Spring training is right around the corner, and after seeing the guys and the excitement of our fans at the Winter Warm Up, baseball is in the air. There is a great deal of excitement around the game right now. We have a new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, improved technology for the replay system, and exciting players changing teams. The NL Central figures to be as strong as ever with many teams making changes, trying to improve their club. Ours is no different.
It is hard to say goodbye to the players we had a year ago, but wish the best of luck to Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Pat Neshek, Jason Motte, Daniel Descalso, Mark Ellis, AJ Pierzynski, and Allen Craig. Many in that group were brought up in the Cardinal system, and all represented this organization in a great way and left us with many memories. The additions of Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, Matt Belisle, and Mark Reynolds are exciting for us and we can't wait to see how this group comes together as a team.
There is plenty of competition heading into the spring. The most noteworthy is the 5th starter position. Carlos Martinez has had a strong winter, throwing for his hometown team in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Marco Gonzales continues to grow stronger, which was evident in how he looked when he showed up in St. Louis to accept the 2014 minor league pitcher of the year award. Also positioning for this spot in the rotation will be Tyler Lyons and a host of other young pitchers trying to make an impression. Jaime Garcia continues to rehab, and we will be watching his progression closely.
Our bullpen will be anchored by our closer, Trevor Rosenthal, and Walden, Belisle, Seth Maness, Randy Choate, Sam Freeman, Kevin Seigrist and a handful of other strong arms will be fighting with whoever does not make the starting rotation, to make up our pen. I always enjoy getting an extended look at some of our young pitching talent, and then putting them into a Big League spring training game to see how they handle it.
The backup infielder position should make for some interesting conversations as well. Pete Kozma is a versatile player who can play a tremendous shortstop, as well as every other position on the field. We have brought in two new young players in Ty Kelly and Dean Anna, who both bring versatility and offense to the mix. Greg Garcia is a home grown player who played with Kolton Wong in Hawaii, and brings a strong mix of talent and baseball knowledge into the competition. Putting top tier talent into positions to compete, while trying to figure out the best 25 players for winning is the task at hand and these players create difficult decisions for us.
Keep your eye out for young players like Sam Tuivailala, Tim Cooney, Cody Stanley, Alexander Reyes, Stephen Piscotty, Carson Kelly, Aledemis Diaz, Tommy Pham, Charlie Tilson, Jack Flaherty, Rob Kaminsky, Luke Weaver and former naval officer, Mitch Harris. Many others to watch, as there is always a surprise every spring that catches our eye.
Where Jason Heyward will hit in the batting order is probably the question I have been given the most and I will answer that question here...I don't know yet. But, I look forward to seeing how a very talented offense combines with an experienced and decorated pitching staff to begin our hunt for a Championship.
Come on down to Jupiter and see us.
**Tickets are available for The Matheny Manifesto book launch event taking place at 7pm on February 2nd at Lindenwood University's J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts in St. Charles. For $27 you receive an autographed book, admission to the event hosted by Greg Amsinger from the MLB Network and a photo taken with Mike by a professional photographer that you can download after the event. www.left-bank.com for tickets or more information.