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Leone ready to make second first impression

Reliever logged only 24 innings in 2018 after nerve issue flared up; live BP set to begin Monday
February 17, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- One year after coming into his first Cardinals camp as a dark horse candidate only to leave it as the team's closer, Dominic Leone returned to Jupiter ready for a second first impression.Not only did Leone never notch a save for the Cardinals in 2018, but he

JUPITER, Fla. -- One year after coming into his first Cardinals camp as a dark horse candidate only to leave it as the team's closer, Dominic Leone returned to Jupiter ready for a second first impression.
Not only did Leone never notch a save for the Cardinals in 2018, but he contributed only sparingly as a setup man. What started as a cramp in his right biceps while warming up to pitch on May 4 turned into a nerve issue that sidelined Leone until late August. He returned to make 14 appearances, though mostly in low-leverage spots.:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
But while the extended absence and limited impact make it easy to overlook Leone as a potentially valuable piece in this year's bullpen, it has not clouded the organization's view of Leone's future potential.
"He's an asset for sure and underrated when you talk about our bullpen," manager Mike Shildt said. "People say you added [Andrew Miller] and, yeah, huge add. I feel like we're adding Leone as well, and creating a stable piece for our bullpen is huge."
The Cardinals' intent is to construct a bullpen that boasts flexibility. It's why they don't plan to name one closer and will try to strike a better right-left balance than a year ago. Leone, who joined the organization via trade after posting a 2.56 ERA in 65 appearances with the Blue Jays in 2017, is an option to fit back into that late-inning mix.
"I wanted to come in and, obviously, with a new organization with a lot of history and upside and a really good team, I wanted to contribute," Leone said. "Not being able to in the way that I wanted was really, really tough. Now, I want to help this team win. The people we added, along with the extra year of experience -- I don't see why we can't be the best bullpen in baseball."
Leone did use his time on the injured list to build up the muscles around his right shoulder, and the medical staff has assured him that he should not be susceptible to a recurrence of the same injury. He will not have any limitations this spring.
Pitchers, hitters ready to go "live"
The Cardinals' first-full squad workout on Monday will include several sessions of live batting practice, an exercise that allows hitters to track pitches and gives pitchers an avenue to advance from bullpen sessions to something that better simulates game action. Shildt hinted at nuanced changes in how the team will run these live BP sessions, though he wanted to explain the changes to players on Monday before highlighting them publicly.
As of Sunday, the Cardinals were not aware of any visa or personal issues that were expected to keep anyone from reporting in time to be present for Monday's first full-squad workout.
The day will begin with physicals for all position players, after which principal chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and Shildt will address the team and staff. The Cardinals will have five days of full-squad workouts before moving into the Grapefruit League schedule.

Williams on the sidelines
Outfielder Justin Williams, who sustained fractures and dislocation of his fingers from punching a television in mid-December, will be an observational participant in Major League camp. Though Williams has not been cleared for baseball activity, the Cardinals hope he can still benefit by taking part in meetings and learning exercises this spring.
Once Williams undergoes his physical on Monday, the Cardinals will have a better feel for whether Williams could recover in time to appear in Grapefruit League games.
Worth noting
• Asked if Miles Mikolas could soon be named the team's Opening Day starter, Shildt described Mikolas as "definitely a candidate." Shildt noted that he'll likely officially name his Opening Day starter around the time Grapefruit League play begins. The team's first game is next Saturday.
• Several clubs across Florida and Arizona have set up cameras in an effort to use technology to collect data for things like spin rate, pitch shape and ball flight. Thus far, the Cardinals are not one of them.
Shildt said the club is exploring various technological systems, including the common Rapsodo tool, but aren't prepared to implement anything new this spring. Asked if there would be more cameras visible on the backfields of spring workouts, Shildt said, "I wouldn't expect to see that."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.