small sample size alert.)  Versatility.  Strong, accurate arm.  Backup catcher batting .258? (.262 with 4 HR in AAA Memphis during 2011)  What’s not to like?

Brandon Dickson

#5 – Brandon Dickson.  Made his first Major League start on September 1 in Milwaukee and pitched into the 4th inning, striking out 3 but giving up 2 homeruns in an eventual Cardinal win against the Brewers (8-4).  Dickson has a strong resume in the farm system including a 2009 ERA (AA) of 3.78,  2010 ERA (AAA) of 3.23 and 2011 ERA (AAA) at 3.95.  He’s put in the time, showing consistency and effectiveness. I expect Dickson to be a solid contributor from the Cardinal bullpen in 2012.

#6– Matt Carpenter. You may remember, Matt had a brief (but lackluster) stint in St. Louis for a week in early June. However, Matt did hit .300 (OPS .880) with 12 HR and 70 RBI for Memphis this year.  Matt’s name continues to pop up in top prospect lists all over Cardinal Nation, and I’m giving him a spot in mine because 1) the baseball gurus believe in him and 2) I’m still curious to see what he’s got.  Granted, in the few games (small sample size alert) that I’ve been able to watch Matt firsthand, his bat wasn’t popping.  Maybe I’m bad luck?  Nah…. 😉

#7 – Zack Cox First round draft choice in 2010, Zack moved up from Palm Beach to AA Springfield this year where he ended the season batting .306 with 13 homeruns (A+ and AA combined).  Even those of us with intense loyalty to our current 3rd baseman cannot deny that Zack Cox has potential written all over him.

Honorable Mentions:  Because an even dozen is even better than just 7.

* Kolten Wong:  Highly touted 2011 first-round June draft pick.  Wong plays 2B and batted .335 with a .911 OPS for Quad Cities this year.  In a recent interview, Wong’s love for the game was not only obvious, but inspiring.  There’s nothing quite as wonderful as watching a ballplayer who truly ENJOYS being on the field and SAVORS the opportunity.

Adron Chambers

*Adron Chambers.  Cardinal Nation got their first glimpse of Chambers at Busch Stadium on September 6th when he made his Major League debut as a pinch runner. On September 9th, again pinch-running, Chambers tore into 2nd base in an aggressive slide, taking out Dan Uggla, in an admirable and bullish attempt to break up the double play. Chambers batted .277, playing centerfield for AAA Memphis this year and stole 22 bases.  If he can trim down his strikeouts and improve his OBP, Chambers could be an entertaining menace on the basepaths for the Cardinals.  Adron does get bonus points for his extreme likeability.  Whether you’ve met him in person or just heard reports of his character, you can’t help but cheer for Chambers.

*Maikel Cleto:  The remnant of our Brendan Ryan trade.  Thankfully, Cleto has some upside.  He can throw hard and FAST, reaching triple digits at times.  Cleto sped through the system this year, starting in Palm Beach (2.48 ERA), to AA Springfield (3.93 ERA) and then AAA Memphis (4.29 ERA).  Cleto was rushed to the Majors briefly in June (after injuries had depleted the Cardinal bullpen) with disappointing results but returned this month with a much better result:  4 batters faced, 1 hit, 2 Ks and no earned runs to close the 9th in the Cardinals 4-1 loss to Milwaukee. If Cleto continues to improve his command and control as well as develop his secondary pitches, he may be a valuable arm in the pen.

*John Gast:   Drafted in 2010, Gast moved from Palm Beach to Springfield this year with a 4.02 ERA. He impressed the Cardinals during his first Spring Training, earning the right to stick around far longer than most expected.  Praise for Gast’s killer pick-off move is hedged with worries about command. However this lefty hurler, who had TJ surgery out of highschool, remains an alluring prospect, especially for a team that values their LOOGYs.

*Heath Wyatt:  Drafted in June 2011, Wyatt pitched in relief for the Johnson City Cardinals (A), earned a 3-1 win/loss record as a reliever and a 3.24  ERA with a ratio of 30 strikeouts to 7 walks (25 innings).  Okay, okay…. None of that is important as the primary reason he’s on my list.  Heath’s a SUBMARINER – and that’s a guaranteed Gold Glove for “watchability” in my opinion.

Want to read more about the sparks in the Cardinal farm system?  Check out who made the Top 7 Prospect lists of the other UCB members here.

Starting to Mean Something

Those of you that know me a bit know that I get really excited about the beginning of the baseball season. First day of Spring Training? Check (I wore red). First spring game? I found ways to watch that silly little Gameday box from my desk at work (and I wore red). First televised game? I again snuck peaks at the game (despite being unable to listen to most of it) from work (and wore more red).


Each and every first made me smile, caused me to comment, and gave me reason to talk about baseball a little more than usual. But when the game ended and the final score was posted, I shut it down. I didn’t fuss that too many men were left on base or get irritated at why Tony used this reliever instead of that one. Because it didn’t matter. Spring records mean nothing (although I imagine being incredibly bad or blowing everyone out would turn heads). I have no idea what the standings look like for the Grapefruit League, nor will I be looking them up anytime soon.


It’s not that I don’t care. I’m trying to guess my way through those last few roster spots just like everyone else. I have been looking at various names/faces/statistics, but every time I start to get wrapped up in it I remember: Never fall in love too early in spring. Two weeks ago I was pulling for Lance Lynn for the rotation, Daniel Descalso to be the last bench player, was genuinely concerned about Lance Berkman, and still found little reason to trust Kyle Lohse. Since then I changed my mind… on all of those. But let’s look at one at a time…

Pitchers: I am a huge Kyle McClellan fan. Really. I want him to succeed in whatever role he finally lands in. However, it seems that every year he gets put into the rotation mix during Spring Training, I pull for someone else. Why is that? It’s because I constantly fall into the belief that while fifth starters can be found through any number of ways (and the Cardinals have a history of… interesting… fifth starter names over the past few years), strong and reliable workhorse bullpen arms are a little tougher to come by. I don’t doubt Boggs and Motte. I love those goobers and the flaming fastballs they shoot out of their arms like cannons. I do at the same time love that McClellan can use an assortment of pitches and be the kind of setup man that TLR loves to have and use.


I was pulling for Lance Lynn to have the kind of spring that Jaime Garcia did last year. After watching him today, I’m still unconvinced that he absolutely couldn’t do it. His outing was okay, 4 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs and 4 strikeouts is nothing to be super critical of, but not eye opening either. McClellan has done nothing but mow ’em down. I want it to be McClellan. I suppose I’m pulling for Fernando Salas to get that last spot in the pen, but as Derrick Goold noted this afternoon, the team hasn’t decided yet. I’m not sold, but I feel better about this all now than I did a couple of weeks ago, that’s for sure.


The other pitcher discussion has to be the combination of Jake Westbrook, Garcia, and Lohse. Quick, if you would have picked one of those three to have a strong spring, which would it have been? I would seriously laugh if you had said Lohse. NO ONE saw it coming. Will it last into the regular season? I certainly hope so. I don’t expect him, Westbrook or Garcia to take the place of Adam Wainwright (*sniff*… I’m okay, it’s dust or something), but feeling like we could rely on him to be more like the pitcher we saw in 2008 would be fantastic! Is it time to get concerned about Westbrook feeling like he hasn’t really been able to get his pitches under control or Garcia not feeling worried about his not great start or not working counts well? I suppose that time is getting close. The games are starting to mean something (even if the final scores still do not).


Outfield: Color me not really worried about the outfield. Holliday and Rasmus are obviously just fine, and I think Berkman will be too. He probably cannot and really should not be playing every game like he thinks he can, but I feel confident enough in Jay and Craig being the other two outfielders that it should work out nicely. Should Berkman go down, it would not be the end of the world. I just hope he doesn’t. That’s all.

AP Photo

Infield: The four starters are clear – Pujols, Skip, Theriot, and Freese. No questions there. The two bench spots are the trick. Most assume that Tyler Greene will take one of them, but then it comes down to Daniel Descalso or Matt Carpenter. At the beginning of spring I would have said Descalso, no question. I fell in love too early, then felt Carpenter sweep Cardinal Nation collectively off our feet. He’s not on the 40 man roster, but man, he could be. The fans like him. The front office likes him. Tony likes him (and his work ethic… so… he’s the anti-Brendan?).


But.


Dang. There had to be a ‘but.’


Carpenter plays third. In reality, he only plays third. We have a third baseman by the name of David Freese. Freese has obviously had his share of boo-boos and injury mishaps, and the team is taking care of those and shielding him from doing too much too soon, but really, do you want two players on your team that only play third base? Greene can play second and short, but Descalso can play second, short, and third. Versatility will get you everywhere on a Tony team, just ask Aaron Miles.


Is there a right or wrong answer as to who to take north? I’m not sure there is. The point will most likely be moot anyway whenever Nick Punto (Yeah, I forgot about him too) comes off the disabled list. Both players have played well. Carpenter has gotten more print, but both have averages over .300, both have played solid defense. If you want to argue logistics, then fine – Descalso has experience at the big league level, although very limited (11 games and 37 plate appearances), while Carpenter hasn’t played a game above AA. That is definitely a factor.


Don’t sell either short. However, just because the games are starting to mean something doesn’t mean it’s been long enough to fall for either player.


That’s why they play the games. 🙂

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