Following are selected interviews held during day two of the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch on Sunday, January 17, 2016.
Michael Wacha (13:48)
The tall right-hander was all smiles as he recounted he could only rest for 2-3 weeks after the post-season before getting the “itch” to start preparing for 2016. He started throwing in early January. The 2014 “feeling” in his shoulder (stress reaction) did not return anytime in 2015.
Wacha noted he has been in three post-seasons, but has yet to get to the World Series. That is his goal. He says being in a tough division is the way he and his teammates like it. If they are viewed as underdog, they will take that chip on their shoulders. Players definitely take offense with it after winning division. He sees the team as having perfect mix of veterans and young guys.
Alex Reyes (4:50)
An emotional Alex Reyes came in and made some opening remarks apologizing for his actions that led to his suspension. He then took some questions about his pitching.
Biil DeWitt Jr. (24:58)
The team’s chairman spent a long time with his usual frank discussion with the media. He touched on many topics including focus on the international program, success with young prospects and bidding on Koreans.
A fair amount of time was spent on the Chris Correa situation. DeWitt thinks nothing is coming soon, but is in wait and see mode. He has confidence in the commissioner “doing the right thing”.
He considers this a “very unusual situation” that does not reflect the “culture of MLB”. DeWitt admits that it “reflects negatively”. He met with all team employees a few days after to explain. The “rogue element does not reflect on the culture of the organization”.
On the Cubs, DeWitt said “it is stressful playing them,” but calls it a “great rivalry”. He also noted what he called the “culture of respect” between the two teams’ fans.
Michael Ohlman (5:43)
Coming off his first year in the organization, the catcher gave credit for his defensive improvement to Springfield manager Dann Bilardello and hitting coach Erik Pappas for being proactive with suggestions. He now has pride in his game-calling. Ohlman was appreciative that manager Mike Matheny showed special interest in him last spring. He says he still can improve everything in his game.
Ohlman noted it was “hard to see” Yadier Molina in a cast. He called out Alex Reyes as the minor league pitcher with whom he worked most closely and was most impressed.
Mitch Harris (5:57)
The reliever said last year his goal was to “make Triple-A and see what happens”. While he will fill any role, Harris specifically mentioned that he is willing to “elongate outings”. As a former starter, he believes he could pitch longer outings if needed.
Harris is proud to be recognized by the St. Louis baseball writers and again in Boston soon, calling it a “testament to hard work”.
Adam Wainwright (18:10)
As you would expect, the leader of the team leads. Wainwright equated the club being older to being wiser. He accepted the Cubs won in 2015 but they relish the chance to prove people wrong (who make the Cards underdogs).
Wainwright credits the younger players for pushing him – on the field, in drills and in the weight room. He says he is more excited for this season than he has for a long time.
Sam Tuivailala (2:55)
The right-hander admitted that he did not expect the transition to pitching to be as hard as it has been, but credits his coaches for guidance. On the mound, he is working to develop his cutter and changeup and specifically, to find a consistent release point for them and his fastball so hitters don’t know what is coming.
Randal Grichuk (5:32)
The outfielder does not believe there will be any lingering issues with his elbow and is ahead of schedule. In the goal department, Grichuk pulled no punches, believing that 30 home runs is a “realistic goal”. That says it all!
Stephen Piscotty (6:36)
His focus this offseason has been defense, including both corner outfield positions and first base. Moving his arm slot between positions led to some shoulder soreness last season.
Found he learned how to make adjustments on the fly during games in the majors last season. After his outfield collision last season, Piscotty felt the after affects in his neck for a few weeks afterward.
He isn’t setting numeric goals. Likes to “bank memories” through results.
Kolten Wong (15:39)
One of the younger Cardinals joked that he does not feel old. Wong said they are ready to show up the doubters. He noted last year’s team lost Wainwright, Adams and others and still did well.
Wong said he would like the chance to hit leadoff – and start doing it from the beginning of camp so he can get used to counts and situations.
Jacob Wilson (7:55)
The infield prospect understands his potential path to St. Louis well, noting that “the more positions you play, the more value you provide”.
Patrick Wisdom (7:18)
The third baseman said playing first in addition is “just a spot thing” but he had played the position in summer in college. He attributed his late season struggles after his very strong mid-summer return to Springfield as starting to press again (like he did early in the year before rebooting in Florida).
Wisdom’s goal in 2016 is to open the season in Memphis and reach St. Louis by the end of the season.
Carson Kelly (6:54)
After being surprised by his Gold Glove Award last season – he said he thought he did “ok” – Kelly was asked what is next. His reply was to win another. Still he is humble, noting he is just 21 and has a lot to learn.
Jose Oquendo said to make defense his number one priority, which he did. His hitting came along at the end of the year and he kept working on that during fall instructional league. Kelly did not state Springfield is a goal, saying he will go wherever the organization puts him.
Austin Gomber (6:44)
The tall lefty said it was a great honor being named co-Pitcher of the Year in the system, noting that everyone knows Alex Reyes (his co-winner). It was encouraging to him to see young players competing for post-season roster spots with St. Louis.
Personally, his offseason focus was to get stronger and in better shape. His attention has been on better conditioning, not pitching. Gomber notes his pitching style is similar to Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons. He is trying to win a spot at Springfield to open 2016.
Brayan Pena (13:37)
Even if Pena was not a good player, which he is, I can see why the Cardinals wanted him. Before he spoke, the catcher walked around and shook hands with everyone in the room. Pena was clear that he is not 25 anymore and he only understands his role, but embraces it. He believes he can learn from the best, a Hall of Famer in Yadier Molina. He told his agent it was a no-brainer to come to St. Louis.
Pena said it is good to stay in the same division for knowledge of opponents. He has observed the Cardinals respond to Mike Matheny as evidenced by the team continuing to win after players were hurt.
His view of Mike Leake is that he is a grinder who works quickly and never backs down. He gives innings to a staff and he “thinks” he can hit. Pena also joked about calling Adam Wainwright “El Flaco,” the skinny one, in their early career together in Atlanta’s system.
Though America is his home and gave him hope and freedom, Pena looks forward to the day he can return to his birth land of Cuba without having to get permission.
In an unexplained mix up, Matt Holliday did not speak with the media before leaving Winter Warm-Up Sunday.
Check back at The Cardinal Nation for more Winter Warm-Up content throughout the weekend and in the days that follow. Selected photos of all the above individuals and more are now loaded at TheCardinalNationblog.com, so check them out, too.
Note: Special thanks to colleague Brian Stull of St. Louis Baseball Weekly for sharing several of these interviews recorded while I was elsewhere at Winter Warm-Up.
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