There is a special excitement at Yankee Stadium Friday night as the St. Louis Cardinals come to town. Of course, the story within the story is New York designated hitter Matt Holliday’s first game against his team from 2009 through 2016.
The weather is cool, clear and comfortable, but by the end of the evening, the temperature is scheduled to drop into the high 30’s – likely with either the 5-4 Yanks or 3-6 Cardinals out in the cold.
The home team media relations staff was kind enough to arrange for Holliday to come out early to meet with media mid-afternoon. Jim Hayes of FOX Sports Midwest was first, then the slugger met with the rest of us in the dugout.
Holliday’s remarks paraphrased:
“The fit has been good,” he said regarding his blending with his new team.
He is “bullish” on the Yankees’ future due to their young talent.
That the Cards arrive so soon this season is both “strange and ironic”.
Holliday says playing for the Yankees has “cachet” and he appreciates the history associated with the team.
He noted that both teams give players “first-class treatment”.
On his contract, he said that there was no difference to him whether he got a one or two-year deal, of which he received several variations, but a three-year deal would have been different, had he been offered one.
On his opponent Sunday night, Adam Wainwright, he called facing his long-time friend “the strangest part” of the weekend. Holliday noted that Wainwright had the head-to-head advantage in the pre-Cardinals part of his career and he hoped to balance it out now.
On his 2000th hit last season, he had hoped it would have come in St. Louis, but once he was injured, he knew it would not happen there. There was “less fanfare” in Baltimore.
Holliday “initially thought” his 2016 injury might have impacted him not getting a 2017 contract offer from St. Louis.
His final weekend as a Cardinal “could not have finished any better”. “The way it was handled was meaningful to me.”
Holliday left us to check on his two sons nearby, both attired as Yankees, of course.
Manager’s pre-game remarks:
The top photo was before the game as Holliday chatted with trainers, Cards media head Brian Bartow and equipment men. At the far right were the Cardinals catchers in 2003, Joe Girardi (reserve) and Mike Matheny (starter). Girardi was in his final, injury-plagued season at age 38. Matheny left St. Louis following the 2004 campaign. Of course, the two are opposing managers this weekend.
Matheny said that Holliday “looks different” and admitted that he has seen a lot of the hitter on film since Holliday left the team.
How to honor Holliday to end the 2016 season “could not have been scripted any better.” “He kept thrilling us.” By then, Holliday “knew the direction it (his contract) was heading.” Made sure his last days were appreciated and honored.
On Yankee Stadium: “It is amazing how much it looks like the old stadium.”
On his choice of designated hitter: It will be a day to day decision. This way, Adams gets at-bats and more ground is covered defensively. (Adams is DH with Randal Grichuk in LF on Friday.)
On Tyler Lyons’ pitching at Triple-A: Very effective – “including his slider and curveball too”.
I asked the manager who was standing out to him among minor leaguers. He mentioned Harrison Bader, Paul DeJong, Carson Kelly and the Double-A rotation. That includes Jack Flaherty.
Wainwright and Molina are close “because they have been through all the ups and downs.” Wainwright has adapted over time like Yankee pitcher C.C. Sabathia – focusing on location, changing the break of pitches. However, the manager has not changed his expectations of Wainwright.
Among the assembled in the stands was Cardinals professional scout Joe Rigoli, who covers the Yankees as part of his duties. His World Championship ring was being worn proudly.
I could not help but notice two clubhouse stalls right next to each other – numbers 16 and 32. Beleaguered second baseman Kolten Wong and sometimes left fielder Matt Adams are both in Friday’s lineup.
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