Working early and late: Cards closer Rosenthal sets tone with 6 a.m. arrivals

News-DemocratMarch 12, 2014 

JUPITER, Fla. --Call it a quirk, but Trevor Rosenthal doesn't feel right if he's not one of the first players to arrive at the Roger Dean Stadium complex each morning.

The power closer for the St. Louis Cardinals rolls out of bed a little after 5 and is in the clubhouse by 6, more than an hour before most of his teammates arrive.

"I think it's just kind of something I've gotten used to," the 23-year-old Rosenthal said Wednesday. "There's a few guys who like to get here early; Matt Carpenter gets here early. Really, for me, I think it's just the quietness and being able to get here and focus and get a good, solid amount of work in that I need to do."

What possibly could get done that early, a full seven hours before the first pitch of a Grapefruit League game?

"Working out, doing stuff done in the training room to get ready for the day, having the quietness and not all the distractions," Rosenthal said. "Once everybody gets here, I feel like I'm already done with everything and I can kind of hang out and talk to my teammates."

Rosenthal said he would feel "rushed" if he arrived any later than 6, and players don't like to alter routines once they're established.

Of course, Rosenthal is different than most people, particularly pitchers. Few can touch his 100-mph heater that has helped him generate 133 strikeouts in 98 career innings.

Rosenthal, who stepped in for the slumping Edward Mujica as the ninth-inning answer late last season, enters his first full year as the closer. Mujica signed an offseason deal with Boston, the club that defeated the Cardinals in the World Series.

"I'm trying to make an impression," said Rosenthal, who already has accomplished that goal. "The coaches do a good job of pushing us, especially in spring training, to keep trying to make the next step to get better and not get content. The competitiveness we all have as athletes helps. That's special about being around these guys."

Red-hot Wong

Kolten Wong hit his second homer in two games Wednesday as the Cardinals traveled north to Port St. Lucie and defeated the New York Mets 6-4 --the day after the Mets beat them 9-8 in Jupiter.

Wong, who was 2-for-4, connected for a two-run shot in the seventh against Kyle Farnsworth, putting St. Louis ahead 4-0. After a slow start, Wong has elevated his average to .292.

"I just had to come in here and relax," said Wong, a noted perfectionist. "I put so much pressure on myself because I wanted to come in and just be the guy instead of just coming in and being who I am, playing the game and doing what I need to do to help the team win."

Right-hander Carlos Martinez, meanwhile, continued to stake his claim to the No. 5 starter Wednesday spot by blanking the Mets on two hits in four innings. He walked one and struck out three.

Keith Butler allowed three runs in the seventh in his second consecutive rough outing. Stephen Piscotty picked up a pair of hits for St. Louis, including a double and an RBI.

Motte ready to rock

Former closer Jason Motte, recovering from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him all of last season, recovered well from a vigorous bullpen session Tuesday.

Motte said Wednesday morning that his arm felt terrific and that it's possible he will throw live batting practice Thursday.

What role Motte will fill when he returns isn't clear, but he could provide a seventh- or eighth-inning bridge to Rosenthal.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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