The young man in charge of making decisions is in the Cave of the St. Louis Cardinals new this season.
Everything else is the same.
Indeed, the return of champion Albert Pujols to a squad that still includes strong players Adam Wainwright and Yadir Molina is giving the Cardinals a touch of old-school nostalgia as the season approaches.
“There is still something left for him,” said Oliver Marmol, the youngest coach in the majors at 35, when asked about the 42-year-old’s return after more than a decade playing for Dodgers and Angels in the Angels.
“There is more than just something,” Marple insisted. “Albert wants to play this season because he can help a team win. He wants to finish the game well and I think he can do that.”
The Pujols will likely share at bats with Corey Dickerson, a former Tampa Bay quarterback who came to provide depth in various locations. Other than that, the roster remains largely unchanged from the group that won 90 games under Mike Scheldt before falling in the NL wild game to the Dodgers last season.
Schilt was dismissed soon after, due to what Chief Cardinals John Moziliac described as “differences in philosophy”.
Schilt was taken over by Marmol, after holding several roles for five years and despite having no previous management experience. In fact, Wainwright, 40, and Molina, 39, are older than the new pilot, who presents a spirited, upbeat style.
You will have a lot of veterans to refer back to. Paul Goldschmidt is back for first base, Tommy Edman in second and Nolin Arenado in third, with Paul Dejong in pole position. Outfield junior options include Dylan Carlson and Harrison Bader.
And of course, Puerto Rico Molina is behind the board to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Molina has been cautious in his preparations for spring training, but is expected to be in the lineup for the opening game with Wainwright on the hill. They lined up in 304 regular season games, the fourth most in history, and could overtake Detroit’s Mickey Lulic and Bill Freehan for the record if they reach 21 more games together.
The Cardinals don’t have a particularly deep spin, and neither does Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes enter the season exhausted. Flaherty recently received an injection to help treat an injury to his right shoulder. Reyes, who wants to be a starting player but was solid last season, also suffers from shoulder pain.
Until Cardinals bring Reyes back to duty, Giovanni Gallegos is expected to get his first chance to close matches. Last season he was 6-5 with 3.02 ERA and 14 assists. Ryan Hillsley, Genesis Cabrera and Jordan Hicks will have their role as the setup men and could have the opportunity to run in the ninth place.
Hicks in particular is an interesting filter. He underwent Tommy John’s surgery, opted out of 2020 due to the pandemic, and then had a relapse. But the 25-year-old bowler has tackled 20 saves during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and when in good health, he shone with a fast ball that tied him once with Aroldis Chapman at the fastest pitch in history, at 105.1 mph.
Jordan Walker, the Cardinals’ potential top player, isn’t going to take down Arenado at third base anytime soon. But keep a close eye on Nolan Gorman, another third baseman who moved into second place hoping to find a place at the top companies this summer.
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