Mozeliak talks shutdown, Kim, injured Cardinals

April 2nd, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- On Thursday, the day the Cardinals were to have played their home opener, Busch Stadium wasn’t filled with fans wearing Cardinal red, and the Clydesdales didn’t trot around the warning track to “Here Comes the King.” Instead the team urged fans to stay home and stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

President of baseball operations John Mozeliak, speaking with reporters via a Zoom teleconference from his home office, described his new normal as club officials determine what their organization looks like with no baseball being played.

“Well, focusing on a lot of the questions that you guys have asked, [we're] not doing more of the traditional baseball things that you would be normally undertaking the last couple of weeks of Spring Training, the first week of the season,” Mozeliak said. “But in terms of staying busy and engaged with some of the topics that you guys have touched on, it has been hectic, actually. A lot of people have asked me what I’m doing in my spare time, and I haven’t really had a lot of that yet.”

Mozeliak discussed several topics on Thursday, from the status of such players as Kwang-Hyun Kim to what baseball may look like when it does return.

Kim, Cardinals discussing possibility of returning to South Korea

Kim has relocated to St. Louis to get settled into the place he will call home during the season, but Mozeliak said he has talked with Kim about returning to South Korea to be with his family -- his wife and two young children are still in Incheon.

The Cardinals and Kim haven’t determined whether he will go home yet. In the meantime, Kim may connect with Adam Wainwright, who is in St. Louis with his family, to play catch or work out.

“I can only imagine the mental challenge [Kim is] under with his wife and children back in South Korea, trying to adapt to a new country, a new team, and then have all this thrust upon him,” Mozeliak said. “So we’re trying to navigate that as best we can, but you know, clearly this has not been easy for him, and I think all of us could understand why.”

Kim, 31, was signed to a two-year deal this offseason. He spent 12 years in the Korean Baseball Organization and had been competing for a spot in the rotation.

Jupiter facility 'very quiet'

There are still a few players who live in the Jupiter area who use the team’s facilities, but Mozeliak said they are coming in “solely on a one-on-one-type situation,” for rehab or to get treatment.

“It’s not business as usual,” he said. “It’s very quiet.”

Seventeen Venezuelan Minor Leaguers were not permitted to return to their country, so they have relocated to the Cardinals' academy in the Dominican Republic. Director of international operations Luis Morales is working to help those players get home.

“The good news is, at our academy we can give them their own private room,” Mozeliak said. “They’re medically checked each day. They are given meals, and they do have the ability to walk around and get fresh air. I think the one scary part for them is, a lot of them would like to find a way to get home, but there’s a very limited number of flights that are going from the D.R. to Venezuela. We’re certainly on it, we want to make sure these guys do not feel like they’re in some form of a penalty box. But at least they’re able to eat, they have a healthy environment, and right now a safe environment.”

Mozeliak doesn’t anticipate any further roster moves. After Spring Training ended, the Cardinals optioned eight players (Austin Dean, Justin Williams, Edmundo Sosa, Jake Woodford, Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Knizner, Alex Reyes and Junior Fernandez) on the 40-man roster to Triple-A Memphis.

Rehab roundup

If anything, the shutdown is helping the Cardinals who were scheduled to miss Opening Day because of injury. Miles Mikolas (strained right forearm) is continuing to play catch and is up to 120 feet. He’s scheduled to throw a light bullpen session soon.

Left-hander Brett Cecil (strained right hamstring) will get back into his rehab next week after taking some time off to deal with personal issues, but Mozeliak said he is feeling better after sustaining the injury in one of the final games before camp closed.

Veteran reliever Andrew Miller, who was dealing with a lack of feel this spring, left camp in a “good spot,” per Mozeliak, so now he is working out from his home in Tampa.

Mozeliak said the team is thinking about pitchers’ workloads as though it’s mid-January, when pitchers are in baseball shape but not as ramped up as they were when Spring Training was halted.

Cardinals working to help gameday stadium workers

Mozeliak said the Cardinals are developing a plan to help the gameday stadium workers who have been laid off. Delaware North, the company that operates concessions, dining, retail and restaurants at Busch Stadium, placed more than two-thirds of its full-time employees on temporary leave, likely affecting many who work at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals joined the other 29 MLB teams in pledging $1 million each toward a fund for gameday employees expected to miss work because of the delayed season. It wasn’t clear whether that fund would also cover payments to staff not directly employed by the organization, but the Cardinals are figuring that out now.

“We are currently working through all of that internally on how we can reach the most people that need the most,” Mozeliak said. “And right now a lot of smart people are trying to figure out how to determine what that looks like. At some point, hopefully, we’ll have an announcement on how that outreach will look. But clearly, these are tough times for a lot of people.”

So when does baseball return?

It’s unknown when the season will start; Mozeliak didn’t want to speculate on any specific date.

“I just don’t think that’s healthy, because right now we’re in an age of trying to understand what information we should listen to or value, and why complicate things?” he said. “So from the baseball perspective, we’re simply going to stand behind: We don’t know. Every day we’re learning more, and I think the number one importance you always have to remember, though, is really public safety and fan safety.”

Mozeliak and his team are preparing for a number of scenarios for when baseball does come back and what the game will look like.

“I think the smart answer, or the thoughtful answer, is you should be open to anything,” he said. “Our country looking at how to get this economic engine going again is going to be critical. But there’s also a psychological side of giving people reasons to be excited about their day or to turn on their TV. Trying to capture that is something that everybody should be thinking about.

“But going back to what I said at the beginning of this, it’s really about the health and welfare of all people involved. So that’s going to be really point number one, before you can get to point number two.”