Some Early Spring Training News

With first workouts scheduled for today, the recent buzz naturally centered around who’s showed up at camp already (position players aren’t required to report until next week).  Of course, the first guy getting lots of press isn’t an active player at all, but Mark McGwire.  Even though the full team won’t be in camp for a number of days, all the coaches are in Florida already, whether to start working with pitchers, finalize workout plans for players once they arrive, and/or start working with guys reporting early.

Foreshadowing what I expect to remain a constant theme throughout this year, McGwire answered questions about steroid use.  Joe Strauss includes an interesting line about 2/3 of the way down the page:

McGwire was criticized heavily last month for insisting performance-enhancing drugs did not inflate his career total of 583 home runs and for bemoaning that his career fell within the game’s so-called steroid era. He conceded Wednesday that PEDs helped him take more at-bats, by extension allowing him to hit more home runs (emphasis mine).

At least McGwire tacitly acknowledges a link between his PED use and his HR production, even if he continues to cling to the notion the PEDs didn’t allow him to hit the ball farther than he would have without using them.  Baby steps.

Several players are in camp early, working with McGwire.  Joe Strauss lists Schumaker, Freese, Ruben Gotay, Joe Mather, and Nick Stavinoha as guys participating in a 45-minute cage session with Mark yesterday.  Hungry players are good for the soul.  Of that group, only Schumaker is assured a roster spot come 4 April.  We’ve all basically anointed Freese the starting 3B on Opening Day, but I for one would love to see a spirited competition develop for the position.  Additionally, I love the fact Joe Mather has stated publicly he’s in camp to compete for the third base job.  Go get them, Joe.

There remains a continued low-level anxiety regarding the Cardinal bench.  This is not unfounded.  Mozeliak is on record yesterday as not feeling any urgency to make a move and sign one of the remaining free agents to fill the bench role, even in light of Brendan Ryan’s surgery, which is his perogative.  Many Cardinal fans would like to see the team sign Felipe Lopez; some of us think the team could get Lopez at a discount, given (a) he fired Scott Boras as his agent on Monday, and (b) spring training has started, meaning he’s probably getting anxious about having a team to play for in 2010.  The early bird does get the worm, but given how well Lopez hits, I would think he’ll hold out for a starting gig somewhere vice being a part-time bench guy.

Brendan Ryan continues to recover from his surgery, and is expected to miss the first 3 weeks of spring training.  Dan pointed out in the comments that Ryan’s elected to have the surgery vice the team directing it, which puts a bit of a different spin on the process – I can’t really take the Cardinal medical staff to task for allowing Ryan’s surgery this close to spring training, when they apparently weren’t involved in the final decision.

I’ll look to post more frequently seeing as the team is in camp now.

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