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Here's why Shildt could excel in a short season

@anne__rogers
July 2, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- As he prepares for his team to begin an unprecedented 2020 season, Mike Shildt is confident in what he’s done to prepare for managing a shortened schedule. He’s done it before. On Wednesday, the Cardinals' manager was elected to the Appalachian League Hall of Fame for his

ST. LOUIS -- As he prepares for his team to begin an unprecedented 2020 season, Mike Shildt is confident in what he’s done to prepare for managing a shortened schedule.

He’s done it before.

On Wednesday, the Cardinals' manager was elected to the Appalachian League Hall of Fame for his three seasons managing the Johnson City Cardinals, St. Louis’ Rookie-level affiliate, a team which normally plays a short season starting in June and ending in early September. Shildt won championships in 2010 and ’11 and earned the George Kissell Award in ’10 to add to his Appalachian League Manager of the Year Award.

Before winning championships for Johnson City, Shildt coached for Cardinals Class A Short Season teams, first as hitting coach at New Jersey (2004-05), bench coach in State College (‘06) and position coach for Batavia (’07). He also managed at Springfield when it played split seasons.

The reigning National League Manager of the Year Award winner often talks about how his experience coming up through the Cardinals' farm system influences how he does his job now. But those seasons in the Appalachian League might play a more prominent role this year, as Shildt prepares to manage a season like no other. The regular season, which is expected to begin on July 23 or 24, will be 60 games -- less than half of a normal MLB schedule.

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“I spent eight years in Rookie ball -- so a short season and three years managing -- and our teams had success there,” Shildt said. “We’ll draw on that. But effectively, it’s the same, and that’s why I can give more confidence in the answer about how to prepare.

“It was the same mindset of preparation then that it was going to 162-game season. It’s about continual improvement and the right amount of preparation prior to the season starting, and it’s about daily preparation and execution every day.”

So with the mindset the same, Shildt said he’ll spend more time thinking about his strategy for the rule changes this year -- the designated hitter, the three-batter minimum for pitchers, the runner on second to start extra innings -- and how they will affect the Cardinals.

He has less than three weeks to get his team ready for the regular season, along with making sure everyone is healthy and safe, but he’s been thinking about a restart since Spring Training camps closed back in March.

“We understand that the short season -- obviously, it’s more of a sprint in comparison,” Shildt said. “The fact of the matter is, we have urgency every day. We’re in a highly competitive, thin margin competitive field. Probably the biggest effect it’ll have is making sure that we have even more sense of urgency with our 19 days of Summer Camp, without panic to it. But ultimately, we’re going to show up and have our plan that makes sense and how we can progress things.”

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How teams prepare for and manage with the differences the 2020 season presents will set them apart from the rest. Shildt’s experience managing Class A Short-Season teams, as well as his experience coordinating Spring Training for many years, is something the Cardinals have thought could be an advantage.

“[It’s] one that we actually have thought about, because it is different,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “And understanding, like, how to manage halves is exactly how you should think about this 60. He’s someone that certainly has the DNA of always having his team ready and prepared. I do think that’s a benefit, or an advantage, as we move forward.”

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.