St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak had plenty to talk about Sunday morning at the team’s 21st annual Winter Warm-Up at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch.
Here are a few of the highlights of Mozeliak’s meeting with reporters.
Q: What are some of the things you would like to see from the team?
A: We’ve stated, really from day one, we tried to improve our athleticism, tried to improve our baserunning and defense. Be less of a station-to-station ball club. Lots is being written about what we think about offensively, in terms of power, relative to where we were. I would imagine you’re going to see a regression in home runs, but I hope you see a step forward in overall offense in terms of more activity on the basepaths, being able to score from second. Hopefully, an exciting brand of baseball.
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Q: What are your expectations of shortstop Aledmys Diaz?
A: I think Mr. Diaz had an exciting year last year, certainly a breakthrough year. He’s had a very good offseason in the sense of being able to prepare. Now, I think he understands expectations. So your real hope is that as he looks into this year, he realizes he doesn’t have to put too much pressure on himself. He just needs to continue to be who he was. I do feel like, from a defensive standpoint, you’re going to see someone more comfortable and more at ease with being there every day.
Q: How eager are you to see Matt Carpenter at first base?
A: I like Carpenter wherever he plays. I think he’s most comfortable on the right side. The one great thing about Carp is he does give you flexibility. As you enter into spring training this year, we certainly have him penciled in as our first baseman. But the good news for us is just his versatility overall. How we start to formulate how this looks, day-in and day-out, I think time will tell. But obviously, he’s going to get every opportunity from day one.
Q: If Matt Adams has a strong spring, could Carpenter return to third base?
A: I would say the best way to approach this is being open-minded. Obviously, when you have these different assets or resources, you certainly want to optimize how you think about your club. I would also say that last year when we went into camp, we weren’t anticipating losing our shortstop early on, and you saw the domino effect of that happening. So to sit here and preach absolutes or speak in absolutes is not good, because things happen when you get to camp. The one thing I like about this roster right now is I feel like, given past history or circumstances, it gives us flexibility to maneuver if something should happen.
Q: Who is the cleanup hitter?
A: I feel like it might be something that’s sort of a more evolutionary process with this club. But whether it’s a (Stephen) Piscotty or (Randal) Grichuk, someone could handle that. Both have the capability of hitting the ball out of the ballpark. And I don’t know if you necessarily want to define the four-hole hitter as strictly a home run-hitter. Having said that, I think the exciting part of our lineup is going to be what happens in front of whoever hits fourth.
Q: Do you know when Major League Baseball will discipline the Cardinals for former Scouting Director Chris Correa hacking into Houston Astros’ database?
A: It’s hard to plan (for) because it’s an unknown. In terms of the timing of it, I really don’t know. There’s a lot of speculation going on that it might be sooner rather than later, but I don’t know.
Q: Will All-Star catcher Yadier Molina play less this season?
A: I think we have that conversation here every year. We’ve probably been doing it for at least four or five years, and I’ve probably been giving you the same wrong answer. I guess I could repeat that. I do feel like from a general manager seat that you would want to balance that and try to protect him better than we have, but the guy loves to play. He trains extremely hard in the offseason to prepare himself for that 162. He’s not an easy guy to talk to get out of the lineup. I would say that I hope we can help manage that because I do feel like he’d only be better off for it. But I have said that year in, year out. So we’ll see.
Q: What about third baseman Jhonny Peralta?
A: My hope is that he is 100 percent. My hope is that he has a little spring in his step. And my hope is that he can either give us a lot of flexibility in the infield or be our anchor at third. When you look at how we’ve put together our roster, he’s one guy who has the ability to hit home runs and hit with power, and it would be great to see him contributing in that manner.
Q: What can Randal Grichuk do to elevate his game?
A: I think he’s one of those classic, extremely gifted players. As he’s evolving in his own development, I think he has a better understanding of where he needs to be. And I think there is that mental maturity aspect where you’re starting to see him grow and understand what he needs to do. When you have that kind of talent, when you have that sort of mental maturity coming together, it’s a good place to be. I think the one misconception is we’re promoting him never to strike out. That’s not really what we’re trying to do. It’s trying to get the ball in play, taking advantage of his athleticism. But ultimately, he is somebody I could envision being a 30-home run-hitter for many years to come.
Q: How will rookie right-hander Alex Reyes be used in the World Baseball Classic?
A: I don’t know. He is one guy that I would put more in the concerned bucket because he’s someone that should be developing. Some of you may remember Mitchell Boggs. When he was in the WBC, he was rarely used, and I think that had an adverse effect for him once the season started. If you are part of the WBC, how you’re used and making sure you’re being played and getting that opportunity is important. But we can’t micromanage that. That’s what you have to hope for.
Q: What are your expectations for Lance Lynn coming off Tommy John surgery?
A: I’m probably one of the more bullish people on him. I think he’s excited to get going. Here’s a guy that missed last year. I think any time you’re going through a full season of rehab you might get bored or you do become bored. He showed that he could pitch at the end of the season. We just figured it would be nice to let him have a completely normal offseason, and that’s why we didn’t push him in September. But my expectation is for him to be a part of this rotation and a big contributor.
Q: Is second baseman Kolten Wong one of the biggest keys to the team’s success?
A: I would say yes in the sense that when you think about what we’re trying to accomplish on the defensive side of the game (and) what we’re trying to say we’re trying to do offensively. When you look at sort of how we’ve put this whole club together, I don’t want to say he’s the keystone, but clearly having him have success could make all of us stronger.