Things are going really well for the St. Louis Cardinals in spring training.
In fact, it’s starting to make me nervous how well things are going.
After a frustrating 2016 campaign, the Redbirds have bolted out of the gate with an 8-3 record. With very few exceptions, the hitters have been productive, the defense has been much better than last season and the pitching, with the notable exception of Alex Reyes’ season-ending elbow injury, has progressed nicely.
I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Obviously, spring training games don’t count in the standings. A lot of the players the Cardinals are facing right now aren’t even going to be in the big leagues on Opening Day. Likewise, a lot of the youngsters who are hitting the ball all over the park might not be faring so well if they were facing major-league starters four times a game like they would in May.
A lot of people seemed to think the Cardinals overpaid for star free-agent acquisition Dexter Fowler. But he’s brought a lighter attitude to the team off the field – and he’s hitting .364 and creating havoc on the bases when he gets there. It’s almost too good to be true.
Last spring, all we heard about was how much young talent the Chicago Cubs had and how old the Birds had become. But gone is 37-year-old Matt Holliday and, suddenly St. Louis seems to have a tidal wave of young talent surging through the minor-league system and ready to crash on the big-league shore.
Outfielder Magneuris Sierra is hitting .429, causing folks to speculate on social media that he is the center fielder of the future. Fowler, who hasn’t even played a regular season for the Cards since signing his five-year contract, noticed the proclamation and responded “too soon!”
I’m sure fellow prospect Harrison Bader, two levels ahead of Sierra in the minor leagues, is batting .353 and battling for a spot in the St. Louis outfield.
Jose Martinez, who had his first taste of the big leagues late last season at 28 years old, isn’t going to make it easy for the Redbirds to bring Bader to the big leagues in his place. He’s batting .350 this spring.
Slugging third baseman Patrick Wisdom has had trouble hitting for average as he’s worked his way through the minors. But he’s hit .357 and seems to come through every time he has a chance to collect a dramatic hit and drive in a run.
The veterans are making their mark, too.
Jhonny Peralta, who was injured early last spring and missed most of last year, is hitting .357 this season and seems ready to move over from shortstop to third base on a regular basis.
Ace Adam Wainwright struggled in his first spring start. But he announced afterwards that he’d unraveled the mystery of why his curveball wasn’t working right – and proved it Tuesday when he pitched three uneventful innings against the Miami Marlins.
Is it a bad thing that St. Louis seems to be hitting on all cylinders now?
It’s a long season and there are going to be highs and lows, no matter where you start on the scale. Mostly, I’d say it’s superstition. Things seem to even out, so when things are going well and players are healthy, it makes one wonder when things are going to start to swing the other way.
The only time playing well in the spring is a bad thing is if it makes a team overconfident. But I don’t see that happening for the Cardinals.
They seem to be playing well because they have a great deal of talent and a great mix of young players who are hungry to try to earn a spot on the big-league roster and veterans who want to show that they’re still at the top of their game.
Will things look the same when the games start to count and these eager youngsters are toiling in Memphis, Springfield and Palm Beach? It’s hard to say. But it’s good to know that there’s a lot of talent in the system.