Mikolas has big goals for his 2023 campaign

February 26th, 2023

This story was excerpted from John Denton’s Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

In ’ dreams, he already has a clear image for how March 21 -- the date of the World Baseball Classic championship game in Miami -- will play out.

A native of Jupiter, Fla., Mikolas has already conjured up a scenario in which he has dozens of friends and family in the crowd -- most likely clad in red, white and blue and chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” -- as he’s on the mound for Team USA in the bottom of the ninth. The dream ends, as only a Hollywood-worthy script could, with Mikolas closing out the victory and securing a gold medal for his country. Whether or not he is carried off the field by his teammates with Old Glory draped across his broad shoulders remains to be seen, but Mikolas has already given thought to what he might do with the prize that would come from a repeat Team USA victory.

“I can think of a few places I could put [the gold medal], but I might just wear it around my neck around town for fun,” said Mikolas, who was dubbed “the most patriotic person I know” by Cardinals and USA teammate Adam Wainwright.

Mikolas, an All-Star last season who went 12-13 with a 3.29 ERA over a career-best 202 1/3 innings, also has a dream scenario for how his long-term future with the Cardinals will play out over the next few weeks.

The Cardinals have just one starter -- lefty Steven Matz -- signed beyond 2023, and team president John Mozeliak has stated that one of the team’s goals for the spring is to try and lock up one or more of their starters. With Wainwright, a St. Louis cornerstone for 17 seasons, set to retire after the '23 campaign, Mikolas would make the most sense to anchor the Redbirds' rotation for years to come.

Signed as a free agent in 2018 after playing three seasons in Japan, Mikolas went 18-4 and got his first All-Star nod in his return to MLB. Following a couple of injury-riddled years, Mikolas proved himself to be the workhorse the Cardinals needed by appearing in a career-best 33 games in '22.

Can the Cardinals and the 34-year-old Mikolas find common ground on a contract extension before the team heads north for the 2023 season? Or will the talented pitcher hold off until free agency in hopes of cashing in on the biggest offer possible? For those questions, Mikolas doesn’t have a defined script, and he is quite coy about how things might play out.

“It’s no secret I’m from here and live here, and who wouldn’t want to live in Jupiter?” Mikolas joked. “The Marlins are here, too; the Astros, Nationals and Mets are close; and the fishing is still pretty good on the west coast [of Florida].

“I like St. Louis, I love the team and love the organization, and the fans are great. Everything about being a Cardinal is fantastic. But those decisions aren’t always up to the player. My job is to go out there and get outs as efficiently as I can, and that’s what I’m going to focus on.”

When Mikolas returned from Japan, one of the many factors in his decision to sign with the Cardinals was the team holding Spring Training in his hometown. Would he be willing to give St. Louis a “hometown discount” to continue training in Jupiter -- where he might be showing off that Team USA gold medal?

“When I came back, I had four or five offers that were all about the same, and I chose the Cardinals because of the organization, the fanbase and because Spring Training is in my hometown,” Mikolas said. “There are always a lot of factors that play into it, and they’ll play into it if I have a decision to make down the road.”