Opening of camp feels like holiday for Matheny
Club ready to move forward on field as title defense begins
JUPITER, Fla. -- Mike Matheny equated it to Christmas -- or, more appropriately, to the buildup that precedes the holiday, when the wrapped presents sit in clear view under the tree but are forbidden to be touched.
The wait he's had from his hiring date to Sunday spanned a little more than three months. And now it's finally time to open those gifts.
"You keep looking at them and you know they're there. You want to dive in and you just have to wait," Matheny said. "I've been the punished kid here lately."
Matheny tossed out the analogy on Saturday, the official reporting day for Cardinals pitchers and catchers. Most had already arrived in Jupiter, Fla., before the weekend, and those who hadn't are expected to be at the team's spring complex on Sunday morning for the team's first official workout.
The Cardinals are not anticipating any late arrivals.
The defending world champions are one of 10 clubs to hold its first spring workout on Sunday, though only one of those other teams -- that being the Cubs -- will do so with a new manager.
While Matheny is a stranger to few in the organization, he has spent his first three months on the job unifying his players from afar. Now, he's eager to gather them together on the same field and to implement his own Spring Training plan.
That plan, he reiterated on Saturday, will be very similar to the one implemented by his predecessor, Tony La Russa. Matheny wants the routine to remain efficient, and he will stress instruction, regardless of experience level.
"You start at zero," Matheny said. "You teach to the guy at the lowest level, and we've got a teenager [19-year-old Tyrell Jenkins] in here, for goodness sake. I think we start at the beginning and talk about fundamentals. I think it's also healthy for guys who come from other organizations to see what the Cardinals do. There's going to be some more chalk talk inside. There is going to be some more instruction that goes on in [the clubhouse] then comes out here [to the fields]."
Among those who are scheduled to throw off the mound on Sunday is Adam Wainwright, who moved his rehab from Tommy John surgery from his offseason home to the team's complex a while ago.
Assuming all players report on time, Sunday's workout will include a group of 38 pitchers and catchers. Sixteen of those are non-roster invitees. Players will undergo physicals in the morning, and the workout is then scheduled to begin around 10:30 a.m. CT.
Those first days of Spring Training will be monopolized by bullpen sessions, pitchers' fielding practice and batting practice. Some position players will participate in their own workouts during these early days, though the first full-squad workout won't come until Friday.
It's natural for position players, especially those who are recovering from surgeries or fighting for roster spots, to show up early.
At its fullest, the Cardinals' clubhouse will include 60 players. That will include everyone on the 40-man roster (which has one opening), as well as 21 non-roster players. Of those non-roster players, 11 are pitchers, five are catchers and the rest are infielders.
Absent, of course, will be Albert Pujols, who was a fixture at Cardinals Spring Training for more than a decade. This year the All-Star first baseman will be reporting to camp in Tempe, Ariz., where the Angels train.
"We have some people gone, but it doesn't change what we do," closer Jason Motte said. "I think we have a great team."
There are myriad storylines to follow as the Cardinals count down to their season opener against the Marlins. Wainwright's continued recovery is among the more intriguing, as is the emergence of an identity that this club will take on under a new manager. There's a second-base job to hand to Tyler Greene or Skip Schumaker or Daniel Descalso, and there is a bullpen to piece together.
Workouts at Roger Dean Stadium will run through March 4. Grapefruit League play will then begin the following day, with the Cardinals hosting the Marlins in a 12:05 p.m. CT contest.
After wrapping up the 28-game Grapefruit League slate, St. Louis will travel back to Missouri for an exhibition game in Springfield on April 2. Players will then return to Florida to open the regular season with an April 4 game against the Marlins. The game, which will be played in Miami's new ballpark, will be televised on ESPN at 6:05 p.m. CT.
That game at Marlins Park opens up a seven-game road trip that leads up to the Cardinals' April 13 home opener against the Cubs.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.