Orioles Preview - Page 53 - The Cardinals

Orioles Preview
- Page 53
The Cardinals

Associated Press


John Mozeliak watched how the Cardinals were galvanized following a managerial change midway through last season, then made a spirited run toward the playoffs that came up just short.


He decided a couple of pieces were all it would take to push the Cardinals over the top.


Welcome to St. Louis, Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller.


The longtime Diamondbacks slugger arrived in one of the marquee trades of the offseason, and one of the top relievers in baseball arrived as a free agent. Together with a returning core that made huge strides under manager Mike Shildt, the Cardinals believe they have the pieces to contend with the Cubs and Brewers in the National League Central.


“In the offseason, we feel like we did the things we needed to put a successful club out on the field,” said Mozeliak, the team’s president. “We knew we just couldn’t have a stagnant offseason. We knew we had to make some changes to our club because even though we felt we had a good team last year, we still weren’t good enough.”


Goldschmidt got off to a slow start last season but went on a tear in June, and he wound up with the same kind of consistently stellar numbers he always put up with the Diamondbacks.


He joins a lineup that includes Marcell Ozuna, Dexter Fowler, Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong, who combined for 76 homers last season.


Throw in third baseman Matt Carpenter and the Cardinals have the ability to score plenty of runs with very few swings of the bat.


“I’m ready to go. Let’s do this,” said Carpenter, who is moving from first base to clear space for Goldschmidt. “I mean, I’ll play wherever to accommodate that.”


The rotation took a hit this spring when Carlos Martinez experienced shoulder trouble that could keep him out well into the season. But with Miles Mikolas coming off a breakout year, Jack Flaherty posting huge strikeout numbers and veterans in Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright, there is enough depth in the rotation to keep the Cardinals in games.


Miller and the bullpen are expected to take it from there.


There are plenty of questions, of course. Will Fowler bounce back, especially after a less-than-inspiring spring? Can the young arms live up to the hype? Will the Cardinals continue to respond to Shildt now that he’s in charge for a full season?


More on Dex: Fowler is expected to start in right field, but he might be on a short leash after hitting .180 last season. He dealt with injuries and is finally healthy, but his spring numbers hardly reflected it.


Ozun are bound? Ozuna arrived in St. Louis after back-to-back All-Star selections, but he produced an unspectacular season. He hit .280 with 23 homers and 88 RBIs, but they weren’t near the 37 homers and 124 RBIs he produced in his final season in Miami.


Flaherty’s arm: One of the unsung heroes of last year’s run was Flaherty, who struck out 29 percent of opposing batters his rookie year. The only other rookies to log those kinds of numbers have been Dwight Gooden (1984), Hideo Nomo (1995) and Kerry Wood (1998). Now can Flaherty, 23, translate those numbers into wins? He was 8-9 with a 3.34 ERA in 28 starts last season.


Photo: Newly acquired Paul Goldschmidt could help turn the Cardinals into NL Central champs.