New Cards IF Ellis talks about playing time, being a mentor to Wong and more
ST. LOUIS — New Cardinals infielder Mark Ellis hasn’t met rookie Kolten Wong, but he has heard plenty about him.
Ellis has heard enough to know that Wong will be given every opportunity to open the season as the regular second baseman. The 36-year-old veteran is OK with that. He said he expects to have no problems accepting a backup, or utility, role.
“They were very honest with me, very honest with how they feel about Kolten Wong as a player,” Ellis said from Arizona in a conference call Monday afternoon. “I know that Kolten Wong is a favorite of a lot of people in the organization, for good reason. He’s a good baseball player. I’m coming there to be one of the 25 players on the team. Wherever I play, whatever my role is, that’s what I’m going there to do. It may not be defined exactly what it is.”
Other topics that Ellis addressed:
On having opportunities where he could have been the everyday second baseman: “Yeah. There were good opportunities, with very good teams, very good organizations. I felt like this was the perfect place for myself, my family.”
Why the Cardinals: “It’s a place that I always was very curious about, always interested to know how they keep doing it every year. When they lose an Albert Pujols, they can go out and be just as good as they were before. It seems like they don’t miss a beat when they have somebody go down for a while or lose somebody in free agency.
“The Cardinals’ organization speaks for itself. The reputation around baseball is incredible. Everybody respects the organization. Some people don’t like the organization because they’re jealous of it because it seems like they do everything the right way.”
What he’s learned from playing the Cardinals: “Their pitching staff was really important in my decision. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been on some teams that had really good pitching. I know you always have a chance if you can pitch. Facing these guys in the NLCS (with the Dodgers last season) was really impressive.
“A lot of respect I gained playing against this team the last couple of years, especially this year in the playoffs. The way they went out there and battled against Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, really good pitchers. Their hitters never gave up an at-bat, they put their heads down and worked. (They had a) look in their eye like it was going to be tough for us to beat them. I really respected that a lot about them.”
On when he first heard from the Cardinals: “We got some calls early from a lot of teams. I don’t think the Cardinals were one of the first. They did call fairly early on in the process. I was surprised, not because I wasn’t interested. We just got done playing against them (in the NLCS). I saw Matt Carpenter playing second base, and he had 200 hits. I didn’t know he was going to be a third baseman. Mo (GM John Mozeliak) relayed that to my agent, they ended up talking at the Winter Meetings again and they held a couple of more discussions after that. Things finalized pretty quick after that.”
On why a one-year deal: “I’m totally fine with one-year deals at this point in my career. It frees you up if you don’t enjoy where you’re at for that one year, you get a chance to do it again. I’m not saying I’m not going to love it in St. Louis and it’s not going to be great because I think it is.”
On accepting a backup role: “I don’t worry about (playing time). I’ve pretty much been an everyday player my whole career. I’m going to prepare this off-season like I’m going to play for 162 games. I know the situation going in because they were very honest with me. I also know it’s a winning team. It’s a team that wants to win now. It’s a team that wants to win a championship. That’s what made St. Louis so attractive.”
On playing other positions besides second base: “We haven’t talked a whole lot about (other positions). We haven’t sat down and mapped out a plan. I’m fine with that. I played third base two years in college (Florida) and I grew up as a shortstop. If that’s what needs to be done, I’m fine with that. I love playing baseball. I don’t have a huge ego. I want to do whatever it takes to win a World Series.”
On possibly playing mentor to Wong: “Yeah. That’s what baseball is all about. I had Randy Velarde, growing up. I was a rookie when John Mabry was with Oakland. Even though we didn’t play the same position, he was a great mentor. Nobody was ever bickering about playing time. They were trying to make me better. That’s what baseball players are all about. That separates us from a lot of other sports.
“We want to see the guys behind us come up and have great careers. You want to sit on your couch someday and watch Kolten Wong make All-Star teams and get a big hit in the World Series. That’s what’s cool about baseball. I don’t know Kolten. I’ve never met him. There’s just something about when you get out in spring training you forge relationships really fast. Hopefully, we hit it off. I can learn a lot from him; he can learn a lot from me.”
On players he talked to before signing: “I talked to Skip Schumaker (his teammate in LA) a couple of times and I talked to Matt Holliday (briefly a teammate in Oakland) a little bit. … I didn’t need a whole lot because of what I know goes on there, but unless you’re actually in the clubhouse, you don’t know all the things. I had a referral from them.”
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.