Caffeinated Winn looking to keep Cards' energy up

Shortstop collects two hits, shows off glove and 80-grade arm against Dodgers

March 30th, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- The night certainly didn’t go as Cardinals left-hander Zack Thompson wanted, what with him allowing three home runs and five earned runs against the star-studded Dodgers. But the rough night never slowed the chirpy enthusiasm and stellar defense that the pitcher got all game from rookie shortstop .

Afterward, the 22-year-old Winn admitted that some of the energy and enthusiasm he displayed throughout the Cardinals’ 6-3 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night might have been artificially enhanced.

“I mean, I usually have a lot of caffeine in my system, too, and that keeps me going, for sure,” said Winn, who has been known to chug an energy drink before games or even during innings. “But I’m close with all my pitchers, and if you watch, I might be shaking with them when I hear the pitch [on the PitchCom device]. I’m locked in with them and want them doing as well as they can. And them having that hype man in the background like me might just give them that extra oomph on the fastball or break on the slider.”

Despite the Cardinals getting knocked around by the homer-happy Dodgers, Winn was able to show off his many talents in a game that might have been even more lopsided without his defense. In addition to recording two of the Cardinals’ six hits on the night, Winn also flashed the leather and his powerful arm to complete two of the best defensive plays of the game.

In the fourth inning with the Cards already trailing 5-0, Scott backhanded a 95.6 mph liner off the bat of Kiké Hernández that had a hit probability of 57 percent, per Statcast. From there, Winn hopped to his feet and threw a strike to first to retire Hernandez at 89.9 mph.

“Honestly, I didn’t really see it off the bat and it was an awkward dive/fall hybrid, and I kind of just fell into it,” Winn said. “It wasn’t too crazy because it was a long hop. If it had been a medium hop, it might have been tougher. Really, I’ve got to make that play every single time and that’s why I wasn’t too excited about it.”

An inning later, Winn again showed off the 80-grade throwing arm that made him a top 100 prospect and No. 1 in the Cards' system before he graduated from prospect status, per MLB Pipeline. After second baseman Nolan Gorman snagged a grounder from Shohei Ohtani and shoveled the ball to Winn for the forceout at second, the Cardinals' shortstop fired a 90.7 mph dart to first base to beat the Dodgers’ superstar DH to the bag.

“When I saw how close to Ohtani was to first base … and then how fast the ball got to first base, that was pretty amazing to see,” raved Gorman, who delivered a two-run double late in the game for the Cardinals' first runs. “It’s pretty nice to have an arm like that because we can turn a lot of double plays.

“You put his quickness and arm together, and it shows you how special he is. He’s already getting to balls that a lot of people aren’t getting to, and then he can finish plays off with that arm. It’s fun to watch that athleticism and arm strength come out.”

Added Thompson, who finished on a strong note despite a rocky start: “It’s so awesome to have that guy back there. He’s always positive, he’s always talking and he makes some incredible plays.”

Winn admitted that more than a few times in recent days, his much ballyhooed 100.5 mph throw from shortstop at Dodger Stadium the 2022 MLB Futures Game has flashed in his brain. That moment was even fresher on Friday when Dodgers pitcher Bobby Miller -- also a member of the 2022 NL squad -- was mowing down the Cardinals to the tune of 11 strikeouts in six innings.

“Bobby Miller actually started that [2022 Futures Game], so seeing him on the mound tonight and stepping into the box against him brought back memories from that night,” said Winn, who singled off Miller in the sixth inning. “I let [my throwing arm] eat on that backhand [in the fourth inning], And after that, for sure, that [100.5 mph throw from two years earlier] crossed my mind.”

In an effort to alleviate pressure on the rookie shortstop, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol has tried to keep Winn’s focus on his defense. Continue making a host of stellar plays as he did on Friday, and his rookie season will be a success.

“That [fourth-inning play] was an awesome play; not many shortstops even make that play,” Marmol raved. “And then with the way he finished off that double play, that arm of his really plays.”