ST. LOUIS -- The battery that has started the most games together in Cardinals history was the one that started Thursday's home opener. No tandem tops Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, who started their 238rd game together, and perhaps their last in a home opener.But Bob Gibson and Tim McCarver
ST. LOUIS -- The battery that has started the most games together in Cardinals history was the one that started Thursday's home opener. No tandem tops Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, who started their 238rd game together, and perhaps their last in a home opener.
But Bob Gibson and Tim McCarver follow the current Cardinals duo, with 197 games as a unit. And minutes before Wainwright threw his warmups to Molina, Gibson and McCarver reunited on the field at Busch Stadium.
Gibson's first pitch to McCarver served as the capper to the Cardinals' home-opener festivities, as well as a commemoration of Gibson's historic 1968 season. It's been 50 years since the Year of the Pitcher, when Gibson's dominance won him the National League Most Valuable Player Award and the NL Cy Young Award, as he led St. Louis to the seventh game of the World Series and sparked logistical changes in the sport meant to even its hitter-pitcher balance.
"My arthritis, he's responsible for it more than any other guy," McCarver said. "I told him, I think of him every day. I haven't been able to make a fist in more than three years."
The pitching mound was lowered in 1969, a year after Gibson went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA in 34 starts, threw 304 2/3 innings and led the Majors in nearly every major pitching category. He won two games in the World Series, before losing Game 7.
McCarver caught all seven games of that series.
"It's just so much fun," McCarver said pregame. "I never thought I'd be alive to be in the World Series, or celebrate it 50 years after that. I'm grateful for that."
Also honored in the pregame ceremonies were a star-studded lineup of Cardinals Hall of Famers, including Joe Torre, Lou Brock, Jim Edmonds, Tony La Russa, Ted Simmons, Whitey Herzog, Bruce Sutter, Ozzie Smith, Chris Carpenter and Willie McGee.
"Pageantry is very much the description of what it is," said manager Mike Matheny, who was a catcher for the Cardinals from 2000-04. "Everything about it. Whether it's the Hall of Famers, the Clydesdales, the introductions, it's different, unique, and that's the thing about Cardinals baseball that's so good."
"It's exciting to be a part of this in St Louis," Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "There is such great history and tradition. When you walk through the clubhouse, some of the younger guys don't even get what big a deal it is. But when you walk through the streets, you certainly get it."
Matheny said injured reliever Luke Gregerson threw a bullpen session Thursday and could embark on a rehab assignment in the near future. Signed to a two-year deal over the winter, Gregerson strained his left hamstring during conditioning drills on the final weekend of Spring Training and began the season on the disabled list.
Gregerson missed all but three Grapefruit League games due to minor injuries to his hamstring and oblique.
Signed as the club's nominal closer, Gregerson's role in the bullpen now appears more fluid after St. Louis signed All-Star closer Greg Holland on Opening Day.
Holland debuts at Class A
Holland completed the first of two scheduled tuneup appearances at Class A Advanced Palm Beach on Thursday, throwing a scoreless inning. He needed just seven pitches to retire the side in order.
Holland is scheduled to join the Cardinals on Monday, before which the club hopes he can raise his pitch count. He is slotted to pitch again for Palm Beach on Saturday.
Mozeliak and Pham meet
A day after Sports Illustrated published a feature in which Tommy Pham spoke openly about his grievances with the Cardinals' front office, Mozeliak met with Pham to discuss the center fielder's comments.
Pham wasn't delicate about the fact that he felt slighted by management over his 12-year Minor League career. Pham told the magazine he should have been promoted earlier, and more often, and that being repeatedly passed over hurt his potential earning power. Pham used profanity often in the story.
Pham declined to comment further Thursday.
"Just to throw out my side of this, is I wasn't overly offended by what he said," Mozeliak said. "I wouldn't have used the f-word as much as he did. I think Tommy is being Tommy. My takeaway, and what I hope his takeaway is, is people did believe in him. If we didn't, he'd be released. We've all been around this game long enough to know how it works. There were enough people who did believe in him to want to stick by him. In the end, I'm grateful that we did."
MiLB season begins
With the Minor League season set to begin Thursday, initial rosters were set for all full-season affiliates. Some notable Cardinals assignments include (* denotes first year at that level):
Triple-A Memphis: RHP Jack Flaherty, RHP Dakota Hudson, C Carson Kelly, RHP John Gant 1B/OF Luke Voit, OF Tyler O'Neill, OF Adolis Garcia, LHP Austin Gomber, RHP Derian Gonzalez, OF Oscar Mercado, 2B Max Schrock, OF Randy Arozarena*
Double-A Springfield: RHP Ryan Helsley, RHP Conner Greene, C Andrew Knizner, SS Edmundo Sosa*
Class A Advanced Palm Beach: SS Kramer Robertson, CF Johan Mieses, RHP Junior Fernandez
Class A Peoria: CF Jonathan Machado, RF Dylan Carlson, RHP Johan Oviedo*
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.