JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Marco Gonzales had just finished a workout, and the St. Louis Cardinals left-hander stood with his back to a stiff wind from the north that made the temperature feel like it was in the 30s.
The start of spring training happened to coincide with the coldest day of the winter in Florida.
”Being from Colorado, I’m right at home,” Gonzales said. ” But I’m ready for it to get warm.”
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He’s not alone. Pitchers and catchers reported Thursday, and that magic phrase was exciting to Cardinals rooters up north eager for spring.
”We’re just like the fans,” Gonzales said. ”We count the days until we can get down here and get the season started.”
The Cardinals are beginning preparations for a run at a fifth consecutive playoff berth, and a dozen pitchers braved the elements to play catch before the first formal team workout Friday.
Among them were left-hander Jaime Garcia and right-hander Michael Wacha, both coming back from injuries. Ace Adam Wainwright made a brief visit to the complex but didn’t throw.
Position players aren’t due to report until Tuesday, but some are already in camp, including newcomer Jason Heyward. He was acquired from the Braves in a trade, along with right-hander Jordan Walden, who went around the clubhouse introducing himself and shaking hands.
Walden said he was already acquainted with some of his new teammates, and still remembers a home run third baseman Matt Carpenter hit off him in the minors in 2010. But Walden was still trying to put many names with faces.
”You see them all on TV with their hats on,” he said. ”With no hat you’re like – `I think that’s him, but I don’t know for sure.’ The first couple of days you just stick to yourself and try to fit in.”
Walden joins a bullpen that has jobs up for grabs. Manager Mike Matheny must also decide on his fifth starter, with Gonzales, Garcia and Carlos Martinez all candidates.
Gonzales, a first-round pick in the 2013 amateur draft, went 4-2 with a 4.15 ERA last year in 10 games, including five starts. If he doesn’t make the rotation, he’ll likely be a setup man for closer Trevor Rosenthal.
”I still feel like I need to prove myself,” Gonzales said. ”My mentality is I need to earn a spot. I don’t feel like anything will be given to me. I feel like it’ll be hard-earned, and I’m ready for the challenge.”
Also eager to prove himself is Wacha, who made only 19 starts last year because of a shoulder stress reaction. He pitched little in the second half of the season, and in his only playoff appearance allowed a home run that ended the NL championship series and sent the Giants to the World Series.
Wacha said his arm feels great. He faces no throwing limitations as camp begins and said he isn’t worried about his health.
”You can’t perform the way you want to perform if you’re thinking about a past injury or what’s going to happen,” he said. ”My mind is totally clear.”
Wacha is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Friday, when the temperature is expected to climb to 60 degrees. Happy to be back on the mound, he’s not inclined to grouse about the weather.