ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The end of Major League Baseball’s hot stove season is approaching as the St. Louis Cardinals pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Jupiter, Fl. in about two weeks. Cardinals play-by-play broadcaster Dan McLaughlin gave us his top five Cardinals headlines to watch for, headed into February:
The conversation with McLaughlin begins at the 6:00 mark, below:
1) Adam Wainwright sets the tone
“It’s going to be extremely important early on to see where Adam Wainwright is in his progress this offseason.”
The 36-year-old hasn’t been the same ace since his achilles tear in 2015, and was losing velocity due to nagging injuries, eventually leading to arthroscopic elbow surgery in last August. But he could be pitching with more determination in the final year of his contract with the Cardinals.
If he locks down the spot as St. Louis’ No. 2 behind Carlos Martinez, manager Mike Matheny and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak will rest much easier.
2) Will Alex Reyes be a starter or pitch from the bullpen
“Not put a role on him, not say that he’s got to be a reliever by ‘X.’ Just keep the door open for him.”
Mozeliak told KMOX last week that he’d prefer to continue Reyes’ rehab in Florida, through April and allow him to join St. Louis in May. And if Mo has his way, Reyes would be rehabbed as a starter, explaining that it would allow for more innings control and how often he throws.
3) Beat up the weak opponents
The Chicago Cubs didn’t get any weaker and now Milwaukee’s lineup and outfield are looking a lot more dangerous. The additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain last week awoke Cardinals fans calling for another “big move” this offseason.
However, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Gerrit Cole to Houston and Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco and the Cincinnati Reds made no major attempts to rise from the basement of the NL Central. St. Louis also has series against the AL Central, adding the rebuilding Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers to the schedule.
4) Tommy Pham given the keys to the outfield
The most expensive automobile in the Cardinals garage in the outfield (the catching core is a close second), and Mozeliak has given the keys to Pham as the center fielder. He more than earned it in 2017, but the question is can he maintain or improve on it.
5) Where do the Cardinals get innings from?
“My probably most important headline, where is the starting rotation? And where are the innings going to come from?”
This goes back to the No. 1 headline with Wainwright, but also falls on the progression of Luke Weaver, the signing of Miles Mikolas and if Michael Wacha can stay consistent.
And there are also questions in the bullpen. As fans will keep calling for a established closer, that doesn’t seem like the place where St. Louis wants to spend its money and assets. We’ll find out in a month if they’ve done enough, but McLaughlin points back to the 2013 season when Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, and Trevor Rosenthal made major impacts in their first full seasons in St. Louis.
“It seemed like Mo and the front office had a date in mind mentally, that if things go right during the season, we can bring these guys up and it’s going to bolster our bullpen,” McLaughlin says. “Well the same is happening this year, there’s a couple of kids down in the minor leagues, really there’s three of them.”