Cardinals major league notebook: 02/25/12

Putting in an entire healthy and productive season is every player's goal, but especially so for oft-injured David Freese, the St. Louis Cardinals' 2011 post-season star.

INSIDE PITCH

 

Postseason hero David Freese had a busy offseason with promotions and appearances but, asked what his best time was, he said, "The flight down here (to Jupiter, Fla.)." This is to say that Freese values being a baseball player and not a celebrity.

"My focus has to be on getting myself ready," he said.

A year ago, Freese came into spring training on two surgically repaired ankles and was kept under wraps much of the spring. He is hopeful that he won't have to be monitored as much this spring.

New manager Mike Matheny said, "I know that (the medical staff has) been watching him very carefully, watching his progress, and there are some in-depth tests they put him through to see where he is and where he should be.

"How can we keep him right is the question. Do you handle somebody with care? Whenever there is a flag, that caution flag, you've got to stop and say, 'What do we do here?' You don't just want to throw him into the mix ... when maybe you should be a little smarter."

Freese, who hasn't played 100 games as a starter in the major leagues -- he suffered a broken hand when hit by a pitch last season -- said, "I've been looking forward to this moment, to just get on that field and worry only about baseball.

"The less you've got going up in your (head), the better."

NOTES, QUOTES

 

Talks reopened between C Yadier Molina's agent, Melvin Roman, over an extension for the four-time Gold Glover who is on the option year of a four-year contract that pays him $7 million this season. Earlier in camp, the two sides appeared to be significantly apart.

Former manager Tony La Russa didn't call RH reliever Jason Motte, who had nine saves in the last month of the regular season and excelled in the postseason, his "closer" until the final game of the World Series. New manager Mike Matheny has decided to do it sooner, as in one of the first days of spring training. "There aren't any semantics," Matheny said.

"It's just being honest. I see that there is a guy who did a great job in the ninth inning last year and there's no reason not to go into this season thinking the same thing."

General manager John Mozeliak reiterated the club didn't have any interest in signing free-agent RHP Roy Oswalt. "I never had any confidence we were going to bring him in," Mozeliak said. "I was paying attention to the market and ultimately, I've always stated I've felt comfortable with our five (starters)."

The Cardinals, led by Tyler Greene's 11 in 11 tries, stole just 57 bases last year and were thrown out 39 times, and Matheny said he wanted to see his club run more this year. "I do believe there are some guys in here who can steal some bases. Now do you take a whole team and all of a sudden try to turn them into base stealers? No, you play the hand that you're dealt," said Matheny. "But we've got a lot of speed coming up through the organization at the lower levels and we've got some guys here who can run well, too."

RHP Jake Westbrook was impressive in early workouts, having dropped 20 pounds from the year before when he weighed 230. "Last year was the heaviest I've ever been," said Westbrook. "It's amazing how much lighter you feel with 20 pounds off your body."

BY THE NUMBERS: 16 - Number of consecutive bases INF Tyler Greene has stolen at the start of his career, without being thrown out.

 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's hard to even play catch with him. There is so much movement."

- RHP Adam Wainwright on LHP Jaime Garcia, who may be poised for a big season.

 

ROSTER REPORT

 

Projected Rotation:

1. RHP Chris Carpenter

2. RHP Adam Wainwright

3. LHP Jaime Garcia

4. RHP Kyle Lohse

5. RHP Jake Westbrook

 

The return of Wainwright, a year removed from elbow surgery, should made a good rotation even stronger. Garcia, who has won in double figures twice in his first two full seasons, might be ready for a breakthrough year if he can avoid being distracted during games.

 

But if Wainwright is right, the Cardinals had the two aces (Wainwright, Carpenter) with which they figured they would start last season.

 
Projected Bullpen:

RHP Jason Motte (closer)

RHP Fernando Salas

RHP Lance Lynn

RHP Kyle McClellan

RHP Eduardo Sanchez

LHP Marc Rzepczynski

LHP J.C. Romero

RHP Mitchell Boggs

 

Motte, a late-season success as a closer, will be the Cardinals' ninth inning man at the start of the season. Salas, who had 24 saves last year, will be a reliable setup man but the club is hoping to find another veteran to help in late innings.

 

Lynn, a postseason success, might begin the season at Class AAA Memphis if the club envisions him as a starter. Rzepczynski is a versatile left-hander who can also retire right-handed hitters and doesn't have to be employed only in situational roles.

 
Projected Lineup:

1. SS Rafael Furcal

2. RF Carlos Beltran

3. LF Matt Holliday

4. 1B Lance Berkman

5. 3B David Freese

6. CF Jon Jay

7. C Yadier Molina

8. 2B Daniel Descalso

 

Newcomer Beltran could hit second, third or fifth, although new manager Mike Matheny seems inclined to have Holliday bat third. When OF-1B Allen Craig (knee surgery) returns in early May, if not before, Beltran could move to center field against left-handed pitching.

 
Top Rookies:

RHP Shelby Miller may be on the fast track to the majors. The 21-year-old Miller, who throws in the mid-90s, was a combined 11-6 at Class A Quad Cities and Class AA Springfield last year. He is fewer than three years removed from being the club's top pick in the 2009 draft. Also to be watched is 24-year-old Erik Komatsu, a Rule 5 pick from Washington. Komatsu, a left-handed-hitting outfielder, hit a combined .277 in the Milwaukee and Washington systems last year.


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