Yadi: Cardinal for life or 'that's it for me'

January 21st, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- wants to be a Cardinal for life, he confirmed on Monday.

The 37-year-old catcher is entering the final year of his contract in 2020, and he told reporters at Winter Warm-Up that if the Cardinals want him back after his contract ends, he’ll continuing playing. If not, “that’s it for me.”

Molina stood up at the same podium two years ago, after signing his current contract, and said it was likely the last one for him. But on Monday, he said he thinks he has two more years in him -- at least. His knees feel good, and he said he’s in good shape physically.

“I also said [two years ago] that if the Cardinals want me, that’s the only team I want to play for,” Molina said. “So it’s still like that, too, if they want me. But if they don’t, if they want to move apart, that’s it for me.”

Molina doesn’t have a timeline for when he would want to get a deal done, but it’s likely that the Cardinals will begin talks in Spring Training.

“Well, Yadi has done some pretty remarkable things at his age,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “And as much as he played last year and has played through injuries the last couple of years, but we’ll see. Get the lay of the land and sort of take it as it goes. I know in his mind he thinks he can play for a number of years, and that’d be great if he can.”

Molina is entering his 16th season as the Cardinals' starting catcher. His time behind the plate has included 12 consecutive winning seasons, four World Series appearances and two World Series championships. He’s a nine-time All-Star, a nine-time Gold Glove Award winner and a four-time Platinum Glove Award winner. Molina has appeared in 1,983 games overall, and with 1,947 games caught, he needs 110 to pass Gary Carter for fourth on the all-time list.

Molina's career is already perhaps on track for Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but he’s still motivated to continue playing.

“To have another ring,” Molina said. “That’s the goal for me and for all my teammates and for the city. Try to prove people wrong, like always. It’s easy to see a 37-year-old catcher and you think he’s going to have a bad year because he’s 37 years old. I have that in my mind, and I’ll try to prove the people wrong.”

Mikolas working on finding an effective slider again

This season,  is hoping to be the pitcher that he was two years ago by refocusing his slider. After an inconsistent 2019, where the righty went 9-14 with a 4.16 ERA across 32 starts and 184 innings, Mikolas did a deep dive on his mechanics, pitch shape, usage location and more in hopes of finding what went into his struggles of last season.

What he found was a mix of league adjustment -- Mikolas was entering his second year in the Majors after a stint in Japan -- and what had become an ineffective slider. According to Statcast, Mikolas gave up eight of his 27 home runs off his slider in 2019 compared to one in '18, when he had a 2.83 ERA.

Mikolas said at one point in the season that he made a concerted effort to make his slider look more like a traditional slider instead of the shorter, cutter-like pitch it looked like in 2018.

“I think that’s actually a more effective shape of that pitch, working off my other pitches,” Mikolas said. “I think that was just -- I kind of shot myself in the foot there and made a pitch that was pretty effective much less so.”

Mikolas lives in Jupiter, Fla., and has been working out and throwing at the team complex three or four times a week.

“After having a pretty good season and then a not-so-good season, it’s now easy to compare those numbers and say, ‘OK, this works, this doesn’t,’” Mikolas said. “Kind of stick with my strengths. I’ve kind of thrown everything at the wall at this point, but now I know what sticks.”

Cards, Marlins finalize deal for improvements to Spring Training complex

The Cardinals and Marlins recently finalized a deal with Florida, Palm Beach County and the town of Jupiter for improvements to Roger Dean Stadium and the surrounding facilities.

Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said that the teams are still working on a design but are on track to break ground after Spring Training in 2021, so the facility could be ready for Spring Training in ’22.

"They've tentatively approved some financing, and we'll participate in that as well," Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. "We're hopeful ... of getting some improvements for the facility. It's more infrastructure. As you all know, it was pretty much state of the art when it was built, but time as gone on and we need additional facilities, weight room, eating facilities, media."

The Cardinals' complex also has the team’s rehab facility and performance department. DeWitt III said there’s a chance that the existing clubhouse would get demolished and rebuilt completely.