Young Colby Rasmus played in 147 games as a rookie last season and had 16 homers as he took over the Cardinals' regular center field job at age 22. But due largely to illness and stress, Rasmus had difficulty keeping the weight on that he had added in the offseason to help him hit for more power.
This year, he is hoping to make it through the long haul with a different kind of offseason training program.
"This year I'm doing more conditioning, running, sleds, hills, that type of thing," Rasmus said. "Just to try to see if that will change it up a little bit, and I'll be able to last a little longer instead of being big and looking for more power -- just be able to keep my body more maintained."
Rasmus had an up-and-down 2009. He split time in center field with Rick Ankiel before taking over the job more or less full-time in the second half. He hit .278 before the All-Star break but then dipped to .216 with five homers afterward.
In the postseason, however, Rasmus was one of the few productive Cardinals in their three-game dusting by the Dodgers. Rasmus was 4-for-9 with three doubles.
"I feel a lot more relaxed," Rasmus said at the Cardinals' annual mid-winter fan fest. "I kind of know what to expect going in."
But manager Tony La Russa typically is promising Rasmus nothing.
"It's a brand new season, and you want to make sure," La Russa said. "You don't walk in there and feel you've got some entitlement going and there's a carryover and you can work less."
--As he did last year, RHP Kyle McClellan will come to spring training conditioned to be a starter, but he may stay in the bullpen as a valuable setup man. "I'm not going to say I'd rather (start)," McClellan said. "The way I look at it is I'm going to go in and prove to them that I can pitch in the rotation and I can pitch in the bullpen, and let them determine where they think I'm going to best help this team. But if I go in and I don't pitch well in the rotation, I feel like I'm not doing my job of giving them the choice to give them a little bit of flexibility."
--RHP Pete Parise, a Pitt product, was pitching for the Puerto Rican club in the Caribbean Series. After being promoted from Class AA Springfield, Parise had eight saves in the second half of last season for Class AAA Memphis, as he helped lead the Redbirds to the Pacific Coast League championship.
--Reports persisted that the Cardinals were interested in INF Felipe Lopez, who hit .385 for them in the last two months of the 2008 season. But Lopez so far has been out of the Cardinals' price range. A switch hitter, Lopez would provide competition at third base for rookie David Freese.
--The club had interest in OF Reed Johnson but was worried about his injury history. Johnson later signed with the Dodgers.
--After finishing their spring
training exercises in
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've beaten it to death. Let it be." -- Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, on the continued steroids controversy surrounding new hitting coach Mark McGwire.
The Cardinals didn't have many needs as the season ended although they probably could use one more veteran starting pitcher to go with RHPs Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse. RHPs Joel Pineiro and Todd Wellemeyer, who filled out the rotation, are both likely gone as free agents.
DEPARTURES: RHP Brad Thompson (released, signed minor league deal with Royals), INF Joe Thurston (free agent, signed minor league deal with Braves), 3B Troy Glaus (free agent, signed with Braves), INF Mark DeRosa (free agent, signed with Giants), INF Khalil Greene (free agent, signed with Rangers), OF Rick Ankiel (free agent, signed with Royals), RHP Joel Pineiro (free agent, signed with Angels).
FREE AGENTS: RHP Todd Wellemeyer, RHP John Smoltz.
The Cardinals had some interest in Smoltz.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: 2B Skip Schumaker.
Schumaker filed for arbitration at $2.75 million, while the club was offering $1.45 million.
--1B Albert Pujols (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October 2009) should be back at full strength for spring training.
--LHP Rich Hill (left shoulder surgery in August 2009) is expected to be ready for spring training.