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Gorman, Liberatore enjoying reunion as Cards

@anne__rogers
January 19, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- Matthew Liberatore tried hard to get his friend Nolan Gorman on the phone, but Gorman was busy. He was in the middle of winning a mini golf tournament. Gorman declined Liberatore’s first call, but he finally picked up. That’s when Liberatore delivered the news. “’Dude, you’re not

ST. LOUIS -- Matthew Liberatore tried hard to get his friend Nolan Gorman on the phone, but Gorman was busy. He was in the middle of winning a mini golf tournament.

Gorman declined Liberatore’s first call, but he finally picked up. That’s when Liberatore delivered the news.

“’Dude, you’re not going to believe it,’” Liberatore recalled telling Gorman last week. “’We’re going to be teammates again.’”

After Gorman checked social media to make sure Liberatore was telling the truth, he let himself get excited.

“Ended up winning the mini-golf tournament, and then getting that news,” Gorman said. “I was on a different level of excitement. It was definitely really cool, and I know he’s excited to be over here.”

It was a little over a week ago that the Cardinals traded for Liberatore -- a 20-year-old lefty ranked 41st on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list -- and sent José Martínez and Randy Arozarena to the Rays. Liberatore and Gorman have been close friends since they started playing baseball in the Phoenix area. Despite going to rival high schools, the two played on the same travel team together, went to summer showcase events together and became MLB Draft prospects together.

This weekend, Liberatore got his first taste of St. Louis and its fans at Winter Warm-Up, and he traveled with Gorman on the same caravan to Champaign, Bloomington and Peoria, Ill.

“It’s been awesome,” Liberatore said. “They’ve all been very enthusiastic and very welcoming in general and generous to me. I love the culture and the atmosphere already. It just feels like a family. And I can’t wait to actually step on the field wearing a Cardinals uniform and represent them and show them what I’m all about.”

Liberatore spent 2019 in Class A Bowling Green, where he went 6-2 with a 3.10 ERA over 16 games (15 starts). In 78 1/3 innings, he struck out 76 and walked 31. Liberatore throws a fastball that touches 95 mph, a diving changeup and a curveball, and he changed the grip on his slider this past season to make it more effective as a two-strike, swing-and-miss pitch.

Liberatore spent the offseason in Arizona working out with his pitching coach, who he’s been with since he was 11 years old and who is the person who introduced Liberatore to Sandy Koufax -- the pitcher Liberatore tries to emulate his game after.

“[My pitching coach is] a very old soul, so he loves the old game and old-school baseball and all that kind of stuff,” Liberatore said. “So he introduced me to him, and then before that, I was just given the number 32 on my club team and my dad was like, ‘Oh you know who wore that number: Sandy Koufax. Lefty, lefty.’ So he just made that comparison when I started diving into the mechanical side of pitching.”

Gorman -- the Cardinals’ No. 2 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 38 prospect overall -- played 67 games in Class A Peoria and 58 games in Class A Advanced Palm Beach. The third baseman hit .248/.326/.439 with 15 homers in his first full season in professional baseball.

As part of his offseason work, Gorman spent time in Seattle at the advanced-tech Driveline facility to get a head start on the technology and lingo that the Cardinals are now implementing in their system under new Minor League hitting coordinator Russ Steinhorn. Steinhorn and Cardinals hitting coach Jeff Albert worked together in Houston, and the Cardinals hope the hitting approach and philosophy line up better with those two in charge.

Gorman also attended a Cardinals hitting camp in Jupiter, Fla., where he and other hitters were able to learn about the new approach and establish routines using the technology.

“It’s definitely a new concept,” Gorman said. “The whole launch angle and everything like that – it’s not really about the launch angle. It’s more of just your attack angles and on-plane efficiency, stuff like that. You get measured by a little sensor on your bat. Having those numbers and being able to see them and do drills to see if they’re improving and what not is pretty key to see if you’re moving in the right direction. That part is pretty exciting for us.”

Liberatore and Gorman will both be in big league camp when Spring Training begins in February, and they both mentioned their excitement to learn from the veterans on the Major League team. There were already some talks of facing each other in live batting practice. Gorman said the two have only faced each other two or three times in high school, and he confessed that Liberatore got the best of him -- but vowed he’d take his friend deep next time.

When Liberatore heard that, he raised his eyebrows.

“No comment,” he said, laughing. “I disagree, but no comment.”

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