Sunday morning kicked off with Nolan Gorman speaking with the media. Gorman has been ranked in the top three on the organization’s prospect list since he was drafted in 2018. At only 19-years-old, Gorman is a key player in the future of the St. Louis Cardinals.
When asked about who he would like to emulate as a player, he spoke highly of New York Mets former third baseman David Wright. “David Wright is the kind of a guy I like to emulate my game after,” he said. “On and off the field, he has been a great person and obviously a great defensive third baseman and offensively.”
To add to the excitement and hype surrounding Gorman, his best friend Matthew Liberatore was recently traded to the Cardinals from Tampa. The two have been friends since they were four years old. “He will try to get as many wins as possible for the Cardinals. He is excited to be here. We’ve faced each other two or three times. We went to rival high schools and he got the better of me. I was mini golfing and I ended up winning the mini golf tournament, then got the news that he has been traded to the team.” He grinned. “I was on a different level of excitement.”
John Gant’s second half of the 2019 was nothing to write home about and he is fully aware of it. Despite leading the bullpen in wins, the walks kept him from being solid on the field and off of the postseason roster as well. “I think the walks and a little bit of bad luck in the second half,” Gant continued. “I think in the first half, I had all those like fringe – could have been trickles, could have been base hits, could have been outs were mostly all outs in the first half.”
John Brebbia arrived in the media room and instantly made everyone laugh with his comedic wit and charm. When asked how it feels to be a part of the Cardinals organization and Winter Warm-Up, Brebbia beamed with excitement. “It’s awesome. Part of wanting to play baseball, was to see fans and share enthusiasm for this sport and this team just like I share my enthusiasm for this sport and team.”
When asked about the closer role, “If it means I get to pitch in a Cardinal uniform, I’m a thousand percent, I’m a million percent interested in it. My focus is first going to be on making the team and then trying to add value to the team and help win.”
Manager of the Year, Mike Shildt is always a pleasure to be around. “It’s been an atypical off-season in some regards. There’s been some blessings and there’s been some things that have been difficult with the passing of my mom, but that’s life. I’ve tried to embrace all of the things that have come my way and the blessings as well.” Shildt lost his mother and became engaged during the off-season.
When asked about the sign-stealing scandal, “I’m very pleased from a baseball fan and from somebody who obviously is in the industry of the action that the Commissioner’s office and Major League Baseball took,” Shildt said.
He continued, “No one wants to see anything with the game we love in this room with a great deal of passion take a hit on any level but I do appreciate and respect the protection of the game of baseball.”
Another key player in the future of the Cardinals is Dylan Carlson who had the chance to enjoy his first Winter Warm-Up in St. Louis. At only 21-years-old, Carlson cracked the list’s top 10, coming in right at No. 10 among all MLB prospects. With the hopes of many riding on seeing Carlson on the Opening Day roster, it might just happen.
Not only is he someone to watch, he’s genuine on and off the field — he’s also easily going to become a fan favorite as his career continues. “I’ve never played a game in the Major Leagues, I’ve got people knowing everything about me, lined up to have me sign something and meet them.”
Left handed pitcher, Tyler Webb addressed the 3-batter minimum that will be in effect this season. The minimum requires relievers to face at least three hitters, unless an inning ends before that occurs. “I’ve definitely thought about it,” he said. “It probably affects the lefthanded reliever the most. Luckily, I feel I can get righties out pretty well.”
In 2019, Webb held left handed batters to a .157 average but right handed batters averaged just .189 against him. He and Andrew Miller were the two dominate lefties in the pen last season. “It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out,” he added. “It will be kind of a learn-on-the-fly thing for everyone.”
The ace on the mound, Jack Flaherty leaves an impression wherever he goes. His presence and intimidation fill the room with — you listen when he speaks, so one can only imagine how it feels to be on the other end when he is on the mound. “There’s a great quote from a movie that says, ‘if you ain’t first, you’re last,’” Flaherty said. “That’s kinda how I see it.”
When asked about the death of his friend Tyler Skaggs and the correlation between his historical second half of 2019, he was very open about it. “I threw in Seattle, the next day. And then from there it was San Francisco and then the All-Star break, and then from there it kind of took off. So, you could kind of feel and tell that something goes on like that you’ve got somebody looking out for you, watching over you.”
Paul DeJong bounced into the room on Sunday after his original autograph signing had to be rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday due to travel. “It’s kind of like we had our backs against the wall the whole year and I think that was a great learning experience for us.” He added, “I try to take the positives out of everything and the team’s success means a lot to this city and our group.”
When asked by Dugout Dish if he sees himself winning a Gold Glove this season, “It’s always the goal but when you are here on January 19, it’s really hard to see way out toward November. For me, I’m going to focus on continuing with my preparation like I know how to do.” DeJong grinned. “Just make plays everyday. There is no easy road or some kind of magic pill. So, you know it’s just staying locked in and playing the game hard every day.”
Jordan Hicks is a force to be reckoned with on the mound. A flame throwing closer who was sidelined last season due to injury and the inevitable Tommy John surgery. “One hundred and six or bust,” he quoted. “That’s a question that I’ve been getting a lot (on social media) and if I’m going to come back throwing harder. It feels really strong right now. I don’t care to throw 106 (mph). None of that. I know how I pitched without 100, and I know how my stuff moves.”
As an athlete with Type 1 Diabetes, Hicks has been very candid about how the doctors, himself and the Cardinals have discussed a slower return for him so they could monitor his elbow and steady the blood flow was actually arriving to the reconstructed joint. “I’m not trying to make future goals right now,” he said. “I’m trying to take it one step at a time. Be myself. Get strong. And get back out there. Right now, it’s about tossing.”
Lane Thomas was another up and coming young Cardinal sidelined last season with injury during a game in Milwaukee back in August of 2019. “I kind of took myself out of the picture,” he said, when asked about being injured while his team made it to the postseason. He had returned from Memphis (AAA) when Bader was sent down to work on his offensive slump that continued throughout the summer months.
“I think the role I played (last season) was more of a defensive role, I worked with Willie a lot in certain situations.” He shuffled around on his feet as questions continued. “I’ll be ready to play whatever position, whether I’m starting or coming in during the seventh inning.” Thomas, who primarily plays center field will have to compete against Bader for the starting role on Opening Day.
Daniel Ponce de Leon is a name that all fans should know and surround with hype. While Ponce de Leon isn’t the man who runs from the bullpen on a nightly basis, he’s someone to keep an eye on. When asked about the closer role, “Do I see myself in the closer role? Sure — I would love to do anything, honestly. I’ll be the bat boy one day.” He said with a chuckle.
Ponce has never actually closed, but it could be interesting if the Cards used him in the currently vacant role. He plans on arriving to Spring Training as a starter, but admits any role will suit him fine. “I’m always ready to go for any role, but if I were to be a starter, you can always scale back from there and see what happens.”
Dugout Dish was unable to stay for Day 3 of Cardinals Winter Warm-Up but will forever be grateful for the two days spent in St. Louis. The season is near and Dugout’s feeling pretty good about the 2020 St. Louis Cardinals.
Photo Credit: Chelsea Brooke Ladd