2/23/2014 5:30 P.M. ET
Choate plans to adjust Spring Training strategy
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
JUPITER, Fla. -- Randy Choate plans to handle Spring Training differently in his second year with the Cardinals than he did the first, which turned out to be a tumultuous few weeks of trying to get sufficient work in Grapefruit League games. This year, Choate said, he would like to forgo some of those in-game appearances for ones on the backfield.
Choate, the elder statesman of Cardinals camp at the age of 38, has gone through Spring Training enough to have a good gauge on what he needs to do in order to be ready for Opening Day. It was around the time he carved out a niche as a left-on-left specialist that Choate found the spring routine that he feels works best for him.
With both Tampa Bay (2009-10) and Miami ('11-12), Choate cut down his appearances in actual exhibition games and replaced that work by facing his team's own hitters in a controlled setting. The field that Choate threw on, he found, was irrelevant in the process of building up his arm. He'd like to follow this method again.
"I don't think I was as open communication-wise as I will be with [manager] Mike [Matheny] about liking to throw on the backfields more, rather than throw in big league games," Choate said. "I'm just worried about getting pitches in. I understand when the season comes, that's going to be solely left-on-left. I'd rather do that a little more [one-inning work this spring] this year than the one-batter appearance.
"When it comes down to the last week and you start getting into your role, then I understand that. But early in camp or in the middle of March, I'd rather do both. If you don't have an inning for me in big league camp, that's fine. I'll go back there [in the backfields]. It doesn't hurt my ego. I'd rather do that."
In Matheny's attempts to get Choate matchups against lefties last spring, the reliever did not get as much work as he had hoped. And in the appearances he made, the results were discouraging. After logging three innings in three February exhibition games, Choate retired a batter in just three of the nine appearances he made in March.
In most of those, he entered just to face a left-handed hitter or two, as Matheny tried to use him as he would during the regular season. The problem with that maneuvering, though, was that Choate threw only a few pitches each time he took the mound.
Matheny said he agrees that things need to be structured a bit differently for Choate this spring. While he'd still like Choate to make abbreviated appearances against left-handed hitters in Grapefruit League games, the club will help Choate fill in any missing work by scheduling additional side work for the veteran reliever.
"Last year, I don't feel Randy left spring in a good spot, and a lot of that was how we tried to get him work done like everyone else," Matheny said. "It could turn into him getting work there [in games] and then jumping back [to the practice fields] and then trying to find as many left-handers as we can throw in there so he can get his pitch count up."
Adams continues to wear elbow brace as precaution
JUPITER, Fla. -- The elbow discomfort may be gone, but the black elbow brace, Matt Adams said, is around to stay.
Adams has been wearing the brace -- the same one he began using last September when his right elbow was giving him some issues -- each time he has taken swings this spring. Consider it now a permanent accessory to his look.
"I just think it's a good idea to continue to keep wearing it because it keeps me from getting that overextension in my elbow," Adams said. "Everybody thinks it weighs a lot, but it really doesn't. It has an extra pad right over the elbow. It feels comfortable, and I like wearing it. Whatever works, right?"
The brace Adams wears is bulkier than the one he put on when his elbow first began to bother him in 2012. That season ended up being cut short for Adams when he had to undergo season-ending surgery to remove bone chips around his elbow. He initiated this brace by reaching base four times, delivering a game-tying hit and connecting for a go-ahead homer the first time he wore it last September.
That eliminated any concern about it negatively affecting his swing.
Aware that he'll always have to guard against recurring elbow discomfort, Adams took an extra week of rest before beginning his workout program this offseason. The Cardinals' medical staff checked out his right elbow when he came to St. Louis for the Winter Warm-Up, and that follow-up exam produced no concerns.
"I feel better this year than what I did last year coming in, so I think [the downtime] worked," said Adams, who projects to be the team's Opening Day first baseman. "We just have to keep an eye on it. And if I feel anything, I just have to make sure I get on top of it before it becomes an issue like it did last year."
Motte throws first 'pen session to crouching catcher
JUPITER, Fla. -- Jason Motte, now nine and a half months removed from Tommy John surgery, took another step forward in his rehab program by throwing a bullpen session on Sunday morning.
Though Motte estimated that he threw at only 50-60 percent effort, it did mark the first time this spring that he threw to a crouching catcher. Each time he had previously stepped onto the mound, Motte threw to a catcher who was standing up.
"It's a baby step," Motte said afterward. "Ramping it up too fast right now wouldn't do anyone any good. The whole goal this year is for me to be out there and to be healthy. It would be great if it's in April. If it's May, it's May. It's about being healthy, being able to go out there and actually doing something to help the team win."
Motte said he threw between 20-25 pitches in Sunday's session. He's scheduled to repeat the exercise again on Tuesday and then potentially increase the number of pitches and/or intensity during a throw on Friday. This was also significant because it was the first time this year that Motte has thrown on consecutive days. Saturday he played flat-ground catch with Randy Choate.
• Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist threw his first live batting practice session of the spring on Sunday. He was one of the last pitchers to throw live BP because of a slight setback to his throwing program earlier in camp. Siegrist is now on track as he should be.
• Matheny said that he has added "competitions" into camp as a way to challenge players to be attentive to detail during workouts. Those competitions, however, are taking place mostly in the batting cages, which are outside of the public eye.
"We've been doing it without the fanfare," Matheny said. "Competition isn't always necessarily meant for public consumption. We try to make it to where these guys are pushing against one another without embarrassing anybody or exalting anybody else either. There is enough pressure that they put on themselves that we don't necessarily need to make that any larger."
What is up for grabs? Pride, for one. And secondly, some unlucky competition losers have already had to start serving their teammates lunch.
• Right-hander Scott McGregor, who pitched in Double-A and Triple-A last season, has been added to the organization's STEP (Spring Training Early Program) camp, an invite-only initiative for some of the Cardinals' best Minor Leaguers. Two of the STEP participants (Boone Whiting and Kurt Heyer) were moved to big league camp this weekend in order to help the Cardinals cover innings in Grapefruit League games.
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.