Cardinals FAQ: Details on the upcoming season

June 26th, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- After a three-month shutdown, baseball will return this summer.

Major League Baseball announced Tuesday night that the 2020 season will start in one month, on July 23 or 24. Players will report to camp by July 1, and MLB has submitted a 60-game regular-season schedule for review by the Players Association.

This season will be a 60-game sprint to the finish, rather than a 162-game marathon. The Cardinals have been preparing for that since the sport shut down, and they have a deep pitching staff to help them win games. While the offense last year saw slumps at both the team and individual levels, the Cards are confident in the adjustments they made in the first Spring Training and the workouts the players have been doing during the hiatus. St. Louis was 31-29 after its first 60 games last year, 2 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central. The club finished the season on top of the division, though, with a 36-24 record in its final 60 regular-season games.

“We’ve always been a fairly consistent team, and this team’s a lot of what last year looked like,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Wednesday on a Zoom call with local media. “I feel like, for the most part, we should be good for this. We should be ready for this. But when you think about that, in context ... 60 games is a part of time, and when you peak is going to be critical. Getting out early is helpful.”

Where will “Spring Training” take place, and when?
Players will report to camp July 1 with the first official workout -- after health and safety testing -- targeted to begin on July 3. The Cardinals plan to hold what has now become summer training at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. A handful of players have been working out there in small groups, following the safety measures the team has put in place as well as local, state and CDC guidelines.

When the entire roster convenes -- likely around 44 players, Mozeliak said -- it will likely be in regulated groups at the ballpark to follow the local St. Louis city standards when it comes to the size of groups that can gather.

Mozeliak said the club is supposed to receive COVID-19 tests Thursday and will begin testing players and staff who are in St. Louis on Friday. Those who are traveling to St. Louis from out of state will be able to be tested Monday. Players, coaches and support staff will be tested for COVID-19 every other day during Spring Training, the regular season and the postseason. Mozeliak said that if a person tests positive or shows symptoms, they will be quarantined immediately, and the Cardinals will have a contact tracer within the organization to find out who the person had been in contact with. Those people will also be tested right away.

The Cardinals haven’t finalized whether they will have exhibition games with other teams during camp. When Mozeliak canvassed Cards players more than a month ago to see what their preference was, he said many of them felt like intersquad games would accomplish what they needed to prepare for the regular season.

“But I have not made any final decisions nor have I had any real discussions with any of my colleagues to see if anybody might be interested,” Mozeliak said. “Candidly, it’s trying to just get things here in order before I even start thinking down the road, but down the road is coming soon, so obviously we have to prepare.”

When and where is Opening Day?
The regular season is anticipated to begin on July 23 or 24. The location is still to be determined as the schedule is still being finalized.

Which teams will be on the schedule?
While the final schedule has not been released yet, the majority of the Cardinals' schedule will be against NL Central teams -- the Cubs, Reds, Pirates and Brewers -- with the remaining portion against American League Central teams -- the Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Twins and Royals.

How are the Cardinals’ injured players doing?
Miles Mikolas (right flexor tendon strain) has been throwing bullpen sessions and will use camp to ramp up for game action. The right-hander was slated to miss Opening Day in March, but he has had ample time to recover and is expected to have a normal season.

Jordan Hicks was projected to return from elbow surgery around the All-Star break if the season had started when it was originally supposed to, but the usual All-Star break happens to be right around when the season will actually begin this year. Hicks has been throwing from a mound and will likely be eased into live game action. The 23-year-old reliever has Type 1 diabetes, which is considered high-risk for COVID-19. He has previously expressed his intent to play, and the Cardinals will likely tailor their health and safety protocols to accommodate Hicks.

“From the Tommy John perspective, he’s had so far a very positive rehab,” Mozeliak said. “In terms of expectations, I don’t think it’s in anybody’s interest to lay that out today, but I am hopeful that he does participate in this year’s season.”

Brett Cecil suffered a left hamstring strain at the end of the first Spring Training, and he had a setback in his rehab early in the shutdown. The left-handed reliever has been working out at the Jupiter, Fla., complex, and Mozeliak said that when players report, the Cardinals should have a better sense of where his pitching is and what the expectations are for this year.

The Cardinals announced Wednesday that reliever John Brebbia had Tommy John surgery in early June and will miss the entire 2020 season.

What are some competitions to watch when camp resumes?
The outfield competition seen back in March will get more time to play out when baseball resumes. Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, Justin Williams, Austin Dean and top prospect Dylan Carlson -- along with Tommy Edman, Brad Miller and Rangel Ravelo -- will all still compete for an outfield spot.

Who will serve as the DH?
For the first time, the designated hitter will be used in the NL, as part of the health and safety protocols being put in place for the 2020 season.

The Cardinals will likely float different players through the DH spot. It’ll depend on a number of factors, and the matchup that day will be a big one. Manager Mike Shildt could choose to use Brad Miller, a seasoned AL veteran who was signed to be a versatile infielder for the Cards this year; move Matt Carpenter to DH with Edman at third base; or rotate through the outfield competition by giving at-bats to Thomas, O’Neill, Williams, Carlson and Dean. Mozeliak specifically mentioned Ravelo as an option on Tuesday; the first baseman/outfielder was going to be the go-to pinch-hitter this season, and now he could see more at-bats because of the DH.

“When you look at our outfield as we envisioned it, someone was not going to get at-bats, and now I think you can see an easy pathway to get [them], whether it’s O’Neill or Lane Thomas,” Mozeliak said. “But you could also see someone like a Matt Carpenter … or a Paul Goldschmidt getting a day at DH. It gives you flexibility on how to give some people a break from playing in the field.”

How do the roster rules affect the Cardinals?
Clubs have been informed they can have 30 players for the first two weeks of the season, then 28 for the next two weeks, then down to 26 active players for the remaining schedule. Teams can have as many as 60 players available for the season in a Player Pool, and each team will be permitted a three-player Taxi Squad for every road trip, giving them immediate options to replace an injured or COVID-19 infected player.

The Cardinals plan on hosting their Player Pool at Double-A Springfield in Springfield, Mo. -- 216 miles from Busch Stadium. That Alternate Training Site will open around July 14, with 16 players in the 60-man Player Pool starting the preseason there. Fourteen of the 44 players in St. Louis will join the Springfield site when the season begins.

Mozeliak said Tuesday that he hopes the Cards will be able to add some top prospects, even if they won’t influence the 2020 season, to the taxi squad to have them get work in with no Minor League season.

On the active roster, there will be an emphasis on pitching depth, especially to start the season. There’s not a set rule on how many pitchers or position players a team can have on its active roster, but the expanded roster was designed to protect pitching.

“It might also factor into how you think about managing the game,” Mozeliak said. “You might have a quicker leash with someone right now because of the depth you have in the bullpen. I would think you want maybe seven, eight, having the ability to get you three or four innings at any time.”

On Tuesday, Mozeliak said he had not heard of anyone on the 40-man roster not intending to play, nor had he heard of anyone on the club testing positive for coronavirus since the club left Jupiter in mid-March. Each team will have rigorous measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in ballparks and travel, as much of this season and its plans will be responsive to the virus.

“I think it’s going to come down to how serious players take it when they’re not here,” Mozeliak said. “If you find yourself at an outdoor event and putting yourself at risk, remember you’re not only putting yourself at risk, you’re putting your teammates at risk. So that’s going to be what the big hurdle will be. I think we can control the environment here. Where I think it’s going to be tricky is what happens when we’re outside of here.”

How can I watch the games?
The Cardinals' television broadcast partner is Fox Sports Midwest. With no official schedule in place, Fox Sports Midwest has not yet released a broadcast schedule. Stream out-of-market Cards games LIVE on MLB.TV on your favorite supported devices.

How can I listen?
St. Louis games typically air on KMOX and the Cardinals Radio Network. Listen to every Cards game LIVE online or on the go with MLB Audio.

Worth noting
• Mozeliak confirmed that the Cardinals will pay their Minor League players the $400/week stipend, which was negotiated when baseball shut down, through the end of August, or what would have been the end of the Minor League season. Mozeliak is still hopeful the Cardinals can hold some kind of instructional camp this summer or fall for players who won’t participate on the taxi squad.

• Minor League instructor José Oquendo, who also helps coach Major League infielders, will be at both the St. Louis camp and the Springfield camp. The Major League coaching staff will be fully intact.

• The Cardinals don’t have plans to use any outside fields in St. Louis, like the Saint Louis University baseball fields to host workouts.

“I’m hopeful we can manage everything here,” Mozeliak said. “When you start to go outside the bubble, you start to create a little more risk.”