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WHEELER: Notes From Jupiter: Game On!

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Lance Lynn
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Grapefruit League action kicks off tomorrow at 12:05 against the Marlins and we have all the action for you here on KMOX. Trevor Rosenthal will start the game with Michael Wacha to follow.

Yesterday I joked with Wacha that this will probably be the first time he’s come into a game throwing slower than the guy who came before him. Wacha, a starter by trade, throws in the mid 90’s and since he only worked out of the pen last season after signing with the Cardinals it’s obviously true that he’s never been the change of pace guy. That’s Spring Training for you…

Today the Cardinals have a slightly different workout routine with all of the Major Leaguers getting their work done at Roger Dean Stadium today rather than out on the back fields. This is just part of the preparation for tomorrow’s game against the Marlins. At the end of today’s workout will be a 4-inning intrasquad game with coaches pitching to the hitters. Again, this is just another way to give players a little taste of game situations before tomorrow.

Here are some thoughts from Mike Matheny, with a bit of a focus on what changes when games start:

* You learn more about hitters with game speed. Matheny talked about “5:00 hitters” and said seeing guys hit against pitchers tells you a lot.

* Matheny also said that the live BP sessions can be misleading because the hitters are in the cage rather than in an open space like they normally would be, plus it’s different when you know it’s not real. He said the adrenaline really only kicks in, at least for big leaguers, when you get into a game setting.

* He also noted that while games bring a different energy to the work that is being done, these players compete at everything they do. It’s how “they’re wired” according to Matheny. He notes that’s a large part of why they are what they are as players.

* Matheny repeated that they’re taking things slowly with Rafael Furcal. He would not call Furcal’s issues the last couple of days with pain a setback because, Matheny notes, the team knew they were taking their time with him. He said there will be good days and bad days for Furcal but the plans for him have not changed.

* He also discussed leadership again, noting that Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs both have taken on that kind of role in the bullpen. Motte now has the security of a two year contract, plus the experience of tying for the league lead in saves, and Boggs is on his way to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Again, the theme of the “young veterans” taking on leadership roles continues. Every guy in that group that I’ve spoke with so far has talked about that and it’s clear that is part of how the team will make up for the losses of Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Lance Berkman and Skip Schumaker.

We’ll have a lot more from Matheny on Total Information PM and on Sports Open Line tonight.

Here are some other noteworthy items:

* Shelby Miller returns to the mound today. He was held back for a couple of days because of tightness in his shoulder but he threw long toss yesterday and was then cleared to return to the mound. This is obviously good news. Missing just a couple of days shouldn’t impact his chances at competing with Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly for that open spot in the rotation. The only way this becomes a concern moving forward is if the tightness returns at some point.

* Lance Lynn, who is featured in the photo that accompanies this blog post, is not only noticeably slimmer this spring but he’s also throwing very well. He threw live BP yesterday and seemed to have good command of his pitches, life on his fastball and  some good depth to his curve ball. He struggled in the second last year, likely because of his lack of conditioning, but the fact that he’s in such good shape now gives the team hope that no such decline will take place this season. In fact, his conditioning alone has seemingly changed how he is perceived by the team – at the end of last season he was viewed as a player who would have to compete for his spot in the rotation. Now he’s being counted as one of the four sure things in the rotation, along with Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia. Some of that has to do with Chris Carpenter’s absence but a lot of it also has to do with Lynn’s offseason work.

Be sure to tune in to Sports Open Line tonight from 6-9 PM. We’ve got three full hours to work with so we’ll have a lot more from Jupiter plus we’ll talk to our Rams Insider, Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch, who is at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. There will be some Blues talk and perhaps a little Daytona 500 as well.

I’ll also tweet updates and/or pics throughout the day as well (@KMOXWheeler).

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