The 24th annual St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up was held at Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch and kicked off on Saturday, January 18, 2020.
Fans donned their best Cardinals apparel and beamed brightly with hopes of mingling with their favorite baseball player(s). Fredbird roamed the hotel, beaking fans, whistling and causing chaos in the elevators.
Dugout Dish was given the opportunity to be credentialed, working behind the scenes with the media all thanks to United Cardinals Bloggers.
On Saturday morning, John Mozeliak was the first of many in the Cardinals organization to speak with the media. “There are so many rumors floating around, so many people speculating what we may or may not be doing. You have a lot of things going on in the game of baseball that are making interesting headlines to say the least.”
While he remained mum on certain aspects that have been circulating on social media (i.e Nolan Arenado), he spoke highly of the team he currently has, specifically pitching. “I feel like we have a lot of arms that we need to navigate and allow some of these players some opportunities. You have players who get sick of the I55 corridor and at some point want a shot at the big leagues.”
He said, following with, “sure, we could bring in extra arms and make this ultra competitive in the sense of probably not creating opportunity for some of our internal players. At some point, going to Memphis, is not everyone’s goal.”
Despite ending his season due to injury, Tyler O’Neill is ready to go this season and earn the job in left field. “The trade that we had to Tampa was a big move in my opinion. There are going to have to be guys like me that will need to step up and fill those roles. I’m going down early for spring training with the intent to win that job. Going up and down from St. Louis to Memphis is tough, but it is all a part of it. I just want to keep competing and play ball.”
Andrew Knizner is the type of person that organizations want on their team. “Well, I realized why I play the game of baseball to make it to the playoffs. The energy, the atmosphere, the competition is unmatched in playoff ball. Now when we go to spring training, we’re working to get to the playoffs. We made it last year and we’re looking to go further this season.” As time goes on, Knizner will have big shoes to fill, coming in behind Yadier Molina and backup catcher Matt Wieters, who resigned with the Cardinals over the weekend.
Ryan Helsley should have played more of a critical role in the 2019 season. In fact, he should have been used properly rather than riding the I55 back and forth from Memphis to St. Louis in Dugout’s opinion. When asked about his teammates and being one of the younger guys on the team, he spoke highly of his fellow pitchers. “It wasn’t any one in particular but I kind of fed off of Waino and Andrew Miller, especially being in the bullpen with him (Miller). Most of the guys in the bullpen, John Brebbia and John Gant, specifically, helped me. Having those guys around really helped us younger guys.”
Despite setbacks, Carlos Martinez feels ready and he’s eager to find himself sitting with the rest of the starting rotation on Opening Day. Martinez says he works out every day and knows that he has to be ready for spring training. “I feel good, it would feel great to be a starter again. I just have to be smart and be ready for spring training.”
Unfortunately, due to timing and unprofessional hunger pains, Dugout Dish was unable to be in media room for Harrison Bader and Giovanny Gallegos.
From my standpoint, Harrison Bader is the Opening Day center fielder and that is my unbiased opinion. That is putting aside the fact he has been one of my favorite current roster Cardinals. And yes, his offense last season was abysmal at times. Mozeliak even openly admitted, “How many players (last season) played at their level of expectation? Two?”
Bader knows he has seniority in center field and has his eyes on the prize of winning the position during Spring Training. “I’m the starting center fielder,” Bader said. “That’s my position, and I’m going to take it. That’s all there is to it. There is no sense in talking about it. I’m just looking forward to Day 1, showing up, guns blazing, ready to go.”
With Gallegos, he could play a pivotal role with the bullpen and closer role depending on Hicks return date. The 28-year-old posted a 2.31 earned run average, striking out 93 in 74 innings and holding opponents to a .170 batting average. “I’ll be ready for any situation.” Gallegos said.
Photo Credit: Dugout Dish/Chelsea B. Ladd