Nine interesting and informative tidbits from the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up
ST. LOUIS — Nine things I learned, or think I learned, at the three-day Cardinals Winter Warm-Up that concluded Monday afternoon at the Hyatt Regency downtown:
— New right fielder Jason Heyward won’t hit leadoff. Mike Matheny does not plan on setting his batting order until spring training — no matter how many times he is asked — but he dropped a hint Monday about Heyward’s likely landing spot. Matheny said he told Heyward, "I want you to be the kind of hitter that you want to be."
Heyward’s reply, via Matheny: "He believes he can be a guy who stands in there and drives the ball."
Not sure where that will put him, but it surely doesn’t sound like the top of the order. Heyward talked about how he came up as a middle-of-the-order hitter and when the Braves moved him into the leadoff spot last year, the toughest part was the lack of experience.
— The Cardinals would have liked to have locked up Lance Lynn for more than his three arbitration years when they came to terms on a three-year, $22 million deal last week. Well, Lynn said they could have gone into some of his free-agent years.
But only if they had bought out a lot of them.
"We wanted it to be more than just one or two (years)," Lynn said. "It’s not something we could get situated, but there’s always going to be a process later on if everything goes well. If I pitch the way I’m capable of, I’m sure that will be revisited down the line."
— Signing Mark Reynolds means prospect Stephen Piscotty will not need to bring a first baseman’s mitt to spring training. Matheny indicated that Piscotty could have seen some action at first base in spring training if the club had not found a first baseman on the free-agent market.
For Reynolds, accepting a backup role so early in the free-agent process was easier because of the team for whom he would be playing. "It’s a team I’ve respected for a long time," Reynolds said. "After I got off the phone with Mike, it was a no-brainer for me to come here. We share a lot of the same beliefs. I know a bunch of guys on the team. It was almost too good to be true."
— The Cardinals have no illusions about overhauling the offensive approach of Reynolds, one of the all-time strikeout kings. Matheny referenced Reynolds’ remarkable power as a fair price to pay for the strikeouts. While Reynolds said he would like to improve his contact rate, he no longer is too worried about the strikeouts.
"I used to but I’m getting older now," he said. "Not too many guys have seven (consecutive) years with 20 homers, so I’m doing something right. I still have a job. I would like to not strike out as much, but I feel like I compromise some stuff if I (try to) do that. I’m trying to drive the ball in the gap and I don’t want to compromise that for a weak out."
— Jhonny Peralta would not mind cleaning up. Peralta, who set a club record for shortstops with 21 homers last year, hit out of every spot in the order except first and ninth. While he says he’s comfortable wherever he hits, he kind of favors the middle.
"When I hit number 4 in the lineup, I feel like a big power guy," he said. "That’s really good."
— Two series Michael Wacha already is looking forward to are scheduled for July 22-24 in St. Louis and Oct. 2-4 in Atlanta. That’s when he could have a chance to square off against a good friend and former teammate, Shelby Miller.
"I give him some crap now and then that you better be ready for some chin music," Wacha said. "It’s going to be pretty fun getting to face him."
Wacha said he was with Miller the morning of the trade. The two live close to each other in Houston and often work out at the same time.
"All of a sudden, his phone was starting to get blown up," Wacha said. "He keeps ignoring it. Finally, he’s like something might be going down so he answers it and he looks at me (and says), ‘I’m getting traded.’ It caught me off-guard."
— Kolten Wong has healthy goals for 2015: "Twenty-plus stolen bases is something I want to reach every year. Hopefully, I can increase my batting average. I was down on myself about that. I’m usually higher than that."
What is he thinking? "Above .249 (last year’s average)," he said. "That’s nothing I’m proud of, but it was my first year in the big leagues and I’m definitely learning as I go."
— Wong has a proud papa, too. When he returned home to Hawaii after his three-homer postseason, Wong often would find his dad, Kaha Wong, watching the replays of his son’s heroics. "He’s just so stoked about it, it’s a cool thing," Kolten Wong said. "He’s always on YouTube. I said, ‘Dad, you’ve watched this about 80 times. It’s all right.’"
— Matheny is following Tony La Russa in another way, too: Book writing. Matheny’s first is due out Feb. 3. Titled "The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life," the book is the outcome of a letter Matheny wrote years ago to the parents of a youth league team he was coaching. If the book is as effective as the letter, it will be a must-read for youth-league coaches as well as parents of youth athletes.