The organization's #1 prospect was our first interview. Miller said he is already throwing his changeup for strikes and says his curveball "will be there, too."
He stated his goals for 2011 are to stay healthy and start the season with Double-A Springfield. Miller knows the jump is considerable, but noted others have done it. He said he discussed the possibility with pitching coordinator Dyar Miller following the 2010 season.
I asked him if it bothered him to spend all year with Quad Cities. Miller shrugged it off saying he was told there was not much difference between A and High A. "I don't know why I didn't move up," was his summary. He also mentioned that he knew that attendance was low in Palm Beach.
His roommate is Joe Kelly, of whom Shelby said reports of his 100 MPH radar readings are legitimate.
As one would expect, the room was more jammed for Pujols than any interview to date. Albert brought with him a PR representative representing agent Danny Lozano who stepped in several times to deflect and cut off contact questions.
Pujols continued with his past remarks, noting his agent is talking with "Bill and Mo". "When a deal is done, you will know." Asked about his start of spring training deadline, Pujols replied, "I respect my team more than this contract… That is the reason for the deadline."
Pujols says physically he is ahead of the last two winters, as he had surgery both times. Last year, he did not start lifting until January 20. This time, he has been doing it for 2 ½ months. Last spring, he said he first felt a tight back in spring training and attributed it to the unusual Florida cold. In hindsight, Pujols said he should have backed off, but instead dealt with back issues all season long.
He had no answers for what happened in 2010 in terms of the poor finish, but noted "We did not take care of business against teams under .500," pointing out a particularly bad stretch in August.
The veteran closer says he discussed retirement with his family over the winter and has decided to keep pitching beyond 2011 "if this season goes well." Franklin has signed his last two deals late in the season.
Franklin does not care if he closes or sets up. Making more as a free agent is not what is important to him. Would not sign a minor league deal somewhere else.
Sees three potential replacements as closer in Motte, Boggs and McClellan. Says throwing 100 MPH is not important. Throwing strikes, changing speeds, getting ahead in the count matter. Mentally, closing is the toughest of all pitching jobs.
Sitting out the summer between the college season and signing was "probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through." Cox would not call himself a power or batting average player, saying he just wants to hit the ball hard. He noted that the wind usually blows in at Arkansas, so a player has to hit the ball low and hard to get on base. Adjusted more to an up-the-middle, line drive hitter due to the park.
Will play defensively wherever they tell him. Will work hard either way. Gotten a lot better at third.
Bill DeWitt Jr.
As expected, the lead of the ownership group was pelted with Pujols-related questions. "I have a sense of pace, but won't comment on that," was a typical remark. Asked about the start of spring training deadline, he said, "Nothing is over until it is over. I am a little looser in that regard."
DeWitt projects the payroll with DL time and performance bonuses to be "well beyond $100 million." He expects it will "stay at that level or higher" in the future and would not speculate changes if Pujols does or does not sign. He did not rule out in-season additions by pointing out that they have never been hampered from doing what they wanted before. DeWitt said that had Berkman "not presented himself" they would not have looked elsewhere for another.
The second baseman quickly acknowledged that he had a "bad year" in 2010 and only a better second half kept it from being a "really bad year." He is glad they are giving him another shot in 2011 but knows there are guys trying to take his job. Skip prefers to lead off, but has heard nothing from the manager. Expects it to be decided in spring camp.
When asked if chemistry changes were needed in 2011, he replied to the affirmative. "I think it was much needed." He quoted Adam Kennedy who said, "It's only funny when you're playing good."
He knew when Westbrook re-signed that he wouldn't be starting. Continuing similar preparation. I asked him about closing. "If the role came open, I'd throw my hat in the ring." Also made it clear that the job is Franklin's. "No one wants to be middle reliever for the rest of your career." Wouldn't change much in 2011 as he pitched eight inning pretty regularly.
One you hear all the WWU audio, you will notive the same out-of-town writer ask every player about Yadier Molina. McClellan had one of the best remarks when he replied, "I'm pretty happy when they try to steal." He joked about purposely using a high leg kick so opposing runners will try to take a base only to be thrown out by Molina.
Prefers to play left field. More comfortable there. Will play either LF or RF, but wants to know before camp. Pujols contract would only be distraction if people let it and he doesn't think this team will let it. It would be more of an annoyance to Albert than distraction to team.
"I didn't play well early" in 2010. While numbers were near career norms by end of year, "I hope they will be better" in 2011. Not strong believer in Coors Field effect other than big alleys for doubles. Would put several parks ahead of Coors as hitters park.
Feels lucky to have played under four managers, Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Joe Torre and TLR. Hopes it isn't end for TLR like previous two. Asked about role in chemistry, he said "I take pride in that." Mark DeRosa mentioned as one role model.
Defensively, he felt he was not replaced in Chicago based on performance. "I can still play shortstop."
Came to financial terms quickly with Mo and Cards. Wanted to avoid arbitration like had in Chicago last year. He said arb in Chicago "was never about money. It was about loyalty."
Theriot had the same agent as Pujols before the Danny Lozano - Beverly Hills Sports Council split, but incorrectly still thinks they are together. Theriot joked "maybe they could be a package deal."
Already throwing off a mound. Earlier than most others. Taking off next week for Cardinals Cruise. Shoulder and elbow feel better than last few years. His first regular off-season recently not rehabbing. Working on "getting his changeup a little better" and his curve, too. "I know I can do better" in 2011.
Tony La Russa
What is wanted in corners is production and Berkman gives it. Will make routine plays defensively. "We're going to watch his legs a lot."
Mentioned possibilities of Skip, Ryan and Colby at top of lineup but did not commit. Also said "others" have suggested Berkman at #2, but still looking at him at #5. As of now, will bat pitcher 9th.
"Not asking one question" to either owners or Pujols about contract.
Haven't met with Brendan Ryan yet, but hopes to before spring training.
"We need to get someone ready for third base" (behind Freese). Craig will play more infield than outfield. "His hands are good enough." They have him working on throwing drills. Craig "has a knack at the plate." Descalso did a good job. Handled third very well.
Worrying about playing time for Tyler Greene as utility infielder. "Getting very close to popping." Is a "plus talent." Considering him as RHH centerfielder against tough LHP. "I think he is going to make it" (as a major leaguer).
Regarding Colby Rasmus, "When were at worst, we have good relationship. When we are at best, we have a great relationship." The manager repeated it for emphasis. Noted questions in this area is one place that tries his patience most.
In a bigger discussion about relievers, the manager specifically mentioned Eduardo Sanchez is on the roster for the first time. Sees Batista and Snell among those competing for Hawksworth's role.
Asked if organizational depth is better in 2011, the manager said, "I thought it took care of us" in 2010.
Changed workout program and diet. Getting a bit older to stay in shape.
"Yadier is a certified weapon behind the plate."
Noted Mark DeRosa in 2009 had huge impact in clubhouse despite being injured. "Not saying there was bad chemistry last season, but something was missing."
"I know my best is yet to come – at least physically."
Regarding end of season elbow injury, was told two weeks rest needed. Returned to StL to see Dr. Paletta after one month. Checked for inflammation around nerve. Found nothing. All normal now.
Check back for more content to be added here throughout the weekend.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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