ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals turned their annual Winter Warm-Up, considered to be the start of a sprint toward spring, into the first piece of a season-long sales pitch to a player they hope will become a staple at the January event.
Six weeks after traveling to St. Louis for his introductory press conference, Paul Goldschmidt returned for a second introduction -- this one to a fanbase that snatched up all his autograph tickets within a day of the on-sale date and one that has begun to invest in new No. 46 jerseys. Goldschmidt spotted several in the crowd.
"All the excitement around this team every year and to now get to see it first hand is awesome," he said. "[It] definitely gets me looking forward even more to Spring Training and the regular season."
The clock is already ticking for the Cardinals to find a way to sign the All-Star first baseman to an extension that would ensure he remains in St. Louis beyond the length of his current contract. Part of their calculation is that the city, over the course of the next several months, can sell itself. Saturday was the start.
"All I did was really pray hard that we weren't going to get a lot of snow today," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "You know, first impressions could be meaningful."
They were for Andrew Miller, the other notable newbie in town. He was presented with a uniform during an on-stage unveiling four weeks after signing a two-year contract with the club.
"I feel great. I'm ready to go," Miller said. "You're going to hear that from everybody -- they're in the best shape of their life. I feel like I've put in a lot of hard work. I've got a plan in place.
"I feel like I've got the strength I need and the ability I need to go out there and compete. I can't wait. I've got a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. I'm looking forward to it."
Ozuna's status uncertain
With Marcell Ozuna choosing to spend the remaining weeks of winter in the Dominican Republic, Mozeliak will take advantage of a previously scheduled trip to the country next weekend to check in on the outfielder's recovery from shoulder surgery.
Ozuna's rehab from the October procedure has progressed with little supervision from the Cardinals, who would have preferred to have had him working out closer to team personnel. The reports they've received have been positive -- "I'm not overly concerned, Mozeliak said -- but not necessarily corroborated.
This visit, to an extent, will do that.
"When I said ideally, perfect world, he's at our Jupiter, [Fla.] complex, right?" Mozeliak said. "It's just easier to manage and keep track of. But he's one of these guys that -- I'm a little nervous to say this -- he's going to play. I mean, like, last year he was injured quite a bit and wouldn't even opt out of the lineup, so he's going to show up and he's going to be a positive contributor."
Mozeliak said he wasn't sure if Ozuna has been cleared to hit yet, but noted that the left fielder is expected to begin his throwing program soon.
"He has promised me that he will be ready," Mozeliak said. "So I guess I'll have to take him at his word."
Williams regrets "silly mistake"
Justin Williams, acquired from the Rays in the Tommy Pham trade last summer, showed up at Winter Warm-Up on Saturday with a soft cast still enveloping his right hand.
The injury, which included fractures and dislocation of his fingers, came as the result of punching a television in mid-December, Williams acknowledged. He called the incident "a silly mistake" and said it was related to a "personal issue" that he has since dealt with. Williams did not specify what led to an outburst that will jeopardize his opportunity to make an on-field impression in his first Spring Training with the Cardinals.
"The situation is definitely resolved, and both ends of the parties [are] definitely going to move forward from it and deal with situations in a better manner," Williams said. "It was just something I've been dealing with for a while, and it just accumulated over time, honestly."
Williams is scheduled to meet with a doctor on Friday, at which time he'll have a better feel for his recovery timeline. If he's healthy, Williams is expected to open the season with Triple-A Memphis.
"I'm just going to stay mentally positive," said Williams, who appeared in one game for the Rays last season. "Obviously, this isn't what I needed going into Spring Training."
• Reliever Brett Cecil has dropped a noticeable amount of weight this winter as part of what Mozeliak described as an "offseason strategy to get himself in better shape." Over the first two seasons of his four-year contract with the Cardinals, Cecil posted a 4.86 ERA.
• Progress hasn't been so evident for veteran reliever Luke Gregerson, who has informed the Cardinals that he doesn't feel as strong as he had hoped upon beginning an offseason throwing program. Gregerson, who signed a two-year contract with the Cardinals before the 2018 season, was limited to 17 relief appearances last season because of shoulder, knee and elbow injuries.
• Daniel Ponce de Leon completed a legal name change that has separated what was an 11-letter last name into three words. It now matches the original spelling used by his family. Ponce de Leon said his mother had combined the three words into one when he was child for convenience. His jersey will reflect the change.
• Asked to predict which Cardinals prospects could be on the cusp of a breakout season, Mozeliak cited Minor League pitchers Ryan Helsley and Genesis Cabrera as his picks to click. It is worth noting that Jordan Hicks' name came up when the same question was asked of Mozeliak last January. Hicks went on to make the jump from Class A to the Majors.