Some Cardinals fans feel as if the World Series was just last week. Others have been crossing off the days until Opening Day. For all of the diehard Cardinals fans, spring training 2012 has officially started. All of the Red Birds have arrived at their spring training camp in Jupiter, Fla. and are ready to get to work.
The struggles the Cardinals went through this offseason were almost as difficult as the challenges they faced in their come-from-behind victory during the season. The retirement of manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, and the loss of first baseman Albert Pujols were both large blows to the clubhouse, but the recharged staff shows no sign of slowing down.
Where is this confidence coming from? One major source for the rejuvenated excitement is the absolutely solid bullpen. So far, the returning hurlers include: Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia, Jason Motte, Jake Westbrooke, Kyle McClellan, and Mitchell Boggs.
Right-hander Adam Wainwright has also been throwing this spring. About a year ago, before the championship season started, Wainwright underwent Tommy John surgery leaving him unable to pitch at all during the 2011 season. Wainwright says he does not feel limited in his abilities to execute so far.
The pitching staff is pleased with his progress as well, but they are not trying to rush the process.
“There is wiggle room,” said the new pitching coach Derek Lilliquist about Wainwright’s pitching regiment.
Lilliquist and the rest of his staff are staying flexible with the much-missed ace with how his arm feels. He has thrown in live batting practices while in Jupiter, Fla., and it is not out of the question for Wainwright to be ready to pitch when the spring season begins on March 5.
Even though Wainwright has made a large improvement since his surgery, Carpenter has been rumored to get the Opening Day start. This would make the seventh Opening Day start for Carpenter as a Cardinal.
“You have to have some plans,” said the new manager Mike Matheny. “But I don’t want to put anything in stone right now because it’s still too early.
Another Cardinal recovering well is outfielder Allen Craig. Craig underwent surgery on his right knee in the offseason, and was said to be out up to 6 months. Matheny released earlier this week that Craig is ahead of schedule in terms of his recovery, but the Cardinals will still mostly likely be without the right fielder on Opening Day. This would have been a problem, but with the signing of Carlos Beltran, the Cardinals staff is confident in their lineup once again.
The Cardinals have faced many struggles in the last year both on and off the field. With injured players gaining strength, spring training is forecasting another fantastic baseball season in St. Louis.