Notes: Shildt on plans; Cards get to work

February 23rd, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- Welcome to Cardinals camp at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. Are you a position player? If so, please proceed to your physical. The doctor will be with you soon.

All checked out? Before hitting the field, file with your group into manager Mike Shildt’s speech time.

“I'll be the last stop, so to speak,” the manager said.

That’s how the Cardinals have adjusted their oft-ceremonious start to Spring Training under the difficulties of a pandemic in 2021. Instead of annual clubhouse speeches from Shildt, players, chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., president of baseball ops John Mozeliak and other department heads, this year -- with champion hopes at the forefront of conversation -- the club had to limit the number of people for such traditions.

Pitchers and catchers heard the skipper’s spiel when they reported last week; Monday, full-squad report day, was the position players’ turn to do so, in four smaller groups.

“It's actually in some ways maybe even a better way of going about it,” Shildt said. “When you're in a bigger group, things can get lost in translation, literally and also figuratively. It's just a hard thing to track with a lot of people and a lot of information. So we're doing a small setting, and it feels a little more intimate and a little more personal. And it's been a positive.”

St. Louis’ messaging to open camp, kept behind closed doors -- or in this case, within the open-air tents strewn across the complex -- could have many areas to touch on:

• Not getting too comfortable after the addition of a superstar like Nolan Arenado

• Pushing each other to fill open roster spots, a few of which will be pursued by a crop of youngsters

• Honing focus ahead of a year that’s bound to bring surprises, and hopefully a World Series title

“We just have to be intentional about creating opportunities in small groups to share messaging. And so that's really, effectively, how we're doing it,” Shildt said. “It requires us, which is not a real issue, just to be consistent in our messaging.”

The pandemic has taken away many opportunities for team-building, placing limits on where it’s appropriate to spend prolonged periods of time, namely clubhouses and eating areas.

There are no more crowded side fields, where a mass of pitchers warming up filled to the tune of gloves popping “that [are] always sort of like our version of the trumpet that says, ‘Go,’” Mozeliak said. “That's a little different now.”

Even still, the Cards believe their system allows for as much consistent communication as safely possible.

“I think the buzz in this camp is probably like many others,” Mozeliak said. “There's also a little bit of that, and we feel we're going to be pretty good.

“So let's go to work.”

Sights from Day 1
It wasn’t just Arenado getting acquainted in Jupiter on Day 1. Included in his hitting group were Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter and, for a brief time toward the end, Yadier Molina. They gave Jake Woodford and Tyler Webb a star-laden welcome to the first day of live batting practice.

On the other side, the Cards’ outfield group of Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill and others got their first taste of live hitting against a stable of flamethrowers: Génesis Cabrera, Alex Reyes, Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos.

“Welcome to camp,” Shildt laughed.

“I'm excited about the depth we have on both sides of the ball, and the caliber of guys we have on both sides of the ball,” the manager added. “I think pretty much every [practice] field has a matchup that has intrigued me.”

Related

Miller arrives
Left-hander reported to camp over the weekend, a few days after almost all other pitchers and catchers reported on Wednesday. His delay was for personal reasons, the team said, and now entering his 16th season at 35 years of age, he’ll be given time to work into his routine and likely fit back into the back of the bullpen.

“We allow him to be a little bit more the pace car,” Shildt said. “Clearly, [he] knows what it looks like to get ready and get ready for a long season. And so we'll work with him on what the schedule looks like.”

Otherwise, the Cardinals were a full-go -- with no positive COVID-19 results through intake, Mozeliak said -- for the first full-squad day of 2021.

“We are all present and accounted for,” Shildt said, “and ready to go.”