ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay will go to spring training ready to compete, he said Sunday at the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up.
Jay said the November trade that sent David Freese to the Angels for speedy center fielder Peter Bourjos hasn’t changed how he will approach spring training.
"It’s the same as it always is," he said. "I’m going to come in and be ready to compete. If you look over the past years, I think I’ve been in a similar situation before. Nothing changes for me the way I approach the way I go about my business. I’m going to show up every day. It’s one of those situations where we’re just trying to do whatever it takes to win, and that’s something this organization does. So I’m looking forward to showing up to spring training and just going out there and competing."
After batting .305 with a .373 on-base percentage in 2012, Jay hit .276 with a .351 on-base percentage in 157 games during the 2013 campaign, which also included some shaky defense in center field.
Jay’s inconsistent play left open the possibility that the Cardinals could upgrade at that position, whether through a trade or possibly installing top prospect Oscar Taveras in that spot.
"The effort was there," Jay said. "Maybe the results weren’t the same as I’ve had in the past, but that’s OK. But I know that the effort was there and the preparation. It’s one of those things where I obviously struggled in the beginning of the season and in the playoffs. I had some bright moments to the season. So I’m just going to look at the positives. The positive was the second half I was back to my normal career numbers and I did what I know I’m capable of doing."
Jay’s career slash line of .293/.356/.400 through 538 games over four seasons is better than Bourjos’ line of .251/.306/.398 through 354 games in four years, but Bourjos offers a speedy right-handed-hitting alternative and is regarded as a defensive upgrade.
"I understand that being in this organization where they are going to do whatever it takes to win and we have seen that the last couple of years," Jay said. "It’s just the nature of this organization and what they are going to do. As a player, that’s what you want. You want a team that if there’s something that they feel they can go out there and address, you want that done as a player because you want to win. To me it’s the same competition. I’m just going out there and continuing to prove myself in the major leagues."
CRAIG FEELS GOOD
Allen Craig said he took a month off after the World Series to rest his sore foot, which caused him to miss six weeks near the end of the season and the first two rounds of the playoffs.
"I feel really good," he said. "After the season I took a month off just to rest up and heal and started rehab and working out and conditioning after that. I’ve been doing that ever since and it feels pretty good right now. So I think I’ll be ready for spring training and ready for the season. I’m feeling good."
The All-Star described his late-season injury as "bad timing" and a "tough pill to swallow" as the Cardinals pushed for a playoff spot, but he was fortunate to return and contribute in the Fall Classic.
"That was a pretty tough time in my career, I think, not being able to finish out September with the guys and just a really tough time for that injury to happen," he said. "To get out there and play in the World Series and contribute with the team, it was just a great experience overall."
Craig was asked if he will be the primary right fielder for the Cardinals this season after playing 95 of his 134 games at first base a year ago.
"That’s kind of what it looks like right now," he said. "So I’m excited about that. I’m excited to get out in the outfield and run around a little bit and have a good time out there."
Craig in right field opens first base for left-handed-hitting Matt Adams, who hit 17 home runs and slugged .503 in 319 at-bats in 2013.
Lance Lynn’s meeting with the media was interesting.
The Cardinals’ right-handed pitcher was asked a few times about the competition for spots in the starting rotation, which would seem to have eight candidates — Lynn, Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons — for just five spots.
"It’s like that every year," Lynn said. "I think there’s always 26 pitchers that show up to camp, so what’s the difference this year?"
Lynn later shot down a question about starting or relieving.
"I’m a starter, so that’s it," he said.
Lynn, who went 15-10 with a 3.97 earned-run average in 2013, talked about trying to get stronger this off-season rather than trying to lose weight like a year ago and about building off of his 33 starts and 201 2/3 innings pitched.
Lynn was asked if he had heard any rumblings in the off-season that he might be traded for a shortstop.
I found out through this little media session that there was a competition. I have not talked to anyone. They fully expect me to be in the rotation. There’s been no talk that I’m fighting for a job, so I’m just getting ready.
-- Lance Lynn
"No," he said. "I found out through this little media session that there was a competition. I have not talked to anyone. They fully expect me to be in the rotation. There’s been no talk to that I’m fighting for a job, so I’m just getting ready."
Joe Kelly, who started 15 games in the regular season and four more in the playoffs, was asked what to make of the Cardinals’ crowded rotation.
"I don’t know," he said. "It’s going to be fun. We’ll see what happens."
After working as a starter and a reliever in his first two years in St. Louis, Kelly seems to be prepared for either role this season.
"I’m just going to go out there and try to pitch the best I can and see what happens," he said. "It’s not up to any of the players. We just have to go out there and perform and see what happens."
In his two years in St. Louis, Kelly has appeared in 61 regular-season games and has started 31 of them. The right-hander pitched well down the stretch last season and finished with a 10-5 record and 2.69 ERA in 124 innings.
What did the 25-year-old learn from his 2013 season?
"That I could be pretty good," Kelly said. "Just getting confidence knowing that once you’ve done something it’s not a fluke and you can go out there and do it again, and that’s what I had in that string of good outings I had. I just carried some confidence and some, I don’t know, I guess swagger out there and knew I was better than my opponent and just go out there and try to dominate them the best I can."
Carlos Martinez, the Cardinals’ 21-year-old right-hander, spoke with the media Sunday through interpreter Alexy Hernandez, who is also the pitcher’s business manager.
"He’s working hard right now and with all his hard work hopefully he’ll be on there," Hernandez said when Martinez was asked about the starting rotation. "He thanks God for the opportunity to be here, but he’s been working hard in the off-season to try to get to that spot."
Hernandez said Martinez, who pitched out of the bullpen in 20 of 21 games in the regular season and in all 12 of his playoff appearances, has "always wanted to be a starter, so hopefully he gets that opportunity to get that job done."
ADAMS LOSES WEIGHT
Matt Adams, the power-hitting first baseman, said he has lost six or seven pounds during the shorter off-season, but it has really been about losing more body fat than weight.
The 25-year-old knows, with the free-agent departure of Carlos Beltran to the Yankees and Craig shifting to right field, that he’ll have a chance to earn regular playing time at first base this season.
"It’s a huge opportunity, but you never know what can happen," he said. "You just have to run with it and hopefully things work out. I have to go down there ready to perform, ready to fight for a job."
Part of Adams’ off-season preparation is seeing as much left-handed pitching as he can.
"The big thing I’m working on is really trying to get to see lefty pitching better," he said. "That’s one of the areas I struggled at last year, chasing the lefty slider down and away, breaks out of the strike zone. Really getting on a machine and having some young elite college guys come in and throw lefty BP to me to try to get that down."
PROSPECT PISCOTTY EXERCISING PATIENCE
Minor league outfielder Stephen Piscotty, who is ranked as the Cardinals’ fourth-best prospect by Baseball America, is one of the organization’s fastest-rising players since being selected in the first round of the 2012 draft out of Stanford.
But the 23-year-old Piscotty, who projects as a right or left fielder in the majors, said he isn’t worried about how quickly he arrives in St. Louis.
"I’m just trying to play baseball," he said. "I don’t like to get caught up thinking about that. It’s not in my control. I’m just out there trying to play ball doing the best I can do. … I’m not in a huge rush to get anywhere. I’m just trying to be the best I can be. Hopefully, I can make it up there one of these days. … I’m having a great time, so I’m enjoying the process."
In 167 minor league games, the right-handed hitting Piscotty batted .295 with a .362 OBP and .458 slugging percentage. He hit 41 doubles and 19 home runs, drove in 86 runs and scored 76.